Return of the Rehab

I thought I wasn’t going to write another one of these but when you’re tasked with typing for 30 minutes a day to strengthen and speed up your affected side, there’s only one thing to start churning out so apologies in advance!

I’m going to start by giving this piece a bit of context. Since the last write up, I am back at work full time (still a primary school teacher, this time in Year 3 with another awesome class), my 2 little boys – Henry and Max – are now 3 and 1/2 years old and coming up 18 months respectively. Beth (the better half) is still teaching too albeit 4 days a week now which means fun time Friday with the boys! Life has been ticking over as enjoyably as it can do with the current state of the world looming in the background.

La Familia

I have recently started a 4 week intensive upper limb rehabilitation programme designed by the physios (Ruth specifically) and tailored to me to try and gain back as much ‘normal’ function as I can in my left hand/arm. By intensive, I mean 5 hours a day, 5 days a week! So I begin typing today on the Friday of the first week – and what a week it has been…

An average day involves some stretching of the fingers, wrist and shoulder to get them ready for a day of graft. I then move on to task specific stuff which is your heavy duty, mentally draining, mind-numbing activities where it is all about the repetitions. Stacking 100+ coins into piles on the kitchen table followed by throwing and catching a tennis ball 100 times does take its toll, not on the hand/arm but the brain. My competitive nature is great during these as I set myself little challenges each day. For example, can I do 10 catches in a row without dropping the ball and if not go back to 0 and start again. It’s very similar to a ’round the clock’ golf putting drill that I used to as a teenager down at the golf club on those long summer days without a care in the world. Luckily, having to work my way through the Tailenders and My New Football Club podcasts as well as Bob Mortimer’s ‘And Away…’ autobiography on audiobook (highly recommended!) is keeping me sane.

Well worth the money!

I have put this typing stint into that morning session to break up the monotony and already the benefit of forcing myself to use the left hand to type is great. It’s very hard to see daily improvements but that is like any form of rehab/exercise/diet etc. – only when you step back and look at how far you’ve come from over weeks, months and eventually years do you get a sense of achievement and pride. This is what I tell myself when I’m struggling in the moment of rep after rep after rep and I don’t think I’ve mastered it nor that I ever will because that’s what makes change/bettering yourself so hard. The relentless inner drive to improve.

After this very specific work, there’s a little bit more freedom in the next session but it still isn’t easy. Everyday 2 handed tasks are what I look to do next which involve tying and untying shoe laces, doing up buttons on my shirt (including the sleeve which genuinely on day 1 took me 5 minutes to achieve – my starting point I suppose), getting my coat on and off with the left arm actually playing a part instead of being a hindrance and finally putting my golf bag and glove on and off – which may seem trivial – but to me is something I worry about when I’m playing as I don’t want to hold my partners up on the tee. I mean, when I’m not playing with Grandad (aka Concrete Ken) of course, who after playing the beloved game for most of his 81 year life still doesn’t understand that the time to start a new monologue about the dreadful parking outside his house at school pick up and drop off times is not as you put your tee into the ground, ready to duff your driver into the ditch…

One of the best tools to work on mobility and wrist strength in particular is a device called GripAble. A mobile handheld device a little bit like a dynamometer that not only measures grip strength but the range of movement at the wrist too. The device also comes with a fully loaded tablet with app and games included. Unfortunately, I’ve only got this on a month long loan so I’m blasting it as much as I can. Another hour of the day ticked off and a more enjoyable one if I’m being honest.

Serious. Fun. Rehab.

As I was doing my baseline assessments for my affected hand on this device it amazed me that my dominant right hand had actually scored weaker than my strokey left! We are still not sure as to why this is happening (MRI’s done and now waiting for test results) but it did coincide with the time that I was extremely nervous and fighting to get the time off from school for the course in the first place. The less said about that the better. So it could be something anxiety related but we aren’t sure. Watch this space…

The simplest but most effective method I’m finding of getting the arm back to some sort of normality though is CIMT (Constraint Induced Movement Therapy). In a nutshell, I have to prevent my right hand from getting involved (by wearing an oven glove on it) and no matter how long it takes or how awkward it feels I have to do as many normal activities with my left thus forcing it to relearn dexterity and simple movements it has lost. The dishwasher, the garden patio furniture and the kids’ toys (to name a few) have all been sorted/cleaned at an incredibly slow pace to begin with but this is gradually allowing my hand to relearn what it has lost over these last 18 months.

Because I have looked like Skeletor since I’ve gone back to teaching – losing a stone and a half in weight – I’ve gone full meathead mode at home and bought some protein powder (hit me up for a MyProtein discount code…) to use after my heavy duty arm and shoulder weight workouts in the makeshift gym upstairs. I’m starting to see small gains in strength, weight and muscle mass in the upper body which is great and will ultimately try to keep this going when the course finishes. Big shout out to JD for a few cheeky gym sessions thrown in when he can be bothered! Nobody warns you about the smells of the protein farts though. Jesus wept…

Even He-Man couldn’t help but laugh as he pulled Skeletor’s finger for the third time that morning…

Away from the rotten eggs of the gym and to something that has genuinely been a game changer for me. Nothing to do with the upper body but a new walking aid called the TurboMed foot brace. Finally, having something I can easily hook into any pair of shoe and walk without the fear of hitching my toe, is awesome. Boring technical stuff = it allows me to level up my hips, lowering the left one whilst also getting a heel strike – mid stance – toe off pattern without thinking about it which is the key. Natural-ish walking is another promising sign!

Because of this improved gait, running is also back on the cards. I have though gone from running a sub 30 minute 5k park run in September to slogging my way round the pavements of Instow in a time considerably slower. However, I am looking to increase the distance I have run even pre stroke and signing up for the Bideford 10K in May is my new motivation. Beth has agreed to run with me but I can just imagine her leaving me in the dust as we turn for home over the old bridge. With the weather getting better and the lighter nights, I’m hoping to keep the miles ticking over after school as long as it doesn’t interfere with the new Monday Cup season which is fast approaching!

I’m now entering the final week and can honestly say I’ve given it my best shot over this course. I’m on track to complete the 90 hour programme and I knew I wouldn’t be ‘cured’ in this blast but it has definitely improved my functioning in everyday life so far. We are having a final catch up online at the end of the week with the others on the course to see how it can be maintained beyond and more importantly in line with full time work and life. Wish me luck…

Published by Seanie-D

30 year old Primary School teacher recovering from a stroke. Husband to Beth and Daddy to Henry and Max 😍😍

14 thoughts on “Return of the Rehab

  1. A huge well done Sean! You’ve thrown all your energy at this for the last few weeks and I’m delighted that you can see and feel the improvements. Having witnessed the TurboMed in action I can only speak highly of your improved straightness…lol!
    You’re an inspiration buddy, today, tomorrow and all the days after that. It’s exciting to be part of this journey with you, thank you for taking the time to share your progress xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are one determined, motivated man! Really admire you resolve, and bit by bit the hard graft is paying off. So impressed to know you’re back a work full time too.
    There must be really tough times, but it’s so important to have goals and aims.
    Well done Shaun!!
    PS Would the GripAble be a piece of equipment it would be helpful to own?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done. I know it’s hard work, all the physio stuff ( I had loads following 3 heart attacks) but it’s worth it. Keep up the good work and give yourself a pat on the back for the progress made to date

    Liked by 1 person

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