Wednesday, 21 September 2011

My AVM Story: My Hand

Every now and then someone asks me if I can expect any further improvement in my left hand. My standard answer is that I don't believe that I'll ever be back to 100% of what I was.

However, my left hand still slowly improves. In a stroke like mine, any improvement after five years is fairly remarkable, and it's now been well over ten years. So any improvement at this point, no matter how small, is really something to feel good about.

If You're Going to Have a Stroke, Do it When You're Young

Having a large stroke at 22 has its advantages (as opposed to having a stroke later in life). I had no other health issues (besides healing from the brain surgery, and the seizures the came from some scar tissue). My body was young and strong.

Most importantly, my brain was young and therefore still high in plasticity. Brain plasticity is a big plus when you're healing from a stroke, because it means that parts of your brain can actually take over for other parts that are damaged. As your brain gets older, it loses plasticity.

Is it brain plasticity that's recently allowed me to start wrapping my left hand around the door handles on Dad's car when I couldn't before? I don't know. But a year ago I would have had to use my right hand to move my thumb to grip something like, and I don't have to anymore.

Too Good at Living with One Hand

I'm actually starting to pick up some relatively narrow objects with my left hand, like my remote control, but not because my thumb wraps easily around them - it moves just enough to act like a shelf, still lying practically lying flush across my hand. Using my left hand too much makes it slowly clench into a fist.

I need to take responsibility for it not being further along than it is. I should be using it more - not go back to those incredibly frustrating hours in occupational therapy where they'd put mt right hand in a glove and and then make me do up buttons with my left hand for an hour, but just make a more concentrated effort to actually *use* my left hand during the day. After over 10 years of living one-handed, I manage pretty well, and it's just become must easier to use my right hand to get something done than deal with the frustration of trying to do it with my left.

So What's the Problem?

It begs the question of why I'd even try to get more function in my left hand, if I can manage with just my right. Well, there are things that I'm *always* going to need two things to do. I'm really limited when it comes to lifting some things, including my new baby niece. Sometimes jars are a challenge. It'd be really nice to have two hands to go on the wheel once I start driving again (my grip in my left hand is strong to begin with, but doesn't stay that way).

It may be time to start occupational therapy on my hand again, to learn how to use it more in everyday life *with* my right hand...

Things to think about, as I plan my next steps...

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