I often hear new stroke patients talk about “getting back to where I was before the stroke…” Consider a slight re-wording and change your perspective. “Look forward to the new you.” Don’t put any limitations on what the new you will be. Think of yourself as a child again with so many exciting new things to learn and the world to explore.
Mobility: Getting around post stroke for me and some of my fellow victors is just a nuisance. But for some of us it is a daunting part of everyday life. Many victors are either totally immobile or confined to a wheelchair. Most of us have some level of physical challenges that affect our everyday life. And then there are the challenges involved in fun and exciting activities that make life more full.
Give up your historical definitions of mobility and you will find a world of solutions.
Driving a car: I am fortunate enough to have gotten my drivers license back about a year after my stroke. If you have a handicap placard it is amazing how easy it is to get people to take you, especially to parking challenged places like sports events, concerts and Costco. Recommendation: Choose the placard vs a handicap plate. You can take it with you in any vehicle you are using, even of someone else is driving.
But beyond having the freedom that comes with a drivers license, I wanted more…
Motorcycle: I was hung up on my picture of wanting to get back in the saddle of a 2 wheeled bike, wind in my hair, ridin’ the turns in the mountains or along the coast. Someone told me to consider a 3 wheeled motorcycle, which was sacrilege in my stuck brain. But eventually the call of the open road got me to think outside the box. I have had a 3 wheeled bike (CanAm Spyder RT) for just a few years now and that old bias has completely evaporated. Some of my 2 wheel buddies desperately want me to admit that I miss ridin’ on 2 wheels. I am so happy on my Spyder, I’m not sure I would go back to 2 wheels even if I could. And am finding more of my 2 wheel buddies, who have all their physical abilities, seeing the fun I am having, and maybe, just maybe, seeing themselves moving to a Spyder in the future.
Bicycle: My wife is a fairly serious cyclist. She has one of those super light models made out of un-obtanium and air. I went to a nonprofit org here in the Bay Area called BORP. They provide adaptive sports programs. They let me try many different types of bikes/trikes. (This is an amazing organization!) I now have a recumbent 3 wheeler. Think what you want about me being on a “Big Wheel” like a little kid, but these new “tadpole” style recumbents are a gas. Like a go cart with pedals. It is a blast, especially downhill.
Skiing: Early in my life I was fortunate to have discovered this wonderful activity. And I was also fortunate to be able to do enough of it to get pretty good. It was the first thing I mourned when I realized the impact of my stroke. Then my Kyle,my physical therapist encouraged me to look into an adaptive ski program. I went to NSCD at Winter Park in Colorado where they strapped me into a contraption that looked like a bucket seat mounted on a pair of skis, a “sit-ski”. I had a difficult time for the first few hours because my brain wanted it to work like the skis I had been on most of my life. The instructor finally told me to “forget what you know about skiing and just have fun”. And… it worked. I was on just a beginner hill, but I had a blast. I found myself transported back in time to when I was a little kid first learning. I crashed a lot, and giggled like a 7 year old each time
Walking: I have regained enough mobility that I can walk short distance with a cane and leg brace. But I wanted to explore more. Ever tried a Segway? I remember the hype when these first cam out, especially when Steve Wozniak of Apple fame got one. Then they disappeared from my radar. We were planning a cruise and I was thinking (obsessing) about not being able to explore the various ports with my wife. I did not want her to have to push me in a wheelchair and renting an electric was just financially beyond our budget. Then I noticed that not only can you rent a Harley in almost every port (the Harley rental places are almost as common as Starbucks in most resort ports), you can also rent a Segway. Now, given my balance and mobility challenges I had no idea if one of these would work for me. So I went to a place local to me in San Francisco. My wife and I spent about 10 minutes being trained. To my surprise balance was no issue. The design of these things is brilliant. Getting on and off was the only process that took a few minutes to master. Then we were off for a wonderful hour tour of Golden Gate Park. Since then we have rented Segways in Puerto Rico, Antigua and Rome.
As most of my fellow stroke victors well know, getting back the functionality we lost is a long and challenging process. Good days and bad. But one thing that I have learned is to think about the new me, “Dave 2.0”. If you find yourself thinking or saying “… I just wish I could (xxxx) like I used to….”, try turning your focus in a different direction. Look to move forward, to find new ways to do the things you like to do. And don’t let anyone, including your own mind, convince you that the “new way” your are considering is “…just not as good as the old”. Ignore those pictures/voices. If you are having fun, it IS good.
NOTE: Click on any of the highlighted words in this blog to get more information about the adaptive devices and resources that I discovered. Or, you may find something else… hehe.