When I suffered an aneurysm and stroke, I was determined to overcome the physical and neurological affects. With the support of my friends and a lifetime of spitfire determination at my side, I resolved to walk 30 days after they brought me home from the hospital. And I did it.
In my memoir, “Back to the Summit,” I talk at length about how my determination aided my recovery. Hard work and a propensity for rebellion and good natured trouble-making guaranteed that I could achieve what I set out to do. But, determination alone can’t get a stroke survivor back on their feet. So, as you set out to recover from your stroke, what can you do to complement your spitfire determination?
First: Get enough sleep!
When you experience a traumatic event that affects your neurological abilities, it’s essential that you get enough rest. Sleep is the place where your mind goes to make vital connections. When scientist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke in her 30s, she was amazed by the amount of sleep she needed.
“The only way I got any rejuvenation was to go to sleep,” Taylor says. “When I go to sleep, I shut down all new stimulation coming into my brain. My brain has time to make some sense of the stimulation it's already received; it calms itself down, it organizes, it files information. ... I needed people to let me sleep until I could wake.”
Know just how important sleep is and stick to it!
Second: Animals are your friends!
During my recovery, my dog Spartacus played a crucial role. He was with me through thick and thin, even as I struggled to regain the full use of my body. He understood that something bad had happened to me, but he didn’t care. He would give me comfort and love and do whatever he could to help me recover and, thus, return to my former self.
The National Stroke Association notes that Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) can help with stroke survivors who are struggling with vision loss. It’s also shown that pets help with more than the physical outcomes of a stroke. Occupational therapist Donna Robacker says that, “The emotional response from interacting with the dog helps the patient’s focus on goals.”
Third: Consider seeking support from other survivors.
Stroke survivor support groups meeting in most places, but – as we become more connected through the Internet – you can connect with other survivors from your computer or phone!
Leanne, a member of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Stroke Survivor Support Group noted that, “when I had my stroke 20 years ago, I had to figure everything out on my own. It was devastating. Sometimes family and friends don't understand. They may expect you to “get over it.” So you deny your own experience to make it easier on them. That just prevents you from feeling the results of the stroke and your own reality.”
Surrounding yourself with people who know your experience can provide support you didn’t even know you needed.
What did you need to keep your resolve strong during your recovery?
I am Senator Omer Rains. I had a debilitating stroke and brain aneurysm at the age of 61, but it did not keep me down—and nothing will keep you down either if you do not allow it.