Len's Personal Experience- A message of hope
We received this message from Len through StrokeLine. I read it and was moved by his courage and determination. He has such a powerful message to keep going, keep trying and not give up even when things look bleak. This is Len's first blog. He was keen to share his story with other stroke survivors in a hope that it would help others.
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE A message of hope Len French
On May 302018 I went to sleep in front of the TV. Some time later I woke only to find I could not move any of my right side . The whole of my right side was paralysed. Diagnosed as having had a stroke, I was admitted into the hospital and soon after was told I would probably always be confined to a wheelchair and might get a small amount of movement in my right hand.
Not long after that I asked two mail nurses to kill me. Of course they refused. I told female nurses that if they would not do it I would do it myself. They laughed and said “ Not on my shift, too much paperwork”.
I decided I would do it when released from hospital .
When I told my son he asked me not to. A week later I moved my right finger slightly. A week later I moved my big toe. This progressed to being able to move my arm and lift my leg a little. However the arm movement was spastic and the leg movement was minimal.
Somewhere in that time I had nothing else to do and tried to move again and again… unsuccessfully. I had been reading Norman Doidge’s book The Brain’s Way of Healing. I was reading about Neuroplasticity, and how repetition could help, and how you could teach your brain to learn, something like a baby does, through repetition.
A baby’s efforts were instinctive. Mine had to be conscious.
I was getting used to a new reality, but one I did not like. I persisted. I heard a nurse saying to another “He even exercises at night”. I did not sleep well so had nothing else to do.
I hated that my movements were spastic. In bed, I made the arm move smoothly by controlling it with my left arm.
Without help it was always spastic, and I would say “No Len, not jerky, SMOOTH. No. no. no”. I could see it jerking and I could hear that it was too. When the movement was smooth I would congratulate myself, again out aloud, over and over for each movement
I counted the times that I did it. I don’t know why. Maybe I wanted to see if Doidge was right.
In three days I did 3,000 biceps curls without a weight. At the end of the third day, I could do it smoothly. I was amazed that I could do it. Doidge was right.
Moving my arm left to right from the elbow and all other movements, except a biceps curl, were still spastic. If I could do it with biceps curls, I might be able to do it for all other movement. Same result; 3,000 again, for each movement. Two years later I can conduct the orchestra while watching a drama. A Social worker told me that Chai Chee might help and I can do that too; after much repetition.
After a few weeks, the physiotherapists in hospital used to wheel a group of us down to the gym every week day. They got me on my feet. I started to walk, at first with a walker, initially only 10 metres, then longer, then with a walking stick. Then one day the walking stick was taken away and the physiotherapist said “Now I want you to walk 10 metres to that chair”. I said “I can’t”.
He said “I think you can”. I did it, collapsed into the chair and broke down with emotion, laughing and crying at once. Writing this, reliving it, I am all emotion again.
Home again, I walked with assistance of a stick. The only time I have fallen was when I was using the stick. I put it in a cupboard and have not fallen again. I did not want my brain to think that I needed a stick but it was with a limp.
Over two years later I walk with a decided limp and have difficulty with balance. I have done hundreds of thousands of movements with my leg and still limp. I am grateful to the nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists and social workers that I can even walk. I don’t care if it takes millions of movements. I am now 88, but one day I will walk smoothly. I did it with my arm and I will do it with my leg. Somewhere along the line I forgot about killing myself. I was too busy.
I have been told that I am exceptional, but I am not. I just try hard. Everyone is different, but you don’t know what you are capable of until you try. Over and over and over and over and over.