Thursday, March 31, 2011

My dad's occupational therapist said the other day that my dad's right arm is at the point where he should start using it in everyday activities, such as turning the light switch off and on. For a while progress seemed super slow with his right arm, but they've been trying out new techniques and exercises with him, and certain muscles are starting to kick in. This is definitely encouraging.

Speech has come a long way-- these past few days, especially! He continues to say things that surprise every day! We went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Science Museum last week and on our way home when we asked him what he enjoyed, he answered almost instantly: "Tutankhamun!" He is saying many new phrases and new words every day. "I think I can," "we'll see," "I think so," etc. are just a few phrases he has started using recently. My dad didn't always realize he is saying these things aloud, as he has been thinking them for so long, but never was able to say them. Now that he's able to say them more often and frequently, he is realizing it. It's super reassuring, but it can also be frustrating for him. He's making all this progress, but he's still not perfect. He's improving, but not fast enough. As always, slow and steady.

Outside of therapy, we've been keeping busy. Tuesday was my mom's birthday, and my dad picked out a special meal for us to make her. We all, including my dad, helped prepare the Hungarian Chicken Paprikash and the Budapest Pecan Cake. I think Dad liked working in the kitchen. Definitely a good thing- maybe he'll starting making his amazing pies again soon...!

Less than a month until the intensive speech therapy in Chicago. My dad is very ready for a change. It will be very tiring and hard, but the outcome will be huge and it will be good for him to do something new. The program is just a month long (end of April to end of May), and we'll be back in Minnesota for the summer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Water therapy has been good. Dad has been working hard, doing both arm and leg therapies in the pool. He can do things in the water that he can’t do on land, and seems to be getting more arm movement through water exercises. With his arm supported by two floats, he can now move it straight out, across his chest, and to his side. He can also take a weighted float and pull it under the water and down by his side. It’s a lot of work, but getting easier. It's so cool to see the progress he's been making. The improvements are moving over to normal activities as well, and it's fun to see what new things he can do!

We bought him a ball the other day for work on his hamstring. He sits in a chair, and with his right foot/leg on top of it, he pushes the ball forward and back. This, too, is a lot of work for him and takes a lot of concentration. The physical therapist has told him that the movement is all there; it’s more of matter of helping the brain sort out when it needs to use which muscle. This is a great encouragement!

The PT (who works specifically on my dad’s leg) also told my dad the other day that with his positive attitude and ability to correct himself, and the fact that the movement really is there still, he feels my dad has the potential to keep making lots of gains and progress with his leg.

One of the hardest things to do with his leg is lifting it into the car. He tries to lift it up, and it lifts up, but it lifts up straight and then catches on the door. This is one of the reasons we need to get that hamstring and hip flexor to kick in!

My sisters decided to get out our board game, Catan, for the first time since my dad’s stroke. This is a game that they, especially my dad, were all pretty hooked on last year. Amazingly, my dad did really well -- only the trading part was a little confusing for him. Still, by the time they decided to quit for the evening, he was winning!

He also plays Bananagrams with my grandmother every other night.

In the midst of this tough time, my dad insists he is not suffering as much as others. He seldom complains, and continues to be his gracious -- and often funny -- self. He makes us all laugh everyday.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
-James 1:2-4

Sunday, March 13, 2011

(Rose doing some arm/hand therapy with my dad.)

My dad is in a very regular routine now: speech therapy daily, PT and OT twice/week, and pool therapy 3X/week. That doesn’t count all of the extra therapy he gets at home: writing therapy with me, arm/hand therapy with my sister Rose, speech therapy in the evenings with some of my aunts, and lots of walking- in the house and at malls. My dad had us to measure how many times he would have to walk a circle inside the house (through the living room, dining room, kitchen, etc.) to make a half mile. We measured it: 27 laps.

Sometimes it’s hard to get in all of our extra “home” therapies, because my dad is exhausted and needs lots of sleep. Every afternoon he takes a nice long nap. Then there’s his pre-dinner nap, and his mid-morning nap on weekends. Recovery from a stroke seems to not only be a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fighting tiredness. We let him sleep all he wants, and encourage him to sleep a lot because we keep hearing about how beneficial sleep and rest is.

I think as my dad’s thinking and speech improve, it sometimes seems even harder for him, because he is more aware of what he can’t do right now. Probably the most difficult part is his speech, especially because it is so up and down. For every three steps forward, there seem to be two steps back. It's hard for us, but especially him to see so much progress one week, and then have it disappear the next.

Still, my dad continues to make progress, and uses words like “tolerable, vague, and exhausted” instead of simpler terms that would probably be easier to say. His “apraxia” is probably the biggest hurdle of all, because most of the time he knows in his head what he wants to say, and even knows the words. It’s forming them that’s the hard part.

He fights to remain positive, and repeats “Better and better, day by day,” several times each day.

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you;he will never let the righteous fall." -Psalm 55:22