Sunday, October 7, 2007

My story 2

Dear Reader:
It has been almost 14 months since my stroke. It happened on August 19th 2006, on our 10th year wedding aniversary (like a joke). By now I can speak fairly well although a bit clumsy and slowly, people think I have thick accent. I live in Washington DC and my native language is Turkish. But the language doesn't matter because I speak both languages with an "appraxia" accent since the stroke.
As I have re-gained my writing abilities, I wanted to write down everything as fast as I could, while the memory is relatively fresh. I hope to give the patient's perspective to the condition, to be of help to caregivers as much as healers. Also because I'm often told that I made a relatively speedy recovery, my intention is to document everything so that new patients can benefit from the process.
Currently in the US there are approximately 5 700 000 stroke survivors (ASA -2004). It is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and all forms cancer combined, and it is the leading cause of long term disability. Among survivors, 1 in 6 have aphasia (NINSD -2004). The funny thing about aphasia is: your friends and relatives focus on more manifest symptoms of stroke, like paralysis. So you are in real danger of being labeled as “having lost a few marbles…” Although your intellect, your judgment is intact, nobody knows about it. Especially if you are over 60 years old, they say it is Alzheimers. So it is important to make the clear distinction that everybody knows: You can think and judge as before but you are jailed within your own head.

Anyways back to my story:
Since I spoke the words "I can't speak" I hadn't uttered a single word. That night in the ICU, nurses come an go every half hour taking my vitals and doing a quick neurological exam: "Smile, squeeze my hand, lift your foot..."

The right side of my face is paralysed. When the nurses ask me to smile for them, I only smile with the left side of my face. I also feel slightly ashamed as I cannot fulfill their request. At the same time, I'm afraid to also lose my limbs to paralysis, that when they say "Squeeze my hand" I squeeze the nurses' hand with all my strenght. But slowly my right hand becomes weaker and weaker. All night long I go through what-if scenarios. What if I cannot regain the usage of my right hand? How long will it take to learn to write with the left hand? How long to learn to draw/paint?
Of course at that point I have no idea that I also lost my ability to express myself in any other way.

That night I also contemplate my feelings about the whole thing: I don't feel sad at all. It is surprising that I don't feel sad, everybody around me seems to feel that way. You see, I have depression. Although I had no history of depression, when my little son was born, I have experienced post partum depression. That has stuck with me ever since.
So it is highly perplexing not to feel anxiety or sadness, given the overwhelming condition that I'm in. I almost feel giddy. What is going on? I think it must be "shell shock".

Later I'm to find out that a stroke effects the brain almost like strong electroshock. Releasing all kinds of chemicals among which serotonin, that gives the brain that positive feeling.


the aphasia decoder.... said...

That is interesting about the serotonin being released in the brain after a stroke. I'd never heard that. That explains some of my husband's actions and reactions.

oostar said...

Thank you for your thoughts on the serotonin being released! When asked if he was afraid or sad, although he couldn't speak or write and was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, my 31-year-old husband replied in the negative. That response made me even more afraid than his inability to speak. I was afraid something drastic had happened to his personality. We're three weeks out now and I can tell his personality is essentially unchanged.