Monday, 5 September 2011

Trial And Error

Trial and error

Welcome back to all My Life After Stroke readers

Well it is Labour Day here in Canada. The weekend that officially ends Summer. I would like to give you all an update on how my walking is going. Well we could look at it in either of two ways. 1. Outright Failure or 2. Learning another way that didn't work.

After all stroke recovery CAN be a great deal of trial and error.

I prefer to look at it as number 2. and then ask what can I learn from this?. What happened was this. The Dictus-Band worked but it worked too well. My brain got confused. It was trying to figure out when it had to lift the toe and when it didn't. The elastic band proved to be a bit too hard on my shoes and I started driving again. What does driving have to do with all of this? Well when I am driving I am not walking so my routine changes big time.

The bottom line is that my gait changed so much that it became difficult to walk at all. That's when I stopped.

I stopped using the Dictus-Band. I stopped doing the exercises. I stopped going out for my  daily walks and I stopped using the exercise bike.

If none of those things worked then what do I do now?

As of today I am going to try going for a walk again without the Dictus-Band and just with Charlie, my cane.

Maybe I tried to do too much too quickly because there was definitely a change taking place. Too much of a change for my body to handle. So I hope now after some time of not doing anything I can start over again and just take it one step at a time.

Thanks for reading

Stroke Survivor since 2002.

p.s. As a side note my hand is doing better. Today I was able to open my pill bottles and take my pills with my left (affected) hand. I knew that it had been improving but hey, you never know till you try

I had to try it after watching this video that was posted recently on Peter G  Levine's "The Stroke Recovery Blog".

Saturday, 30 July 2011

An Update Dictus Band, Facebook Fan Page And More

Calf Stretch

Hello again everyone,

It is the end of July and the past month and a half have flown by. "What are you doing?" people ask. I stand and kinda just think  "O.K., what have I been doing?"  Well: 1, Working on getting an improvement in my walking. 2. Working on the two new Facebook pages "My Life After Stroke" and "The Stories Of Stroke" and 3. Spending more time working in the office. So now for a little more detail on these three items.

Working on improving my walking: On a previous post I talked about being introduced to a new device to help overcome "drop-foot". It is called a "Dictus Band". It took a couple of weeks but I did gather up the money to buy one. $70.00 Canadian. I had the opportunity to visit the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to buy it. Then my Physio took a week of vacation. I called her on the first day that she was back and we arranged to meet that afternoon. She watched me walk without the device and then helped me with getting me fitted. We applied it to two pair of shoes, one with Velcro straps and one with lace eyelets. She also fitted the Velcro strap pair with a separate piece of Velcro on the tongue  to hold the clear tongue piece of the device more firmly in place.

I try to walk most days using the device. I noticed that  with the device my brain has relaxed about thinking through each step to "raise the toe". Now, it had the capacity to begin thinking through the entire step. "flex the knee", "heel first", "roll through" and "push off with the toe". Cool, now my brain is talking me through developing a more normal gait. I can feel the improvement.

To teach the brain to flex the knee rather than rotate at the hip when I walk I have begun working with a stationary bike. By keeping my Left foot on the peddle it forces the knee to flex which I hope will enlighten the brain over time to flex the knee when I walk.

A second visit 

About two weeks after the first visit  my Physio called and asked if she could visit me again. This time she would like to bring along a summer student. We met that afternoon and again they watched me walk, outside this time. They decided to measure my range of motion on my Left calf. While keeping my heel on the floor they measured how far from the wall I could have my foot and still touch the wall with my knee. Max, toe to wall 12 cm. While this was determined to be "good", they felt that with exercise I could manage perhaps another cm. They also thought that it would be good for me to work on exercising the flexing of the toes on my Left foot. As I have been rotating at the hip rather that flexing at the knee the toes have not been getting properly worked and need to be stretched.

Calf extension and toe flexing exercises along with time on the stationary bike is what I am now doing in order    to improve my gait when I walk. Wearing my Dicta Band device to allow my brain to talk me through the step process as I have already mentioned earlier. These are the elements of development in regaining a better gait when I walk.

