Sean’s Recovery Update, 8 weeks

I’m happy to update the blog about Sean’s recovery. It’s been 8 weeks and Sean has thankfully regained most — if not all — of his major muscles. While he has a long way to go to regain the dexterity, control, and strength of his pre-stroke self, it’s happy to see that the pathways that connect his brain to the body parts are functioning. Now the hard work happens. Sean continues to push himself during his physio sessions, while maintaining a level of calm and patience.

Sean’s recovery has been substantial in the last week or so. He walks confidently (albeit slightly slower than normal) and has graduated away from the equipment and aids that he needed just a couple weeks ago. Gone are the walking stick, the Sara Stedy and the commode chair, as well as the shoulder brace (he wore this under his clothes) and the sling, both of which were worn to protect his shoulder from dislocating. Now, his shoulder is strong enough to support itself.

He also barely uses the wheelchair, since the physio team have him walking all over the hospital, to and from the gym on the 2nd floor, and occasionally down the elevator to the gym on the ground floor. His walking has improved so that he only needs one person spotting him, and around the hospital he doesn’t need the foot strap that keeps his toe from dropping. I think in the coming days, they’re going to re-introduce walking in shoes, which will be one more happy detail he’s regaining from his pre-stroke life.

His daily physio sessions are quite substantial, even a bit taxing. Right after breakfast — which he prepares for himself — Sean works on strengthening the lower body muscles with 150 or so sit-to-stands. Then after morning tea, he usually spends an hour to 90 minutes working on the upper limbs. He’s thrilled now that all the major muscle groups have come back on line, particularly the hand and finger muscles. At the moment, Cliff and Anne have Sean rolling with his left hand a ball of clay until it’s a long snake. Then he takes a knife and fork and cuts the snake into pieces and moves them into a pile on the far side of the table. Or he practices picking up small bean bags and moves them from one side of the table to the other. This progress is exciting, but the improvement of the fine motor skills — relatively slow compared to the big muscle groups of the legs and trunk — illuminates pretty clearly how far Sean has to go before he reaches 100% recovery. This is the part of rehab where he must wrestle with keeping patient and letting the recovery happen at it’s own pace.

But even though there are more moments of fatigue (he’s working harder now than he was a couple weeks ago) and impatience, Sean continues to be so so thankful with each new skill that he notices he’s regained. For example, he walked for 20 minutes on the treadmill today in two, ten-minute repetitions, about half the time without any assistance and the other half with Cliff helping Sean with his form.

Here’s a video of that :

Sean is still an in-patient on Ward 9 Monday – Thursday. Then on Fridays, after the afternoon physio session, we bring him home. Sean spends the weekend doing his physio homework, but also trying to rest and recuperate as much as possible. And he is enjoying the time at home, particularly since he’s losing his dependencies. Sean does more and more on his own or with minimal assistance. For example, he stands at the sink to brush his teeth instead of in the wheelchair or the Sara Stedy. He showers with a minimal shower stool, rather than the commode chair. And he sits in a regular chair at dinner instead of the wheelchair. In fact, the wheelchair stayed folded in the trunk of the car the whole of last weekend. I can only imagine how living his pre-stroke life in these minor details must improve his state of mind!

During the week, I’m still heading in to the hospital to eat dinner with Sean and then stay the night. Even though he needs me less and less to help him get comfortable or do basic functions, these night visits have become precious for us. We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Sean’s mom and dad who have put the kids to bed each night — not an easy task — so that I can be here. Particularly as I segued back to work, I’ve been seeing less and less of Sean (hence the lack of videos). If it weren’t for these couple hours each night, I would barely see him at all.

These evenings, over a meal and the nightly rituals inside his small room, he shares the victories of that day’s physio sessions, or talks about the frustration of butting up against the next barrier. It’s the time that I share funny things the kids said, or the parenting moments that went awry. Basically, in those couple hours between the time I arrive and the time I switch off the overhead life, we’re being a “normal” couple again, talking about what other couples talk about. We forget this big thing we’re facing and we’re just a comfortable, pre-middle aged, married couple watching our shows and telling the other who we saw that day, or what funny message we got, or the ridiculous thing that happened.

Thank you to all of you who support us in all your ways, big and small. Your meals, your visits, your cards, your well-wishes, it keeps us going. Thank you for keeping Sean in your hearts!

More videos and pictures to come!

Aroha nui,

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