Well, what would you think if you woke up and there was an arm lying beside you in bed that you could neither feel nor move? It could only be someone else’s, right? Although how and why that arm was removed from the body of its owner and placed in bed beside me was a mystery. It did seem somewhat strange, but not strange in a gory creepy way. Blessings of brain damage!
Lida a.k.a. little dead arm, was just that until well after I left the rehab hospital. It was an appendage that did nothing but dangle its dead weight from my shoulder, partially dislocating the bones with its heft. I never imagined how heavy that skinny little arm was until it ceased taking care of itself. Do you remember that scene in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, when Jim Carrey swings his body side to side and his arms fly around and flop into each other like rubber hoses? That’s where Lida was until about six months after my release from hospital.
Lida did not stay floppy for long, but forged on to the other end of the spectrum and developed what is called spasticity in medical lingo. Spasticity is a common occurrence in stroke survivors. It is a rigid tightness in a muscle group. It feels as though the flexing switch has been turned on full blast in my brain. And I can’t turn it off. You’ve seen it before, arms curled up and held close to the chest of people with brain injuries and other neurological issues.
Lida displays some very interesting reactions. When I get cold Lida plays air guitar, strumming like crazy. The weirdest is when there’s a sharp noise and Lida jerks before my brain even registers sound.
With lots of therapy and exercise I am now able to straighten my elbow and use my shoulder to lift my arm about half way. So the large muscles are recovering. But my fingers still tingle with numbness and I am unable to straighten any of the fingers on my left hand. With a lot of concentration I am able to squeeze my fingers around something but only as a set. There’s no index finger and thumb action.
When my occupational therapist asked my goal is for the coming year of therapy, I told her, “Lida needs to hold a nail.” “I’ve got a chicken coop to to build.”
I’ve learned to do many things with a single hand, but it will be handy, ha, ha, ha,when Lida gets to work.