I got off very lightly regarding the negative effects of my stroke. My vision and hearing were unaffected, and the lack of sensation on my left, affected, side is more of a nuisance than a handicap. My balance came back quickly, as did my control over my left side. And that enabled me to swim and work out with weights to the extent that my left and right sides are roughly equivalent in terms of strength. Except for the spasticity, I’m physically about the same as I was pre-stroke.Similarly, my cognitive abilities were not impacted to any significant degree. I didn’t get off completely unscathed, though, and the ways in which the stroke did affect me were very interesting, and odd.
Left Neglect Evidently this is common with right hemisphere strokes, because the therapists began mentioning it to me the first day, even telling Polly to stand on the left side of my hospital bed in order to force me to take notice of what was happening on that side.I didn’t really understand what the fuss was all about until I got to inpatient rehab. Each time the therapists or the nurses got me in the wheelchair to take me anywhere, they would ask me where was my left hand, and each time I would have to look for it, usually finding it dangling perilously close to the spokes of the wheel. Even after I was able to use my left hand to assist with propelling the wheelchair myself, I would often bang it into door jambs or other barriers.
It’s not that I had any problem seeing what was on my left. I didn’t have issues with my peripheral vision, or experience a vision “cut” on that side, it was more like my brain didn’t register anything on my left side until my attention was called to it. Once it was, what was on my left appeared just the same as what was on my right.Soon after I returned home, Polly and I went to our son’s last home swim meet, when the seniors are honored. We were seated near the starting blocks and were discussing whether or not the high school principal would attend. “There he is,” Polly said to me. I asked her where he was, because I didn’t see him. “To your left,” she said. I looked to my left and the crowd on the other side of the pool appeared, including the principal who was talking to a group of parents. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen them, it was more like that entire side of the pool, and all the people there, hadn’t existed to me before it was pointed out to me.
Another manifestation of my left neglect occurred numerous times when I was in the bathroom. The hot water in all our bathrooms is controlled by the handle on the left, and I would often leave it running. Polly learned to check it when I came out and point it out to me so I could go back and turn it off.Neither of these examples constituted anything serious, of course, but they did indicate the possibility of dangerous situations, especially when I started driving. I never had any problems, though, because I was aware of the danger, and made a conscious effort to look left, then left again, then again, then again, before I pulled out into traffic or changed lanes.
The left neglect gradually faded away and was completely gone within a year.The Condition I Don’t Know the Name of It wasn’t until I came home and started doing some research that I read about an effect of right-hemisphere strokes that was described as the inability to place specific occurrences in the context of a whole. As soon as I read it, I realized I had already experienced it. In inpatient rehab, I would make it a point to watch my beloved Kentucky Wildcats basketball team whenever they were on television, which, owing to their excellence, was often.
During that four-week period, though, I knew something was wrong when I watched the games. I knew I was missing something, but couldn’t quite identify what it was. After reading about this stroke effect, I immediately knew what the problem had been. As I watched the Cats play, and almost always beat, their opponent, I wasn’t able to place the game within the broader context of conference standings or national rankings. I was missing how the particular game I was watching fit into the big picture. It was this deficiency that I was sensing as I watched the games.Another instance of the Condition I Don’t Know the Name of occurred the first time I had to get up early to drive to KHC, which is located two hours away in another time zone. I hadn’t set an alarm to wake me up, because I don’t use one. I’ve always had the ability to wake up when I want to. This time, though, there was a problem. I woke up at 3:00 am and for the life of me couldn’t figure out when I needed to get up. My calculation had always been Time of My Meeting at KHC minus Two Hour Drive Time minus Half Hour to Get Ready adjust for Time Difference equals Time to Get Up. But this time I couldn’t make that calculation no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the math, it was that I couldn’t account for the fact that time was passing as I lay in bed trying to figure this out. I couldn’t place the time where I was in a larger context of the time as it existed anywhere else.
I finally drifted back to sleep and the next time I woke, I got up and hoped for the best without trying to make the calculations. And it turned out to be right, and I got to my meeting on time, and never experienced any further problems with it.So, I throw those thoughts about two of the relatively minor, but interesting, effects of stroke out there, and maybe someday someone who has experienced a relatively small, right-side cerebral stroke will come upon this post and will be helped in some way.