Monthly Archives: April 2020

Stroke Recovery – FitMi and Music Glove

Due to the impending COVID-19 pandemic, my husband was discharged from the hospital after his stroke with no plans for rehab. I have since read it is very common for people who have pontine strokes to make really remarkable recoveries. My husband went from not being able to roll over to walking with the dog and I in two weeks so he seems to be following that pattern.

However we did notice he was having some issues with his balance, weakness in his left side, and fine motor control of his left hand. We could not do then usual routine of going into town for physiotherapy due to the pandemic lockdown. I went on line to try to find some exercises that would help. I found a product called FitMi and Music Glove from Flint Rehab. It was not cheap! After exchange and shipping and import duties and taxes we ended up shelling out about $1000. Our doctor had not heard of it before but when we told him about it he enthusiastically endorsed the concept and wrote us a prescription so we can claim it as a medical expense next year. The box arrived two days ago.

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Hubby dearest likes the music glove better than the FitMi. It specifically concentrates on the weakness in his left hand. He does a kind of air guitar as notes go by on a fret and if he hits it right he gets a cheery blip and some nice words. At first we thought the glove was defective because he could not make it go. I tried it and it was easy. That was a sobering outcome. We both knew his hand was bad but we didn’t realize it was THAT bad. He tried the dexterity test included with the Music Glove and we confirmed he has shocking lack of dexterity. He could only score just under 50% and one finger was a mere 22%. He has been faithfully working his fingers three times a day and he is improving rapidly even with only those few sessions. I don’t like to think about what would have happened if we didn’t have this gadget because we didn’t know there was a problem to work on. The brain has the most plasticity and ability to recover during the first three months after the stroke. While it is possible to get recovery and improvement after that, it is harder and sometimes less complete. Since the physiotherapists are unavailable until the lockdown ends…well I’m just so glad we have this Music Glove. Otherwise we might have missed the window.

He likes the FitMi less. It is more of a workout. As with the Music Glove the FitMi soon showed significant weakness in certain exercises requiring he use the left leg. Some of the leg exercises he could do easily and breeze through. However one in particular he couldn’t manage at all until he had practiced it several times. The FitMi has four areas of exercising including arm, leg, core and hand. The core one is particularly important because core relates to balance and he can’t turn suddenly or step backwards without feeling like he might fall. t’s also a work out all by itself. I made a video showing how it works while he does one of the core exercises. If he can stay motivated and keep up these exercises, this nifty well designed, easy to use gadget should make a significant difference in his recovery. The $1000 Canadian still smarts but if you figure in the cost of driving to town and regular physiotherapists it is probably going to be cheaper over the longer run.

(I got no discount or special benefit from Flint Rehab for writing this.)

Was It COVID-19?

As you may recall, my husband had a right side lateral pontine stroke, apparently his second one, although we still don’t have the straight scoop on the first one. Two specialists said there as no evidence of the first stroke and it was a transient ischemic episode related to the inner carotid artery dissection. One specialist and one other doctor said the first episode was a very mild stroke and our family doctor said it best when he just shrugged and asked who cares? It really doesn’t matter except possibly for insurance companies. Since the second stroke is absolutely for certain a stroke, it doesn’t make any difference now what we call the first episode.

So background: Hubby dearest was released from hospital the first time on a very complex multi drug regimen that caused him all kinds of side effects which made him miserable and made my life feel really hard some days. We eventually weaned him off all the drugs except the blood thinner clopidogrel bisulfate (generic form of Plavix), daily aspirin and his regular blood pressure med cilazapril, and I got my husband back. A January MRI showed the carotid artery had healed, there was no sign of any stroke or micro strokes and he could stop the blood thinners after a final CT confirmed what the MRI showed. That was scheduled for March 10.

