Single-Handedly: A Stroke Survivor’s Blog

By Guest Contributor December 15, 2016 21:23


Read the full story of Charlie (a pseudonym used to protect her privacy) in the Winter 2016-’17 issue of Friends and Neighbors Magazine, available in mid-December at these locations and many more.

By Charlie Rioux

Unfortunately, I had a stroke a little more than four years ago.

I was working in the Bay Area, commuting weekly from Angels Camp. It was a major ischemic stroke paralyzing my left leg, arm and hand. My speech and other cognitive functions were also impacted, but to a lesser degree.

Now four years later, I actually feel smarter and more confident than before my stroke and characterize the recovery period as three separate phases. This includes “rebirth,” calibration and the current transition period.

In the first post-stroke period, rebirth, you have to learn to walk (crawl), talk, eat, bathe, get dressed and many other functions previously taken for granted before the lightning bolt to your health changed everything.

Rebirth was followed by the calibration period. This can be described both as a time you are relearning and redefining how you can continue to perform common daily activities while parts of your body are still paralyzed. Think of this as reliving your toddler years. We take so much for granted. A stroke survivor’s day is anchored by the constant need to problem solve how to do what they could once do with their eyes closed.

To truly understand this as a family member, therapist or caregiver, place one of your arms in a sling (use a scarf if you don’t have a sling) and try to do one or more of the following activities:

  • Get dressed
  • Fold towels
  • Put clothes on hangers
  • Brush your teeth
  • Open a can of soup
  • Wrap a gift
  • Slice a tomato

Once you have tried any one of these tasks you will understand the fear, frustration and grief a stroke survivor experiences. Yes, stroke affects both physical and psychological aspects of a human being. Stroke is also called a cerebral vascular infarction or brain attack.

The transition phase is where I am now: putting together everything learned in therapy and through interaction in everyday life. More directly: What do I want to do now? And how do I become a functioning adult in the community again?

  • Going to the gym
  • Driving
  • Cooking
  • Working in the garden
  • Helping your children with school work
  • Being a spouse
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Possibly going back to work

Many of the tools and tricks you developed in the first two phases of recovery become ingrained in your new normal. Every stroke survivor will be unique in their abilities and recovery process depending on the severity and type of stroke they experience.

As a stroke survivor, I would encourage you to research your recovery options and don’t resist asking for help from family or health professionals when you need to. If you have any questions about my recovery journey, I can be reached via email:

The National Stroke Association uses the acronym F.A.S.T. — Face, Arm, Speech and Time —to teach the basic warning signs of stroke.

  • Face drooping: Is the face drooping or numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?
  • Arm: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to lift both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 911: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911. Check the time so you’ll know when the symptoms first appeared.

Charlie Rioux of Angels Camp is a stroke survivor who hopes her experiences and insights will help others who are recovering from a stroke. 

By Guest Contributor December 15, 2016 21:23
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  1. LoneStarEagle December 22, 09:03

    Great Start!

  2. SD January 16, 20:19

    You are a champ!! All the best to you for your transition phase and to all who will get encouraged by reading your blog

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