Who am I?

To see me now, you’d never guess my medical history. I’m female, petite, possessed of clear skin and a healthy glow, and look (at least on good days) far younger than I am (good genes — you can’t beat ’em). I have only one physical characteristic that anyone might wonder about, but it’s not so uncommon — I wilt excessively in heat much above 75 degrees.

You can’t, though, judge a book by its cover. I have a history of what were once diagnosed as strokes, but which science may one day determine possibly has determined (March, 2008) were are a rare form of migraine. Result: paralysis, lasting up to ten days, of my left leg, arm and face. I have a several decades-long history of mini-strokes, or TIAs neurological events , resulting in numbness and paralysis for periods of time up to twenty-four hours duration. Twelve years ago nerve damage was discovered in my left eye, perhaps from the “strokes,” neurological events, and I was unable to drive for a period of time. About ten years ago, after some time without difficulties, my left arm and face went numb — the arm for three months.

The “strokes” These neurological events first happened to me when I was a young adult, but I didn’t get a pass from “normal” stuff just because of them. Last fall, while gesturing happily in the kitchen, I nearly severed the two first fingers on my left hand. They’ve been numb for fourteen months now, and they just don’t work all that well. I have osteoporosis in my lower spine (you’d never guess it — not yet, anyway), and apparently may have coronary artery disease, in spite of a lifetime spent as a quasi-vegetarian and with very low blood pressure.

So I’ve had a little experience considering life from the other side of the room, as it were. I’ve also nursed one family member through tubercular meningitis, another through terminal Hodgkin’s Disease, and, more recently, helped my stepfather through six years (so far) of spine surgeries, other health problems and life changes. Maybe you could say that I’ve been all around the room — out in the open, around the edges, and in the corners where navigation’s a little tougher.

After the bigger strokes more serious neurological events, I always assumed that I’d end up in a wheelchair, and it seemed reasonable to assume that I might need some help in daily living — forks I could hold onto with a clumsy hand, that sort of thing. Now I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, but I’ve spent a lifetime observing how small things can make a life with limitations easier — and critiquing how small and large things can make it more difficult. Here’s where I get to share the fruits of my labors, and my observations.

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