TIA (3)

Reading out loud each day, making an effort to understand what you are reading as you read it aloud, seems to help brain clarity.

I have read about stroke victims who have lost the ability to read (i.e. can’t take in information from the printed word) yet who retain the ability to write. It was suggested that reading is perceptual and basically passive, whereas writing is intentional, and active – i.e. the two functions use different parts of the brain.

I found this intensely interesting. I was alone when I had a stroke. Paradoxically, this may have been a real blessing. It made it easier to listen to my own instincts rather than being advised by someone else to just sit or lie quietly and not to try to talk.

It was the fact that I couldn’t speak, could only make gargling sounds, that first alerted me to the fact that I was having a stroke. I’d woken up in the middle of the night feeling dreadful and when I was making myself  a cup of tea my right hand had suddenly curled in on itself. I thought my hand must be cramping, and kept pushing it open with my other hand. It seemed to come right after a few minutes of this. I sat down and tried to read but somehow couldn’t. It was only when my cat came over to me and murmured, and I tried to say hello to him, that I realised I couldn’t speak.

I wouldn’t have been able to phone anyone but, perhaps blessedly, my brain was too befuddled to grasp this problem. Instead I was preoccupied with the implications of what was happening. I knew about brain plasticity, knew that neighbouring parts of the brain can take over functions of damaged parts if they are stimulated early enough. My instincts were telling me to (a) keep moving, tensing and releasing as many tiny muscles all over my body as I could, and (b) keep trying to speak.

Eventually I was able to force out a word or two. Interestingly it was easier to form vowels than consonants. “Oo er a aice at!” I told my bewildered cat. (Later I would learn that the left hemisphere of the brain – which controls the right side of the body – specialises in fast moving sounds like consonants, whereas the right hemisphere favours slow moving sounds and intonations.)

I couldn’t think of anything else to say to Tiger so I turned to my elderly border collie. I had been worrying about the fact that she needed two different kinds of medication to stay healthy and if I was going to end up in hospital, which seemed likely, what was going to happen to her? I tried to say to her “You need to be looked after” but all I could manage was “You need to be… You need to be… You need to be…” I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but simply couldn’t quite bring the words to the tip of my tongue. It was beyond frustrating.

Yet my instincts were telling me that I needed to keep talking. And then (perhaps literally) I had a brain wave: I should read out loud. I still had the e-book open that I had been trying to read earlier. It was a struggle. I was slurring and stuttering but I just kept on forcing myself to read out loud, trying to form the sounds correctly. And gradually my language came back.

Later there was an ultra-sound of the arteries in my neck and a CAT scan of my brain at the hospital, but eventually I was allowed to return home. The next few days and weeks were difficult. Headaches and a very impaired memory. I found it difficult to focus and also had difficulty in processing multiple streams of data. For example I was trying to do my shopping at a supermarket and there was background music playing. I became quite panicky because I simply couldn’t cope with this additional sensory stimulus. There were times when I felt confused; there was just to much sensory data for my brain to process.

But gradually things got better. I had thankfully resisted all attempts to put me on medication. My body doesn’t handle drugs well. I found that reading aloud each day helped a lot. I think maybe because it is a complex activity that engages many different parts of the brain. Rather like a work-out for the brain.

The other thing that helped me beyond measure was having my bars run.  By great good fortune I was already familiar with this process. A friend is a wonderful Bars practitioner and I asked her to give me a session. It involves very gentle – feather-light – touching and holding of 32 different points on the head and the process lasts an hour or more. The next day my head felt a little sore all over and then, the following day, I was suddenly back to normal! I hadn’t felt like this since I had the stroke.

The effects of the Bars session gradually wore off, so I had another session a month later and will probably repeat in a week or two, depending on how I feel. But Bars has been a tremendous help.

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The mysteries of synchronicity

I wrote earlier how on 10 August this year I went out early one morning and discovered a lovely ice “sculpture” had formed over night in my dog’s water bowl. I marvelled at the fineness and intricacy of the pattern of air bubbles that swept up the centre of the figure which appeared to be cradling something in its “arms.”

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There were no further ice sculptures until 10 September. This one was more geometric in form.

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Seen from above:

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I joked with a friend wondering what 10 October might bring.

There were only a handful of hard frosts in the intervening period – and no more ice sculptures, so my expectations were low when I went out early on 10 October. Yet there were two ice “sculptures.” One was struggling to form in Badger’s water bowl, a vaguely pyramidal shape.

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And on top of an over-turned stock trough was another, more organic sculpture:

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I still marvel at the synchronicity of it, not to mention how these ice “sculptures” came to form.

When the Earth Harmonises Itself

Somehow there’s something very pleasing about this:

Special thanks to a gentleman named Rob Stammes in the Lofoten Isles, Norway, who operates an observatory that measures the strength and direction of the local magnetic field as well as electrical currents running through the ground in this northern polar region.

Normally the resulting charts look all chaotic and jangly. (Thanks to Rob Stammes and Spaceweather for the following images and text.)

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But several days ago something special happened:

“During the morning and especially around noon, sinusoidal pulsations appeared on my instruments,” says Stammes. “The period was close to 115 seconds (8.7 mHz).”

In other words, as Spaceweather puts it, “the Earth rang like a bell.” Apparently it’s a resonance phenomenon.