There are many devices on the market for this purpose but they can be very expensive. If we don't have insurance coverage that will pay the cost  then it is difficult to make use of them in our recovery. This is a low cost device combined with an exercise routine that I hope will improve the way I walk.

This combination may very well NOT be the answer in your particular case, but, if you would like to know more just leave a comment below or e mail me directly. Thanks!

Well I need to take a break after thinking and writing through number 1. So, I am going to do just that and maybe a little later I will do numbers 2. and 3.

An Update August 01,

This morning  my student physio came by with the exercises that she wants me to do. (A printout from PhysioTools )

3 exercises:

1. Stand in a walking position with the leg to be stretched behind you. Place your hands on a wall for support.

Bend the leg to be stretched and let the weight of your body stretch your calf without lifting your heel off the floor. Hold approx 30 secs. - relax. (repeat 3 times)

2. Stand in a walking position with the leg to be stretched straight behind you and the other leg bent in front of you. Take support from a wall or chair.

Lean your body forwards and down until you feel the stretching in the calf of the straight leg. Hold approx. 30 secs. - relax. Stretch the other leg. (repeat three times)

3. Stand by kitchen counter.

Lift your heel up and straighten your ankle. Hold 20-30 secs. - relax. (repeat 3 times)

Note: Remember to keep heel on the floor and foot straight!

I will start with doing these exercises once per day and if I get along well then try for twice per day. (well that's the plan) Combining these with my time on the stationary bike and daily walking should strengthen my leg mussels for walking as well as retrain my brain . (time will tell)

Thanks for reading.

Stroke Survivor since 2002

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

One LESS thing that the brain has to do...

Dictus Band for Foot Drop
"The orthopedic aid for foot drop
The Dictus Band lifts the foot immediately after toe off. This reduces the risk of tripping over everyday obstacles such as doorsteps and carpets. The Dictus Band takes limited room in the shoe, is discreet and fits easily on any lace-up shoe."

I attended a presentation at our library today. It was a presentation by the local community based OT. (Occupational Therapist-Home Care) and PT ( Physiotherapist-Home CareDuring our discussion about assistive devices Judi Gosbee the PT introduced me to a new assistive device.

One part wrapped around my ankle and fastened with Velcro.A second clear plastic part inserted under the Velcro straps on my shoe. A third elastic band connected the two together. She installed it on my effected foot and asked me to walk to see how it felt. It felt GREAT! It was a little awkward at first because my brain was still in "remember to lift your toe" mode with every step I took. The OT suggested that I try it for a day to see if it would be of assistance to me. The more I walk with this device the more my brain is relaxing because it doesn't  have to think "lift your toe " every time I take a step.

This simple  "Foot-Up" type device really seems to be working for me. I actually walked far enough today to make my legs tired tonight. How long has it been since that happened?  A long time!

I think she said that he cost of the device would be around $60.00 and if that is the case then I imagine I will try to find a way to buy it and keep using it.

Has anyone else used this type of device and how did it work for you? It would be great if you have experience with this type of device that you could share your experience either as a comment, on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter feed.


BTW I did 400 forward revolutions on the stationary bike today and 50 reverse. So that is an increase of 200 and 50 as of today. I will try to keep that daily and increase again in a few days time.

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since 2002     

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Stroke Recover News

"Claire Argo, previously to her stroke, was running her own consulting business. She was organizing software training sessions for various groups.  One day in 2003, she was unable to get out of bed, unable to get ready for a meeting with an important client, the National Defense.  She had just suffered a Stroke. 

 In 2008, I took over a teaching course describing Occupational Therapy Interventions with impaired adults. I then realized that occupational therapy students had difficulty understanding the consequences of a stroke. They either minimized the efforts required to overcome the impairments, or they couldn't envision opportunities for the person to continue an active life despite the impairments.  I immediately recalled my encounter with Claire Argo in 2006 at the University of Ottawa Interprofessional University Clinic. I thought of her as a very inspiring example showing how one could resume an active life after a stroke." 

 Jacinthe Savard, Ph. D., OT. Reg. (Ont.) 
Occupational Therapy Program, University of Ottawa

Click Here to read the entire article about Claire and also see the pictures. The newsletter will open in a PDF format file. When it does, simply scroll down to page 5 to read Claire's story.

