Home Rehab- Frustration and Joy!
Rob Rawlings survived a massive stroke Sept. 22nd of 2017. At the age of 46 his life was turned upside down. Now, just a little over a year since that day, Rob is still continuing to see improvements thanks to his home rehab dedication.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this- Stroke rehab is brutal! You quickly learn it’s demanding physically. It’s demanding emotionally. It’s demanding psychologically. It will tire you out in a manner of minutes. It hurts. Muscles and nerves and joints that haven’t worked in weeks or months don’t want to cooperate with you. Add in, as in my situation, complete paralysis on the entire right side of the body. Double vision. A feeding tube snaking out of my stomach. For my two months stay in the hospital I spent 95% of my time flat on my back in bed. The muscles in my entire body atrophied to a state where I couldn’t stand up without assistance, and then only for a few moments. I wasn’t a pretty picture.
My occupational and physical therapists prepared me to go home and care for myself in the basic ways: wash, dress, navigate up and down the stairs. But I still relied on a wheelchair. By mid-November I was discharged and finally going home. My PT and OT would give me a great baseline of exercises to work on, but I only was seeing them less than five hours per week at the rehab center. I would continue out-patient rehab for a few months until our insurance ran out of approved visits. I was on my own! Home rehab would become my new best friend.
I knew I had to continue at home to see improvements and get back to the old Rob. Everyone in my family is pretty athletic; my wife is a yoga instructor, my kids played soccer, baseball, football and volleyball, I played soccer collegiately, so that competitive fire is there. Fortunately, we had already accumulated some equipment like weights, a treadmill, every type of ball imaginable, yoga mats and therapy bands, just to name a few. We dedicated a spare bedroom to become my workout area where I spend a couple hours a day, six days a week, working on my strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. Am I seeing improvements? Yes! Is it slow and tedious? Extremely! My first week in the rehab hospital last October, with the aid of two physical therapists, I “walked” for the first time after my stroke twelve feet in about twenty minutes. Today I can walk one and a half miles, assisted by only a cane, and not in the prettiest manner, in a little over an hour. It took a ton of solo work and perseverance for me to accomplish that feat, but living is more than just walking.
For me, everything I do I consider rehab, EVERYTHING! Everyday tasks that seem insignificant I turn into therapy sessions. Doing a load of laundry for some may not be glamorous, but for me it has had a ton of impact. Lifting the basket and walking with it helps with coordination and strength. Lifting the lid of the washer and filling it with clothes with my affected hand and arm helps with grip and range of motion. Removing clothes from the washer and dryer helps with balance and flexibility. And folding the clothes helps with all kinds of fine motor skills and dexterity for my arm and hand. I apply this thinking to washing the dishes, making the bed, vacuuming, taking the dog outside, walking to the neighbors, typing this blog. Am I back 100%? Far from it. Am I better off than a year ago? Definitely! I still have a long way to go, but the journey is becoming easier.
Every day is not perfect and there will be frustrations. I said earlier stroke rehab is brutal, but over time it becomes less and less so. Now I feel the joy as my body is re-learning things. Home “therapy” has been critical in that aspect and helps my body and mind each and every day. I know with patience and perseverance I will continue to see improvements. For me, therapy doesn’t begin and end at the therapy center, but rather when I wake and then finally head off to sleep.