One of the lingering problems my stroke left me with is the lack of ability to feel correct temperature sensations on the left half of my body. This problem has slightly lessened with the passing of time. When I was first recovering, I remember walking outside as tiny drops of rain began to fall from the sky. I cannot describe to you the pain I felt! It was as if needles were being pushed through my bones. With each sprinkle, with each touch of rain, the needles quickly, deeply pierced my skin. I learned quickly to prevent precipitation from touching me. On another day I went outside and it was slightly breezy. The wind was fire. This is odd because fire only touched the left half of my body. My right arm would perceive the wind as normal. With each gust, the raging inferno would rush through my exposed left skin. I learned quickly, regardless of the weather, to wear a sweater or coat draped over my left side. If my skin was covered, I would not feel the pain.
My children running up to me with chilly hands to grab my arm still causes me to wince in pain. The rain no longer feels like needles, but also it does not create the pleasant sensation I used to enjoy. I still also get confused by cold or extreme heat. One area the stroke affected is where my brain detects temperature sensations. This is no longer an automatic sensation I can be aware of. Our counter tops are granite. I have been known to think my hand brushed against the counter – the frigid sensation registering as boiling pain – only to look and realize the skin is really feeling boiling pain because it is touching the side of a hot pan. I do pay attention visually when I am in the kitchen, but I am only human and cannot notice everything. Maybe yesterday I was too close when I leaned over and blew out the candle. Maybe I was too close to the hot coils when I was lifting the lid out of our dishwasher. I am not sure what caused this blister. It is over now. I just need to always be careful.
I decided to write this post to show yet another way a stroke can alter someone’s lifestyle. I used to have fun splashing in puddles. I used to have all of my eyesight. I used to have more “normal” abilities than I have now. Yet, I am amazed at things the stroke has taught me. Please, remember a stroke is not an ailment that affects only our grandparents and their friends. It is not a medical condition that hits older people exclusively. The handbooks and guides given out to predict a stroke survivor’s outcome should not be one size fits all. Set your sights above those predictions, and remember everyone will progress differently. Each stroke affects a different area of the brain in different ways. Have patience and take time to understand how your definition of normal will evolve. After all, prior to my experiences, I never would have believed that a simple blood clot could change me in so many ways, and I never would have understood one day a stroke could make the wind catch fire.