The things we take for granted

It’s amazing the things that we take for granted in life.  There’s the obvious ones like having a job (especially if you like it), and owning your own home (if you do).  Even if you don’t have one or both of these things I assume you have a roof over your head and food in your belly. Hopefully you all sit back once and a while and think about that and realize how lucky you are.

Then think about how lucky you really are.  The things above are important and I hope you have them, but they only scratch the surface.  Do all your limbs work?  Can you get out bed without it being a maneuver that should be in a cirque du solei act?    If you can, then think of the little things you take for granted every day – there’s a lot.  If you have problems like these, then still think of all the things you take for granted every day – I do, and there are a lot.

Right now as I write this there is a slideshow on my TV.  Some of the pictures are of a cruise I went on a few years ago.  In those pictures I am whole – everything about me works like it should, and I am having a great time.  Those were good times.  Now after the stroke, I will probably not be the same again.  Not that I won’t be able to do those things again, I think I will, but they will be different.  Stop right now, take a look at yourself and be thankful for what you have today.  Some of them might not be there tomorrow.

I don’t write this looking for sympathy.  My life is pretty good.  Life is going to throw you some curve balls and how you respond to them is up to you.  I’m going to try and hit this one out of the park.  What I am hoping you’ll get from this is that you don’t take anything for granted, especially the small things (I’ve learned that they are the most important things of all) and you live each day to the fullest.  You don’t know what tomorrow will bring so don’t waste today.

I remember reading somewhere that time is our most precious thing.  Each of us only has so much of it but we don’t know how much until it’s gone, and then it’s too late.  So use each second of it wisely – it might be your last.  I almost died, so I have decided that I am an authority on the subject and here is my theory.  The second we are born (or impregnated – your choice) a clock started counting down.  When it hits zero… well I think you know where I am going with this.  In my case I guess my clock isn’t at zero yet, so here I am writing posts and trying to rehab the right side of my body.  It doesn’t mean it’s not going to hit zero 5 minutes from now, it’s just not there yet.

So here’s my advice to you.  Don’t take anything for granted and live every second like might be your last.    Make sure the important people in your life know it and you have your cat or dog spayed or neutered.  I am sure that anything here is not new to you (especially the part about spaying or neutering) but every once and once a while jt doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

I wish each of you a long, heathy and prosperous life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SURFACE PRO 3 from a stroke survivor’s point of view

By now I’m sure you have heard of the Surface Pro 3.  It’s Microsoft’s new laptop/tablet combination and it’s making waves.  There is a multitude of reviews out there that talk about specs and comparisons.  If that is what you are after, this is not the review for you.  This review of the Surface Pro 3 is from my point of view, which I am pretty sure is different than the average reviewer.

First a bit about me to put this review in perspective.  I am 46 years old, with a career as a software developer.   At the end of December 2013 I had a stroke.  It paralyzed the entire right side of my body.  I spend a lot of time in the hospital and then a lot of time in rehab.  That story is here if you are interested.  Basically the right side of my body is still paralyzed and I have problems mentally, communication being a large part of that.

Near the end of my rehab Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 3.  “Is this going to be released to the public?” I thought to myself.  Once I found out it was, I had to have one.  This post is about my experience so far with the Surface Pro 3 and how it fits in my post-stroke life.

I ordered a top of line i7 with 8 GB of ram and 512 GB of storage.  Go big or go home is my motto.  I also ordered the keyboard and the docking station.  I cancelled the docking station, simply because I didn’t know if I would need it.  I haven’t yet.

My surface was shipped as soon as the I7’s were ready.  I got an email from Microsoft that it shipped and then I sat on the UPS tracking site pressing ‘enter’ every 10 minutes and watched my tiny new toy make its way to my house across the US and Canada.   I’d swear I almost destroyed the ‘enter’ key on my old laptop but who cared?  I had a new one to abuse and if I destroyed the new one I could always buy a new keyboard. Score 1 for the Surface.

Before I go any further I want to tell you that if you are looking for a review that is going to say anything bad about the Surface stop reading now – you will be disappointed.  This machine is ideal for someone with disabilities like mine.

Well we might as start with the keyboard.  It makes a great base for the kickstand.  That is basically the only way I have used it so far.  Because my right arm is unusable, I use the on-screen keyboard for all text entry.  The on-screen keyboard is a one handed persons best friend.  The Surface’s keyboard does seem to be very well made and I sure there are one-handed people who can use it. Just not me. Yet.

