Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

I looked at the side of my wrist this morning.  A glimpse of red caught my eye.  I looked again and realized there was brown surrounding the base of the red line.  I looked closer yet, and realized the brown was a long blister at the base of my thumb.  I realized I had burnt myself.  I attempted to think of when I was near something that was really hot – or really cold in my perception.
Before I had a stroke, I thought a stroke was an ailment, or medical condition, that affects an older population like grandparents and their friends.  The stroke would leave their faces drooping on one side and cause slurred speech or their foot to drag as they walked.  I obviously had a complete misconception.  This is one reason I started my blog FindingStrengthToStandAgain.  I want people to know that strokes can happen at any age.  Strokes occur due to a variety of reasons, and there is no textbook prediction of the lasting effects a stroke will have on one’s body.

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.


Comments on: "The Day the Wind Caught Fire" (20)

  1. I had no idea a stroke could effect your nerves like that.

    • It completely depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain. Nearly every spot of your brain helps control something about your life (movements, thoughts, etc). Every area touched will have different results. Yet another lesson I never expected to learn. Glad I can help broaden other people’s understand, too. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. kelseyhilton said:

    I like that “your definition of normal will evolve”. You have no other choice but to learn how to live again. It’s not necessarily bad. Just different

    • You are right, it is different. And in some aspects, this different can become wonderful, exciting and blissful. I am glad to have discovered some evolutions to my family’s normal.

      I appreciate you took the time to stop by and leave your kind message. Thank you!


  3. You are like a mine of information about the mysteriousness of the body.
    And you are so articulate and super-intelligent you become a tremendous medical resource, Tara. Yet another instance of your turning a difficulty — without ever denying it — into an asset.

    • Lessons learned… I think that is one of the great things about life. We can learn from the experiences other people have rather than stumbling over too many blocks of our own. I think it makes for a richer, more interesting life when we are able to gain from trials and tribulations other people share with us. I am glad I can share this with you. Thank you for always being around Judith. I truly appreciate your ongoing support.


  4. Tara, you are an amazing woman and I am so very proud to be able to tell everyone your story and also that you are my neice!!!! I am so happy I signed up to receive your blogs because I have learned so much from you. Now I wonder how mom must have felt after so many little strokes in the end. But she wasn’t able to tell us…….. I miss her every day. And I miss all of you!

    Love ya,
    Karen J

    • Aunt Karen!!! What a nice surprise to see you have stopped by! I am so thankful to have you here. We all miss your mom. She did have many small strokes, but more importantly, she had so much love surrounding her. That always outweighs the discomfort of health issues any day. Thanks for taking the time to say hi. It means a lot to me to know you are out there in cyber-land!

  5. Since I have found your blog I have had two people a bit older than me have what they are calling TIA, mini-strokes. They run in my dad’s side of the family, mainly his mom, and he also had nerve issues, but none in me so far. I have noticed one friend in particular has not been the same. She cannot remember and seems tired all the time.

    I hope this comment finds you in a good place today…Tara you are a blessing!

    • I hope you will be spared the nerve issues. It is amazing how TIA’s can have such a profound impact on one’s mind. And too think, all just because of a tiny clot of blood! As horrible a it is, it is also quite amazing.

      Thank you very much for stopping by. I am always grateful to see your kind words respond to my posts.


  6. […] 12/01/11 posting on FindingStrengthtoStandAgain’s Blog, “The Day the Wind Caught Fire” is a must read for all individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain incident. The caregivers […]

  7. Tara, I hope you don’t mind, but I “borrrowed” your phrase “Evolution of Normal” to use as a title of a new posting on my epilepsy blog. As I noted in the posting, I believe you are the epitome of a great teacher. You can inspire, inform and make people think all at the same time. In my 40 years in the academy, I have not encounted any one better at that than you.
    I trust that your Thanksgiving was filled with family and gratitiude. My wife and I spent our holiday with our two daughters and 4 grandkids. It is really the case that we have much to be thankful for.
    I wish you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.
    Shalom and Blessings,


    • By, your comment is so kind! What touching, wonderful words coming from someone who has seen so much. I cannot tell you how appreciated you are.

      Our Thanksgiving was wonderful. Due to the distance from our true family, we spent the day with our “created” military family. It was a day of feasting on food and friendship.

      Thank you for the nod to me in your epilepsy blog. I hope people take time to click on your name so they can not only read this blog, but also find their way to your intriguing blog on aphasia. I hope your health is improving. You and your family have all been in my thoughts.


  8. Soundl like you’ve had it rough, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to enjoy simple pleasures like rain, wind and your children holding your hand. I think it’s a great thing you’re doing educating others and letting them know that strokes don’t discriminate, they don’t know age, color, gender, ethnicity, etc… I hope you’re able to enjoy those things again someday without pain. x

    • The pain has faded over the years. I am lucky to have gained the sensation tolerance I now have. It has been a severe learning curve but one I would not change for the world. I have learned so much as I have traveled down this path. My most important thing though is to educate people about what a stroke can do and how suddenly the brain can be attacked. You are right strokes don’t discriminate, they don’t know age, color, gender, ethnicity. You are so very correct!

      Thank you for stopping by. I really appreciated reading your kind comment.


  9. I really admire and appreciate the way you write so openly about how the stroke has affected you. I’m sure alot of people would not be as comfortable and articulate putting it all out there. Even raindrops… who knew?

    You are such a good teacher. I could see you putting all these posts together and writing a book someday. Even though I don’t presonally have your condition, reading about it brings it very much to life. An awesome story, Tara… : )

    • From the moment I was sent home to recover, I knew I had lessons I could teach the world. It is one of the positives that I walked away with. Since I was left with my thought-processing and communication skills unimpaired, I want to explain everything I possibly can to people that are able to learn from my experiences. Therefore, I am involved in research programs and find true joy in writing on this blog.

      It would be great to someday get a book out there. I already have a very, very long paper I have prepared regarding coping skills for prosopagnosia patients. Maybe someday it will turn into something more. Thank you, Linda, for your support. It truly means a lot to me!


  10. Tara, what an education and inspiration your blog is. The quality of writing and descriptive language is a pleasure to read and I always learn something when I visit.

    As you know my daughter recently had brain surgery for her epilepsy. As we signed the consent forms for the operation I was very mindful of your own experience. Thankfully Eve seems to have come through the process with no side effects and (fingers crossed) a week later has had no seizures.

    My wife who accompanied Eve to London for the operation, reported several cases of infants and babies who had strokes and were in the same neurological ward.

    Life can be such a struggle.

    Such a search for strength.

    • I am so happy your daughter’s surgery had such a positive outcome. Needless to say, I have been checking your site often for updates. She is very strong. The strength our children can demonstrate and teach others always amazes me. I am glad her surgery was finished with no complications. The lessening or ending of seizures is nothing short of a miraculous gift. Please, know my thoughts have been with you.

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I appreciate your kind words during such a stressful time for your own family. May everything remain, in her’s and your family’s road to complete recovery, peaceful and positive.

      All my best,

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