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So just as we can sometimes feel in deep harmony with ourselves and everything around us, so can the Earth  🙂

What brings you into resonance?

Transformative Gifts from Nature

On 10 August (this being deep winter in the southern hemisphere) I went out early one morning and discovered an ice “sculpture” had formed in one of my dog’s water bowls. It resembled a cloaked figure but I was more mesmerised by how it could possibly have come into being and I took several photos of this bizarre phenomenon. The patterns of ice bubbles inside the “figure” were exquisite.

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The strangeness of it teased at my mind in the following weeks and I looked back at the photos several times.

Then on 10 September – exactly one month later –  I was out early again, to attend to various chores, and spotted another ice “sculpture” forming. This one was smaller and more geometric in shape. I hurried back to the house and fetched my camera. This first photo is taken looking down at the ice “sculpture” from above.

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And here it is photographed from the side:

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I had been developing a theory that since the water bowls were metal perhaps one of them has a small patch on the bottom where the metal is thinner and this was conducting the cold from the ground at  faster rate and somehow causing something akin to frost heave. However when I compared both sets of photos I discovered that the second “sculpture” had appeared in the OTHER water bowl. (One bowl has a rounded rim, and the other a flattened one, so they are easy to tell apart.) So that put paid to that theory.

Whatever the case, they were very beautiful. Mysterious gifts from Nature.

One of the things that stays with me, aside from the intense crystalline energy that comes through in the last photo, is the astonishing fact that, contrary to the old saying, a silk purse CAN be made from a sow’s ear. Using just plain and not very clean water, open as the water bowl is to the elements and the dust and dirt Badger, my dog, sends drifting into the air as she hurtles around the yard, Nature has crafted something of exquisite beauty. It makes me wonder about life’s potential, whether even the dullest and most circumscribed seeming life has the potential to be, in and of itself, with no change in outer circumstances, an expression of great beauty.

 

Recovering from TIA (2) – contd

This is a continuation of an earlier post on mini-stroke.

There are various foods, supplements and herbs that are neuro-protective, reducing inflammation and helping the brain recover, e.g. fresh blueberries*, apple, milk thistle, Brahmi, green tea, fermented garlic, vitamins C & E, vitamin B6, omega 3… There’s a long list. Raw beetroot juice helps reduce blood pressure. Cooked beetroot does as well (I steam it lightly) but doesn’t provide the same level of antioxidants as when raw and doesn’t help as much with inflammation. Magnesium is helpful for blood pressure. (Avoid magnesium oxide as it isn’t well absorbed by the body. Magnesium citrate and chelates probably best.)

*Results from a study conducted by Sweeney et al. (13) found that adding blueberries to the diet of rats can reduce by half the effects of ischemic stroke.

Wild blueberries are even better because they are higher in antioxidants. (Ibid.) When we coddle and protect our food plants we also reduce their health value.

It’s quite possible that aromatherapy could help greatly. It’s something I’m only just starting to look into. See for example http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12017-016-8395-9 Scents stimulate different parts of the brain. Used in conjunction with massage essential oils could be very helpful.

In the next post I’ll talk about the benefits of reading aloud – and why.

 

After effects of mini-strokes (TIAs)

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I’m writing this because there doesn’t seem to be much information about it out there. Traditionally it had been thought that TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) left no lasting effects, although they meant you were more at risk of a major stroke. However recent research has shown that there may be hidden damage to the brain. And damaged brain cells can keep on misfiring, causing more “noise” in the brain.

I had a mini-stroke several weeks ago. What I have noticed since is that my memory is worse and it is also more difficult to take in information. My ability to cope with stress is a lot worse and my brain is easily over-stimulated. Conversations are harder to follow. I become mentally tired more easily. You don’t necessarily notice these things straight away.

Strokes are scary things and reading about their effects is even scarier. If you have had a mini-stroke you might gain encouragement from reading Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. Or if that feels way too stressful, get a friend to read it and tell you the good parts.  🙂  The book isn’t for everyone but the take home message is this: JBT, the author, who happened to be a neurologist, didn’t just have a mini-stroke, she had a major stroke in the course of which she lost her ability to speak, her ability to understand even simple concepts, and her control over her body. But although it took eight years of intensive rehabilitation and some brain surgery, she recovered fully.

The brain is remarkably adaptable. When parts of it are damaged, other parts can easily take over those functions. Years ago my elderly Australian cattle dog had a major stroke that left the right side of his body completely paralysed. I had brought him home after stomach surgery and it snowed heavily shortly afterwards. The stroke happened in the middle of the night and I was now snowed in so I couldn’t get him back to the vet clinic. But I had read en0ugh about brain plasticity and stroke to know that there were things that I could do.

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Warrigal in his younger days

Over the next three days I gave him what amounted to intensive physio. I moved opposite sides of his body in unison (e.g. rotating left hindleg and right front leg simultaneously). I massaged different parts of his body, trying to stimulate the nerve endings. And gradually he recovered movement on the right side of his body. He would always have a slight limp afterwards, he never recovered the sight in his right eye, and his right ear remained permanently drooped, but otherwise he became fully functional again. Ironically, the fact that I couldn’t get him to the vet that night probably saved his life.

But what do you do when the damage is to cognitive processes? I have some thoughts about this but I am going to continue in a later post. It has taken me several days to write this – I just get tired. – To be contd