The day after my mechanical thrombectomy, I underwent the first of several speech, occupational, and physical therapy sessions. All of which were located conveniently inside CPMC hospital- they didn’t have to transport me, which was very cost effective and handy.
I had a speech therapy nurse come to my room asking me questions. Still having no luck with my verbal communication, I decided to ask for a pen and paper, by motioning with my hands.
In my mind, I was going to write out “WTF just happened?” And “I got to ride in a helicopter!” Or “Loving the pudding here!” Or “Watch this (as I pick my right arm up and then drop it to the table) my right arm is tingly (Cool, huh?)” and “I can finally start to feel my right arm!”
I had all sorts of stuff to say.
The pen and paper was produced and given to me. I proceeded to hold the pen with my dominant right hand and I put the pen to the paper. It dawned on me that I was trying to remember which way an “e” curved.
The next thing I knew, there was a squiggly vertical line setting in front of me on that piece of paper- right where words should’ve been.
That’s when I’d realized, I couldn’t remember how to spell and write nor could I make my brain draw anything intentionally.
I was pissed.
I tried switching hands. Hopefully I will have better luck using my left-hand- I got the same squiggly line.
Being the Chatty Kathy- stubborn soul that I am, I was determined to find a way to communicate with the nurses. Now looking back, for me to even think of trying to use my non-dominant hand goes to show how much I needed to be heard.
Brain plasticity is a term that I am becoming familiar with. It helps describe the way our brains change and adapt as a result of experiences (Cherry, 2021). In our case, the experience is stroke. However, brain plasticity takes place inside everyone. If you are healing from a traumatic childhood, drug addiction, or a car accident for example, you’ve experienced the effects of brain plasticity.
Our “brains posses the remarkable capacity to reorganize pathways, create new connections, and, in some cases, even create new neurons—a concept called neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity” (Cherry, 2021). For example, let’s say the dominant right-handed person suffers a stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain causing their right side to become immobile. For the purposes of survival, they can train their brains to use their left-hand. This is all thanks to brain plasticity.
As you can see in the picture below, I’ve become ambidextrous since my stroke. It is a little something that I show people who are curious about the process of stroke recovery.
I have said this before and I will say it again, our brains are amazing organs. We can learn so much because our brains are malleable. You just have to have patience with yourself and remember that we are learning.
This solidifies my argument for not putting a limit to stroke recovery. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone’s stroke is different. However, due to brain plasticity we can still achieve great things- even after we experience a life altering stroke.
Cherry, K. (2021, February 3). How experience changes brain plasticity. Very well mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-brain-plasticity-2794886