Next I will tackle the kickstand.  When using the Surface as a tablet this feature alone is worth its weight in gold to me.  My iPad is gathering dust now, mostly because it doesn’t have some sort of kickstand built it.  There are 3rd party solutions available for the iPad, but I like the fact the kickstand is built-in.  It feels very sturdy and after a couple of days it loosened up so I could deploy it with my one hand.  This kickstand alone is, in my option, reason to consider the Surface Pro 3.

The primary reason the Surface caught my eye and ultimately the primary reason I bought it for is its size.  It is just under 2 lbs and the thickness is less than a pen.  The laptop I had before it (and had just bought before the stroke) weighed around 5.5 lbs.  The difference is astounding, especially when you only have one arm to move it around with.

The Surface has a 12” touch screen.  This might seem small but the iPad screen is only 9” and a lot of UltraBooks only have 13” screens.  When you hold it in your hand(s) you will see that it’s a good size.  The resolution is 2160 x 1440.  Awesome.  Until you have to use it in desktop mode without a mouse. Painful is a good word for the experience.  Try copying a file using file explorer and you will know what I mean.  App Store here I come.  Hopefully the next version of Windows will address issues like this.

The pen is “interesting”.  I have not used it much because I cannot print or write with my left hand.  However I plan on changing that at some point and I plan on using the Surface and its pen to learn how to do it.  I think this will be a major upside to the surface – I just haven’t done it yet.  I have used the pen to show friends what it can do, and I am pleased with its capabilities.  For example by pressing the top of it, it will launch OneNote so you can take notes.  There’s a lot more the pen can do.  Look to other reviews for more information.

If you want to read about the rest of the specs you can go to one of the other reviews out there.  There are plenty of them to choose from.

From the second I got the Surface Pro 3 I knew it was exactly the machine I needed.  I wanted something I could grab at a moment’s notice and use like an iPad and at another time use as a full blown computer.  This machine does both.  It has its flaws and Microsoft knows it.  Very seldom a week goes by without some kind of update.  That’s ok though, it means they are fixing bugs or adding functionality.

If you are a stroke survivor or are reading this because you know one and they are looking for a computer or tablet then I suggest that you consider the Surface Pro 3.  It is unimaginably light, has a kickstand built in, powerful and runs most of the software written for Windows over the years.  An iPad or Android tablet may be all that you need but I suggest you look at the Surface Pro 3 as well.

I have a lot more I could mention but the stroke saps energy out of out me like you wouldn’t believe. I’m going to end it here for now.

If you have any questions or comments I am more than happy to try and help.  Just leave a comment.

Food…

Everybody loves food. Pizza, wings, nacho’s, vegetation stuff, everybody loves food.

I used to love food. The day before the stroke i was at Hooter’s with Greg having lunch. I still remember what I ordered – deep fried pickles (awesome) and wings. I am diabetic, so I shouldn’t have been there (another post) but I was. The point is that I loved it.

Fast-Forward to today and I hate food. Since the stroke I have lost about 120 lbs give or take a few pounds. The hospital food was atrocious. They gave us a list where we were supposed to cross out the things we wouldn’t eat. I crossed every thing out. Apparently the computer has defaults, because it took them 3 days to figure out what I had done. There were weeks when I lost 5 or more pounds that week.

When I left the rehab center and came home I could only think about 2 things. One of them was food. I can’t remember what we had the first night except it was take-out. I think it was ok. Most foods were not OK. As time passes more and more food is going on the “no OK” list.

Except hamburgers. Certain hamburgers are pretty good. Wendy and 5 Guys in particular. Every Bomber game day my friend Jeremy and I would have hamburgers while the game was on. There are certain places (KFC and McDonalds for starters) that I promised myself I would never eat at again. I intend to keep that promise.

I am a type 2 diabetic. This complicates things because I have to worry about things such blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and a bunch of other things. When I first entered the hospital my blood sugar was in the 28-33 range. Now it’s in the 4-5 range. This means that I have to take these things into consideration as well. Hamburgers and diabetes don’t mix that well.

I don’t eat much for lunch or supper and I don’t generally like snacks. I like Oatmeal Crisps at breakfast but I can’t eat it 3 times a day. I have to figure out what is going on because it is getting worse as time goes on. I can force myself to eat, but that sucks.

If any of you have experience with this I’d love to hear from you.

Darcy.

Communication…

I have a lot of problems with my brain. Some are physical like the void the bleed left in my brain, but others affect the way I think. The void will always be there – that is one of the things I will take to the grave with me. The other things, which I am going to talk about in this post, are things that affect my thinking. These things are not going to go to the grave with me. I plan on overcoming each of these hurtles so I can return to being the person I was before the stroke. Actually I am going to be new and improved, the old Darcy had some traits I want to get rid of. Anyways, on to the good stuff.