Thank you Claire, for sharing your truly inspiring story with us and we hope that by Claire sharing her story, it will inspire our friends and followers here at "My Life After Stroke" to share theirs as well. If you would like to share, simply email me at and I can help you from there.

Remember, the more that WE SHARE means the more that WE CARE.

This post comes from our guest blogger - Claire Argo Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since 2002

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Book Review: “Life After Stroke” by Jeff Kagan

Life After Stroke by Jeff Kagan

I have read many books over the past nine years since my stroke. Among the books that I have read are some personal stories of having experienced a stroke, having survived and the long road to recovery.

I have  just completed another story of stroke by a survivor.. It is titled “Life After Stroke” and it was written by Jeff Kagan who lives in the Eastern United States. Jeff claims to have written his book to help other survivors, family members and care givers find the answers to the questions that come after a stroke. He says that he had the questions but found that in general there was very little by way of satisfying answers that anyone could provide..

Having personally experienced stroke and now seven years of rebuilding his life as a survivor, who better to answer these burning questions.

Jeff takes us through the journey of stroke beginning with a life that is good with career, family and friends to the play by play stroke experience.

He explains what it is like to experience stroke from the inside out. What you know and what you don’t know. Who can help and who may not be even aware that a problem even exists. What medical professionals may know and what they may not know. Even how your life can disappear and your family is left with a stranger in their midst.

He talks about wanting just to get back to normal and how it makes him feel to suddenly not be the caregiver in the family. He talks about the importance of having a positive attitude, being patient with yourself and recognising that you and everyone else are working through the fact that you have had a stroke.

He talks about how strange it is when one part of your brain works as it did but another part has died and along with it went all of it’s associated functions. This strange situation can present a challenge not only for the survivor but for every one who comes into the survivors life like family, friends, caregivers and medical professionals. He says that there is no one size fits all since the effects of a stroke is simply the result of whatever parts of the brain are damaged.

Jeff’s book is also one of encouragement as well as answering the burning questions. Jeff becomes a stroke coach with a “you can do it” attitude.

All in all, this 100 page book is a wonderful look into the world of stroke from the inside out. I highly recommend it to anyone who has been touched by stroke whether as a survivor, a family member, a caregiver or even a health care professional.

Thanks for putting pen to paper this way Jeff and I look forward to learning more from you as well as sharing experiences and stories in the days and months to come.

You can get Jeff's book here

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since 2002

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Story Behind The Book

Gary Gray - Learning to Communicate Again

O. K. here is the challenge... First you have a blood vessel blow out in the middle of your brain. Then, your grey matter is being flooded by your own blood. Every brain cell that gets caught in the flood dies. This whole chain of events throws your body into a state of shock and it just wants to sleep. You know that you are still alive but you don't know much more. Your body  simply refuses to wake up for 21 days. Then, well into the 22nd day your body decides that just maybe we could take a peek to see just how bad things are.

The damage report is not encouraging. Thinking ability is mainly just a fog. Trying to remember, can't remember. Aggggh feeling frustrated. Feeling anxious need air. "Don't take away my fan".  Feeling confused. Hey, my  watch is on my Right wrist! Left arm feeling very heavy. Left leg feeling heavy too. I want to write something, can't, my hand won't move. Can't read either, the words are just swimming about on the paper. Can't walk, no, that's why two nurses are checking the instructions to get me into that sling contraption. They want me to transfer to the wheel chair or get me to the bathroom. I guess I will be peeing sitting down for awhile.

Man, What the heck happened to me? Early the first morning after my body woke up, my brain began replaying the events of the last day just before my body receded into that deep sleep. The detail was shockingly clear. It was as if my brain was replaying the tape trying to find an answer to that very question. "What the heck happened to me?"

This  is how my life after stroke began. How did I get from the car wreck that I have just described to finding my "new normal" and getting on with the rest of my life. There is more to that story than I have space to relate on this blog post. In future posts I will try to fill in some of those blank spaces.

