Editor’s note: This is the third and final in a series by Patricia on how she used mindful movement to recover from serious complications – including a major stroke – caused by diabetes. You can read her other entries here.
When one has an ischemic stroke, the oxygen-rich blood supply to part of your brain is reduced. With a hemorrhagic stroke, there is bleeding in the brain. After about 4 minutes without blood and oxygen, brain cells become damaged and may die. The body tries to restore blood and oxygen to the cells by enlarging other blood vessels (arteries) near the area.
If the blood supply isn’t restored, permanent damage usually occurs. The body parts controlled by those damaged cells cannot function. Loss of function may be mild or severe; temporary or permanent, depending on where and how much of the brain is damaged and how fast the blood supply can be returned. Recovery depends on the location and amount of brain damage caused by the stroke, the ability of other healthy areas of the brain to take over for the damaged areas, and rehabilitation.
One has the greatest chance of regaining your abilities during the first few months after a stroke. But it comes slowly, if at all. About half of all people who have a stroke will have some long-term problems with talking, comprehension, and decision-making, along with changes in speed of action, perception, memory issues and problems from neglecting the affected side of the body.
In Part 2 of my recent blog, I had experienced a stroke while under anesthesia during surgery to repair a retinal detachment. I awoke a week later having lost my left eye and left side paralyzed. I was experiencing all of the aforementioned complications, further affected by the permanent loss of vision in my left eye. I could not move my left arm nor could I walk initially. After some physical therapy, my boyfriend continued to help me to regain movement by taking me to DisneyWorld, encouraging me to walk and to take ballroom dance lessons (although he had to take me in hand and pull me around).
As I was so affected physically, I was unable to teach in my own studio and managed from home. With no left eye and the inability to perform and talk without a slur, I was actually ashamed to think of teaching Pilates. As a Pilates studio owner and instructor, I had Pilates equipment from the studio brought to my home, knowing that Pilates was wonderful for post-rehabilitation. I began with footwork lying on the Reformer and seated footwork on the chair and supine arm work to encourage my limbs to work together then independently.
My balance was compromised, and with limited vision in my one good eye I had no depth perception. Working out was frustrating, and somewhat scary without balance, depth perception and the inability to fully utilize my left side.
My boyfriend gave me a goal – do the Disney Half Marathon once again, in six months after my stroke. After a long post-rehab with Pilates, in six months almost to the date of my stroke, I completed the Disney Half Marathon. My boyfriend Bob was holding my hand the entire way and pulling me across the finish line. Then, afterwards, Bob proposed to me in front of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
I then decided to return to teaching Pilates once again in my studio, though my brain had to relearn to cue. Since that time, I have been married Bob, completed Lolita San Miguel’s Master Mentor Program, became a Balanced Body Faculty Member and now celebrate 18 years owning and teaching in my Pilates studio – both to clients as well as teaching future Pilates instructors.