On Feb 28th we noticed his toes had turned red/purple and his baby toes looked nearly black. The bottom of his feet were solid bruises and the tops speckled red. After a quick consult with our family doctor we stopped the blood thinner before the confirming CT assuming it was the blood thinner causing this. After two days the awful black and blue look had resolved and his feet looked normal. He felt fine through it all.

March 3rd I came down with an awful bug. I had only a low grade fever (37.6 at the highest) but for four days it was all I could do to get in and out of bed. The bug included a horrific headache that stabbed all the way down my spine. My sense of smell was gone even though I had no runny noise or any cold symptoms but the glands in my neck were swollen and sore and I was wracked by coughing. I also felt short of breath and my usual asthma bronchodilator did little to nothing to fix that sensation. At one point I also called the health department’s number to see if I should get tested for the coronavirus. At that time you only got tested if you have been to China or had a confirmed close contact with someone who had a positive test after being in China.

I also had a bizarre collection of neurological symptoms included come and go weakness on one side, dizziness, weird twitches and my vision came and went in one eye. I recalled thinking I should probably get up and call an ambulance because maybe this was meningitis or encephalitis but I was too tired so I went back to sleep instead. When I woke up a few hours later I was finally feeling better so I reassured my worried husband all was well. The headache finally eased and on the fifth day, March 7th, I felt well enough to get up and go back to my household chores. For the next two weeks I was dragging myself around feeling absolutely awful but functional. I napped and rested a lot. March 8th Dick was feeling a bit off and he had a low grade fever in the evening and I thought, here we go, he got my bug now, but by morning he was feeling fine.

It was the early morning of March 10th when Dick’s second stroke occurred. I was still recovering from the bug I had. I told the paramedics about my recent flu-like bout and they put a mask on my husband before doing anything. He arrived at the hospital with the mask on. A nurse took his temperature, decided he was normal and the mask was gone. I bring all this up because there are now reports out there about COVID-19 causing COVID toes in mild cases. Also COVID-19 infection is associated with stroke. The doctors have poo-poohed my thought on this because my husband is in his seventies, had a previous query stroke and we had no history of confirmed exposure. Admittedly there was nothing in imaging and no reason for him to have had the second stroke. His carotid artery showed as healed in the CT and MRI he had in the immediate aftermath of the stroke so that was deemed not part of the picture. This second stroke had nothing to do with the carotid artery dissection, but could COVID be causing blue toes and a stroke? No way, the doctors said.

We will not know if we have been exposed to COVID-19 until the antibody test finally comes out. Even if we do test positive, we will not know if that was the cause of the stroke. Such is life’s uncertainty. I prefer to think that it was COVID-19 because one of the doctors told me I needed to think about quality of life not quantity during his hospitalization. This whole second stroke episode indicates my husband has diseased brain arteries that are not showing up as such in the imaging. He will likely have repeat strokes and drop dead one day sooner or later, probably sooner. (Okay the doctor said it using far nicer words than that but that is what he said.) That prognosis is far worse than thinking he got it and is now recovering from a stroke caused by COVID-19 unrelated to the carotid artery dissection. In any case, he’s not dead yet.

Be Like a Pansy.

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Today was the first time in a very long time that we had nice sunny weather and the forecast is for more of the same. We have ahead of us days of double digit highs (celsius double digit) with the night falling just below freezing. I put my plants out in my mini greenhouse so they get the sun. They still come inside for the night. I will soon need to get my larger pop up greenhouse up as they are all growing so fast I have no room left. No sign yet of the daffodils or crocus I planted last fall when I was wondering if my husband would be around to enjoy them. Well he’s still here and still alive and I’m still waiting.

Two days ago the Manitoba government announced we can look forward to another thirty days of lock down but there is talk of letting up a bit. Our province, in the middle of the country with one airport and a lot of wide open space has had it easy compared to other provinces. Our total of infections is a blessedly low of 257 total cases with a mere six deaths for a million people. We have not had the virus decimate any care homes here. Our curve is flattened. The lockdown happened very early on the curve for us. Other parts of Canada are counting the dead by the hundreds. I was talking to a friend from Holland on line and remarked that the deaths their have finally dropped to a daily total very close to our entire set of active cases to date. That brought home just how lucky we have been in Manitoba.