Writing

Writing the wrong letter. This is when I want to want to write one letter and I write a different one. In these cases my brain knows which letter it wants to write but the signal to my hand gets muddled up on the way somewhere and I type a different one. Sometimes (50%?) it takes multiple try’s before I get right.

Writing the wrong word. Same thing as above but with whole words or multiple words. My brain is telling my hand to type something but it does something else. Sometimes I will type part of a sentence two or three times before I get right.  Combine this with the “wrong letter” issue and I think you start to see how communication is tough for me.

Confusing “if”,”it”,”is” and similar words. Sometimes I go through a lot of them before I get the one I want.

I can’t remember a lot of words, but that is slowly improving.

I can’t write or print. My dominate hand (right) is on the side the stroke affected (left side of brain, right side of body). I am going to start working on this soon.

Verbal commutation.

Getting better all time. People that only occasionally see me tell me each time they see me, it is better than the time before.

As my vocabulary gets bigger I am finding that there are a lot of words I cannot pronounce. I can “say them in my head”
but when when I try to say them out loud it sounds like I am talking a different language.

After some time I start to get tired and things start to deteriorate. My speech gets to the point where I am hard to understand. Usually at this time it is “nappy time”.

There are a lot of other points that I could rattle off but I think this gives you an idea of what I am up against.

I love technology. Things such as spell check and Siri have made my new life a lot easier. The whole time I was in the hospital and rehab Siri (iPhone voice recognition) was my best friend. It wasn’t until I came home and got my new computer (Surface Pro 3) that I started typing without using Siri. Now I only use Siri when I’m in a hurry or don’t know how to spell something.

Anyhow, thanks for reading this. Typing this was a good lesson for me, and I hope it gave you some insight into some of the challenges I am facing right now.

Darcy

What happened…

For 45 years and 363 days both my legs and both my arms worked. One evening (Dec 29, 2013) in a split second that all changed. The right side of my body was paralyzed, from the top of my head (including half my face) to the end of my toes.

I had a stroke. The type I had was a hemorrhagic stroke. Basically there was a bleed in my brain.

2 days later (new years eve) I had a seizure and they found out that I was still bleeding (they had thought it had stopped bleeding and I was getting better). The doctors told my family I was brain dead and they should prepare for the worst. I was put into a private room and was given the Last Rights. My family was then left alone with me to say their farewells.

Since you are reading this you know things didn’t go as planned. I’m a software developer… Nothing ever goes as planned.

The next day I woke up. I called everyone to stand around the bed and I hugged each one of them. I think at this moment I knew I was going to be ok. Then I slept. A lot.

I spent 44 days at Concordia. I can’t say enough about the nurses and other staff there. They were awesome. The night they thought I was going die, there was one nurse who comforted my wife all through the night. I’ll never forget that.

On Valentine’s Day I was sent to Riverview to begin rehabilitation. I was one of 30 people (at a time) who go there to undergo therapy to get you to a state where you can go home. I was there approximately 3.5 months. While I was there I worked on physio, occupation therapy and speech. I can only say positive things about this place. EXCEPT the food. I lost around 120lb since the stroke and it wasn’t because they have awesome racquet courts. I’ll leave it at that. I made a lot of friends there, both fellow patients and staff. The last week I was there my femur was damaged (hairline fracture) during an exercise, it healed on its own.

Now I am home. Things are different than before the stroke. I am walking with a cane. Shuffling along would be a more accurate description. Since my right side is mostly still paralyzed, I cannot carry anything, but with a bit of ingenuity you’d be surprised at what I can do.

My wife has to do everything. She even learned how to drive. I drive the remote (the only thing MPI will still let me drive). My wife is incredible. I had the stroke, but it has affected her just as much, just in different ways.

I am getting therapy five days a week. It is going well. Manitoba has a great stroke rehab program. I am seeing small improvements all the time and hopefully they will lead to big improvements. But if this is as good as it gets, I can live with that. It sure beats the alternative.

I have been through a lot, but I have also learned a lot as well. My advice to each of you is that you only have one body. Treat it well. It can take a beating, but only so much. Before the stroke the worse thing I did to myself was breaking my wrist getting out of my hot tub. Or so I thought! That hurt, but the real damage was my lifestyle. The lifestyle I had been living for many years before ever breaking my wrist. That is probably the biggest factor in why I am sitting here writing about the stroke I had.

I hope none of you have to go through what I do. Don’t make the same mistakes I have, and you will be on the right track.

Darcy