In my previous blog, I touched upon going to rehab and speech therapy appointments, and I want to expand on these and explain how they helped me during my recovery.
On my first day at rehab I remember having to set the alarm early – I use to think nothing of getting up at 6am for work but since surgery I was sleeping right through to 11am most days as my brain recovered! I was picked up by patient transport just after 9am, I thought it would be too awkward taking my walking aid (Mavis!) so I used my walking stick that I used in my dog walking days! But I wasn’t very steady with it so the patient transport staff helped walk me to the bus as Lindsay waved me off! I’m quite a shy person (until you get to know me!) so as we approached the rehab unit I started to get butterflies. I didn’t really know what to expect and I felt very vulnerable, but I was immediately put at ease by the staff with their warm welcome and attentiveness. They introduced me to the other patients and helped settle my nerves.
On that first day, I saw Fiona, the physiotherapist, who did what’s called the BERG balance test which is used to determine the functional mobility of an individual, I would repeat it several times during my time at rehab to measure any improvement during my recovery. I also saw Leigh, the occupational therapist, whose primary goal is to help enable people to be able to participate in activities of everyday life, and so we looked at what activities I use to enjoy and did regularly (for example, cooking and walking Dexter) and then we worked on different therapies so I could hopefully do those things again. I also met Gillian, the nurse in charge, who helped with my emotional and mental wellbeing. The rehabilitation unit certainly offered a holistic approach, they didn’t just look at the physical impact my brain injury was having on me, but they recognised the impact it had on all aspects of my life – mentally, emotionally and even financially and they offered guidance, support and treatment tailor-made to my needs.
After several weeks of attending rehab once a week, Gillian decided I should try attending twice a week. I was really excited by this as I saw it as a big step in my recovery. Sadly though, it became apparent that fatigue was impacting on my recovery, the more I strived to do, the worse the fatigue became. And so, the decision was made that I would return to once a week. When Gillian told me I burst into tears. I was disappointed that I couldn’t manage the two days but normally I would never have cried about it! But fatigue played havoc with my emotions and I would burst into tears from sheer exhaustion. Fatigue didn’t just affect my emotions, it also affected my speech, swallowing and balance. My speech became more slurred and I struggled to get my words out right, I choked more often and I wobbled/stumbled off balance more when I was tired. Gillian kept telling me to pace myself, but in the early days I struggled with that because I kept thinking, the more I try to do the quicker I will get better. It took a long time for me to relinquish that stubborn mindset!
I started noticing something that hadn’t been apparent in the first few weeks after surgery, I never felt hungry or thirsty. I think because I had the feeding tube for the first ten days, and then meals were provided at set times after that in the hospital, and then Lindsay had made my meals for me once I got home. So it wasn’t until Lindsay returned to work six weeks after my surgery that it came to light. She would get home and would ask me what I’d had for lunch, and I would realise I hadn’t had lunch, in fact I’d had nothing to eat all day. She asked if I’d not been hungry and that’s when I realised that I never felt hungry or thirsty.
I also kept forgetting if I’d done things, when Lindsay got home she would ask me what I’d done that day, and I wasn’t always sure. I would question myself as to whether I had done my daily speech and physio exercises. With my head full of worries about forgetting to eat and drink, and not sure if I was remembering to do all my exercises, I went to my speech therapy appointment. Linda, the speech therapist, picked up very quickly that something was bothering me that day. So instead of concentrating on swallowing and speaking exercises, Linda helped me by listening to my concerns and then offering advice on how to resolve them. She suggested I create a timetable that would prompt me during the day to eat, drink and do my speech and physio exercises. She also said by following the timetable it would help structure my day. She was full of encouragement about how much I had already achieved. It was a beautiful demonstration of person-centred care by Linda, she was interested in the well-being of her patient and recognised, at that time, that I needed a listening ear, guidance and encouragement much more than I needed an hour of speech therapy. It was exactly what I needed that day and I left that appointment with renewed determination and motivation for my recovery journey.
Once I got home from the appointment, I began to draw a timetable but then I was concerned I would forget to look at it! So instead, I downloaded an app that allowed me to set and name several alarms to go off throughout the day. Here’s a screenshot of some of the daily alarms!
I then drew up a checklist so I could record what I was eating, drinking and when I was doing my speech and physio exercises, and Linda was right, it did help to structure my day and it also helped me feel I was accomplishing something each day with regards my therapy exercises, and so acted as a motivator to keep going! Thank you Linda!