Very little of my life has changed. Our small town continues to do the small town things except without the organized social events. I see my neighbours out walking or working in their yard. We say hello from a distance. I miss the senior dinners and the local sports. I miss the daily noise of children playing drifting over from the school yard. The trucks still come in making deliveries and we walk the dog around the periphery of town each day. We make a stop at the post office to check for mail. I canceled getting the flyers because I don’t want to be tempted to run into town and spend money. Usually there is no mail.

Today we went to see the nearby Garrick creek. At some point soon the lake will melt enough that the fish will begin migrating up the creek to spawn. If we are careful and avoid the good fish where there are limits, like pike and pickerel, we might be able to dip net a few of the “garbage fish” and make gefilte fish. There’s a local sucker that makes a fabulous gefilte fish. However, as of today the lake is still frozen and the creek, while running with the spring melt, has no fish. Once the official season opens in a couple of weeks we might pack a picnic lunch and try some real angling. If we pick our spot, we can easily maintain a proper social distance.

The robins came back a couple of days ago. I was happy to see them. I am really waiting for the swallows and hummingbirds though. When they arrive it really is spring and summer. They won’t come until there are bugs in the air. The ticks are out. The bugs won’t be far behind. We are hoping to get some canoeing in this summer. Our favourite places to canoe in Riding Mountain National Park are closed because of COVID19. I don’t know if they will open any time soon as parks are not considered essential. Still, we have a few other special spots not regulated by government. Hubby dearest has recovered enough that canoeing is feasible so we are richly blessed.

It is strange to consider our lifestyle and where we live relative to the rest of the world in light of COVID19. We made choices like living small, buying and renovating an old house instead of new one, living simple and debt free. The result is we are mostly content. The virus has not made much of an impact on our daily life. For me it is less what has changed about our life and far more what we can’t choose to go and do that bothers me. I liked having the choice even if I mostly chose to stay home and do nothing when I could choose. Being seniors at risk we face a long stretch of more of this isolation. I expect we won’t be out and about freely until there is a vaccine or we pass an seroconversion test showing we already had this bug and didn’t know it.

I started some pansies from seed and to my delight, one plant is about to bloom and the rest are close behind. Flowers are a poor person’s jewels and I am about to be blessed with the most beautiful jewels of all. I love pansies because they look like cheerful smiling faces when they bloom. Pansies are small and don’t take up much room in the garden. They can grow happily in low light in those little nooks and spaces that just don’t work for much else. They bloom all summer long. Pansies are tough enough they can survive a frost that kills the bigger fancier blooms. Maybe we should all be like pansies.

No More Buying From China

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As the Cornavirus runs through our society, it has become increasingly clear that a large part of our problem is China, or more specifically the communist government of China. I have plenty of Chinese friends and coworkers. They are by in large good decent hard working people. Many have lived in Canada for more generations than my immigrant family has. I know a few immigrants from China who love Canada more than I do because they know what it is like to live under that regime. I have nothing against Chinese people. However the communist Chinese government, Chicom, is a nightmare of evil.

Their activity released the virus. Their denial and cover up caused the world wide spread. They went on a campaign to buy up every bit of personal protective equipment there was. Now they are using the crisis to sell personal protective equipment at grossly inflated prices, much of it defective. They even took Italy’s donation and SOLD it back to them! The same wet markets that they say were the source of the virus are open again! There is a joke running around that because the virus is from Chicom it will quit working soon even if we do nothing. There is a lot of truth to that. Made in Chicom frequently means junk. Worse it means cheap junk supporting an evil empire.

