We’re just about a month out from the anniversary of Mrs Dim’s stroke. Though we were lucky that she avoided the physical effects that you’d expect from a stroke – partial paralysis, muscle function disruption – she is still dealing with the after effects. Damage to the area of the brain that deals with memory is permanent, and though she has developed new systems to help compensate, we’ve yet to see evidence of her brain creating the new pathways. It’s possible that it’s happening, but it’s hard to chart progress.
Having had several encounters with physical injuries in the past, Mrs Dim is used to rehab work. It appeals to her nature – building up stamina by regular hard work, pushing yourself just a little further each time, until you regain full strength. Unfortunately, that’s not the way to deal with brain injuries.
Added to this, there’s the very real issue of “Post Stroke Fatigue”. Affecting around 40% of stroke patients, it can persist anywhere from 6 months to 2 years after the actual event. The Physical Therapists anticipated this, and suggested Mrs Dim get used to doing little and often – do an activity for a half hour, then take a half hour break. But it’s hard to change the way you’ve lived your life, so when she wakes up full if energy, she goes full bore at the day. This means she’s wiped out by lunchtime.
Our doctor did have some medical suggestions, but the medication we tried only woke up her brain, it didn’t provide any extra energy, with the result that she was exhausted, but her brain wouldn’t slow down enough to let her sleep.
I’m writing about this because she often worries that she’s some kind of fraud. Without a visible injury, with the ability to hold a sensible conversation for up to an hour (at the right time of day!), it’s easy to forget she’s impaired. But the fatigue is undeniable, and so out of character. Her ambition is undimmed, whether it’s about the house, the garden, her work, or the family. She’s not making concessions about life, just because it’s harder than it used to be.
This year has been tough, even coming off the first year of covid. We’re hoping that the next year might include a return to work in some form or other, which means different challenges, more new schedules and finding yet another new normal. But then, I get the impression that that’s how life is for everyone right now.