Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Challenge 8: Returning the Panic Button

After my one and only seizure--which happened about six months after the stroke--my family arranged to get me a LifeLine button, in case I had some other emergency and no one was home to help me or the kids.

It has been very helpful. I've never actually needed to use it in the almost three years I've had it, but it has put my fears at ease when I'm alone at the house. I'm guessing that it's been just as helpful as talk therapy to address my fears, and more cost-effective.

But as I get more and more mobile, I knew that it didn't make sense to keep it. I'm driving on average four days a week, sometimes with kids in tow. I'm on a low  dose of anti-seizure medication. LifeLine is is cheaper than psychotherapy, but still expensive.

So my last challenge was to make arrangements to surrender my LifeLine equipment. I called them last week to tell them I don't need it now, and on Monday, I packed up the equipment, drove to the hospital that rents the equipment, and turned it in. Other than the fact that it was tricky to juggle my cane and also haul the stuff in a bag through the long hospital hallway, it went smoothly.

I wish I could say that I feel relieved. But the fact is, I'm still scared a lot. I wish I could have some implanted (and free) device that would call 9-1-1 if fell or had a sudden change of brain wave activity. At least now my fear is usually is sort of a low-level anxiety, rather than a stop-you-in-your-tracks panic.

When I told my kids that I had returned the "panic button" and the intercom, my kids were surprised. My daughter was disappointed that she couldn't test it one more time. My son smiled, and gave me a big hug.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Challenge 7: Remembering Piano

Not long after I came back from Spaulding, I sat down at my piano. I wasn't sure if I could play anything at all, but I tried to think of the piano as a therapy tool--both physical and cognitive.

From time to time, I've been going through my sheet music for my favorite pieces. With some pieces, I've tried to pick out the notes. Sometimes I listen to recordings and follow along with the sheet music. Other times I just listen.

But there was one piece that I couldn't find in my music books, and I also don't have a recording. It was a slow Scott Joplin piece called "Solace" that I've been playing by memory since middle school, and it was one of my show-off pieces. But when I tried playing even a few notes by memory, I couldn't. My left hand waited for cues from my right hand, while my right hand sat on the keyboard, useless as a dead fish.

So my challenge was to drive to the music store, track down the music, and hopefully pick out some of the melody, in any way possible. After thumbing through anthologies, I found the song. To my dismay, the music didn't look like anything I remembered. Did I confuse the name of the piece? Were my music-reading skills affected by the stroke even more than I realized?

I was never the most talented pianist, but that was beside the point. I loved making music. And now one more piece of myself was lost. This really sucks, I said to myself.

I bought the music book anyway. When I came home I googled "Solace," and found a video clip of someone playing the piece. Halfway through the clip, I recognized it. It was "Solace." But I had always skipped the first two movements, and even forgotten they existed. And I don't think it had anything to do with the stroke.

Afterwards, I tried to play a few lines. It didn't sound much like music, and I'm not sure it ever will. But at least I now can tell you: I used to play this Scott Joplin song called "Solace" for decades; I always skipped the first two movements; and that was part of who I was.

Here's a post by Marcelle Greene about ragtime and stroke. Here's a video clip of a performance of "Solace" (with a lot fewer mistakes, of course, than I used to to make. The parts I used to play start at 3:37).