The entire point of opening ourselves up to Chicom was to help the oppressed Chinese people see the glories of freedom and slowly but surely nudge them towards democracy. Plus we got to save some loonies. Instead, the west has been slowly but surely nudged into becoming pale reflections of themselves handing control of our lives over to Chicom. Everything raw resource in Canada, from wood to fish, is now sent to Chicom. From there it is processed, often under dubious conditions that harm the earth, and sold back to us. Chicom has infiltrated our businesses, our media, our universities, our politics, our international organizations and even our cell phones. This virus SARS2 is the second pandemic that started in Chicom not the first. They put lead in our children’s toys. They poisoned our pets. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me two, three, four, five times and what am I and just who should ashamed?

Enough! It is time we end this. The pathetic response of our government to this COVID19 crisis, their corrupt grovelling to China’s dictates, shows me that we Canadians must depend on ourselves to get through this pandemic. It also shows me that we Canadians must depend on ourselves to get free of Chicom. When I went shopping a few days ago, wearing my mask and keeping my minimum six feet from the next shopper, I paused by the canned mushrooms. The ones from China were $1.39. Beside them were mushrooms from British Columbia for $1.62. I decided right then and there to pay the extra 23 cents/can. I know that it is entirely possible that the purported British Colombia mushrooms came from China and only the label was made in British Columbia but it was a start. I would rather pay 23 cents more for a can of mushroom to support Canadian jobs and Canadian people then save that 23 cents by sending my $1.39 to China.

I decided that from this day forward I will not buy one single thing from China if I can at all avoid it. It won’t be easy because so many thing come from China and no where else. If I can’t find something not made in China that I must have, then I will only buy something second hand from a Canadian so no new money goes to China. I will buy Canadian first. I will buy American second. I will buy Israeli, Indian, British, German, Taiwanese, Danish or any democracy after that. I will buy anything but Made in China. Time to break the evil Chicom hold on the world. My effort is just a small laughable drop in the bucket but if enough of us do it, it will make a difference.

A Quiet Passover

Passover in most Jewish families is as big a deal as Christmas in other families. Even Jews who never observe anything else will gather with family and have a big meal and eat matzah, read through at least part of the book that contains the order of service (called the hagadah) and have the youngest present ask the four questions. If the youngest is a baby a bigger sibling will ask on their behalf. It’s a wonderful time for that favourite old family Passover recipes we have only once a year, the smells of food cooking and the ago old satisfaction of gathering all your family together (even that mean old aunt and that creepy uncle) to feel like a family again.

Not this year.

All over the world due to COVID19 Jews will having quiet little seders with only their immediate family or no seder at all. The religious Jews, those who practice passover to the most stringent of standards have been preparing and selling “Kosher locked down Seder packs” so people can have the minimal seder required by Jewish law even if they are alone.

Many years ago, my husband and I were traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to join folks in Kingston Tennessee for a community Passover seder. I had already purchased all the supplies I needed from the Jewish community in Tallahassee. Stuff happens, and we found ourselves on a peak along the Blue Ridge Parkway and time was running out. We gave up making it to Tennessee and pulled into a National Forest campsite with no amenities or hook ups and we settled down for Passover, far from any other Jews.

I had never used the gas stove on my trailer before but I fired it up. I roasted the kosher turkey ham and prepared the meal. We got our Hagada out and we opened the wine and we feasted, just the two of us, as we fumbled our way through the service with our minimal Hebrew. For the first time in my life, I was the youngest Jew present and I got to ask the four questions. The moon was lovely and we saw owls, deer and a bobcat in our campground by that moon as we sang the blessings together to the night noises. It ranks as one of my favourite Passover memories.

This year is looking to be the same. Between the COVID19 lockdown and stroke #2, I didn’t think of ordering matzah until it was long past too late. I don’t have a turkey and I’m missing some other standby traditional family foods. Even so, we’re ready. We made our own matzah with my husband manning the rolling pin and the stop watch (it must all be done in under 18 minutes to avoid leaven) and me doing the oven part. I know our funny looking matzah is not kosher enough for the religious but it will do for us. Only a few weeks ago he couldn’t even move by himself so having him be able to stand and roll matzah is a miracle to celebrate all by itself. A few months ago I found a duck on sale and bought it and set it aside in the freezer for a special occasion. The duck is now stuffed with orange and set on a low roast for our planned feast. We have lots of eggs. I have the shank bone we’ve used for years. I have apples and walnuts for the charoset. I have lettuce and parsley I’ve been growing under lights. I have a bag of Saskatoons left from this summer’s delivery by some caring youth just after stroke #1. I am going to make pie with a crust free of the foods forbidden during Passover for our desert.

It’s hardly a new thing for Jews to be celebrating Passover in the midst of adversity. As adversities go, this COVID19 is not exactly a great one to overcome for most of us and it is striking both Jews and nonJews equally. In few days Christians will be doing Easter under similar circumstances. This strange quiet Passover may yet turn out to be another of my favourite memories like the lovely Passover we once enjoyed on the top of a Blue Ridge Mountain.

Chag Pesach kasher vesame’ach to the whole wide locked down world.
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Update on Exposed

My son contacted me yesterday. Someone in the powers that be decided he was only indirectly exposed and then recalculated when he was actually potentially indirectly exposed. He was told he can come back to work Wednesday. That’s tomorrow as I write this. He must continue to check his temperature daily and each time he enters the hospital and he must report any symptoms, no matter how minor. However, he can go back to work. He was so relieved and so delighted. Each day he has been hearing from his fellow workers how busy they are, how desperately short of people they are and he is just itching to be back on the front lines where he can be doing something.

I must admit to wondering how a 14 day quarantine became a 5 day quarantine but I have heard that they are bringing staff back in after only seven days symptom free because of how short handed they are. That disturbs me a little bit because while it is true that the vast majority of people have a 5-7 day incubation and anyone who goes 7 full days with no symptoms is almost certainly not sick with the virus, it is not 100%. I can only assume someone has calculated the risk benefit ratio and decided it is worth that small risk. I sure hope it was not the same person who decided to not give out personal protective equipment until after over 100 health care workers were sent home after being exposed.

The dedication of all the health care workers in this pandemic is awe inspiring. My son is not a doctor or a nurse. He is ‘just’ a patient transporter. He is dedicated and determined to be there in the crisis. As his mother I am terrified of him being back in the thick of it but I am so very proud of him. When we praise the doctors and nurses for their dedication, which they so richly deserve, let’s not forget all the other support staff who are also risking their health and maybe even their lives, to make it possible for doctors and nurses to do their jobs. Applause for the minions.

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Juncos in a Spring Storm

Today I will offer something cheerful and happy. We had one of those late spring snowfalls so common here at the 51st parallel. You just can’t have April here without having at least one heavy snowfall. In fact, it’s not all that uncommon to get a snowfall in May, though not every year.

Just before the snow fell a huge flock of hundreds of juncos ended up in town. Most places in Canada have a resident flock of these charming little birds. Each spring and fall we get a brief burst of huge flocks of migrating juncos on their way back to their summer homes in the boreal forest to the north. These migrating juncos will normally find and congregate around human habitations during a spring snowstorm. They know we are good for a warm sheltered spot by our houses and there’s a good probability of a free meal while they visit. My bird feeder needed to be filled every day while they were here but I enjoyed their company so I didn’t mind. During the night the juncos hid themselves right next to our house foundation on the south side where they were sheltered from the wind. I could tell because of the thousands of little footprints in the snow. As the snow melted, the size of the flock dwindled and today there is maybe a dozen or so juncos. I have also seen some chipping sparrows who have arrived a bit earlier than usual. The birds don’t care about covid19. They cheered me immeasurably during this period of being locked down. Misty was less impressed. To her the birds were potential invaders to be driven off. The birds just stayed outside the fence and ignored her.