As I began to put the pieces of what was my life back together. I began thinking about how can I get my life back. What pieces of my jigsaw puzzle life can I begin to put into place. There are many pieces that will tell my story in future posts but an important one was, that I couldn't use my Left hand to write any more, and my brain was so foggy that it was difficult to think through a simple sequence of events with any clarity.

Along the way, about six years into my recovery, the local library was starting a writers group and the librarian encouraged me to come. She knew me from the many visits when I would come to borrow books to read. It was my way to. One - clear my brain fog. Two - learn as much as I possibly could about stroke and how others had recovered. Three - retrain my eyes to see lines of print that actually made sense rather than just disjointed words moving about on the paper.

Interestingly, I felt the need to improve my communication skills and I could tell from reading what others had done that writing was a key to regaining and improving a very valuable part of my brain/body relationship that I would like to be "me".

Amazingly, as a member of this group I was able to learn, develop, share and adjust to the point where I was accepted as a  contributor to the book the group had decided to publish that year.

Although the book "Prince Edward Island Tales" has since  been discontinued from print, I was encouraged to contribute some additional pieces, along with my original ones, to the second edition of "Prince Edward Tales". This book is still available online through Amazon as well as local stores during the summer months.

I have now been a member of this group for three seasons and I continue to be appreciative of the support and encouragement that has been given me by it's members. Through the monthly meets,  public reading events and workshops associated with the group I continue to improve my communication skills and get on with the rest of my life after stroke.

Thank's  for reading my short story post. I would like to share more of "my life after stroke" in future posts. Stroke is a terrible life changing experience. The good news is that recovery is possible. Join with stroke survivors here on our blog, Facebook Fan page and Twitter feed to learn/share more. Feel free to join in the conversation. Tell us your story or ask your most burning questions.

Stroke Survivor since 2002

Friday, 27 May 2011

Set BIG Goals!!!

Gary Gray - kayaking on the Brudenell River

Goals are a key part to making progress with our recovery after stroke. Goals can be short term, long term, little goals or big goals. They all serve as an important tool to set markers along the way to being the best that we can be.

Early on I personally set as one of my BIG goals: "Kayak on the Brudenell River". Kayaking on the river was something that I enjoyed doing before I had my stroke. I used to own a wooden double kayak and paddled it on the Mill River in Western P.E.I. The kayak was sold when we moved in 93' but the yen to paddle remained.

During the 90's my daughter Karol and I would rent a double at the Brudenell River Rentals and spend hours together peacefully paddling the river. As the river glided beneath our kayak we often found ourselves surrounded by the gulls and terns with the occasional blue heron or even a a bald eagle. As I type these words the memories flow through my brain with clarity as the warmth of the experience fills my heart.

No wonder I wanted to kayak again.

In August of 2008 I found someone in the person of Jack Slade who agreed to accompany me on the river.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon later that month we rented our kayaks in readiness for some kayaking time on the Brudenell River. Jack brought his son along as well as his camera to snap a few pictures as proof that I had in fact accomplished my BIG goal to "kayak on the Brudenell River".

A little more than six years post stroke and I had spent a beautiful August afternoon with my friends on the Brudenell River in a single place fiberglass kayak woho!!!

The lesson from this post is in my life after stroke I needed to set goals. Short term, long term, little ones and big ones. With setting goals I would work toward and achieve a BIG GOAL!

Do you have any suggestions as to what BIG goals you would like to set for your recovery. Maybe you could suggest another BIG goal for me as I am always looking for BIG goals.

Thanks for reading about my life after stroke and here (below) are the pictures taken by my friend Jack Slade that day. You can catch up with me on the "My Life After Stroke" Facebook Fanpage. Come have a conversation.

Gary Gray
Stroke survivor since 2002

Thursday, 26 May 2011

My Stroke Story by Gary Gray

Gary Gray with his family just prior to his stroke

My name is Gary Gray aka garydotgray. I live in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I have lived here all of my life except for a short tour of duty in the Canadian Armed Forces 1969 - 1975. I was married for 16 years and separated for the past 16. I have two great daughters Krista 28 and Karol 27. They both have families of their own now and working/living in Charlottetown. We see each other as often as we can.

I have one sister Irene who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I spent the month of February 2003 visiting her and her family. I flew from Charlottetown to Vancouver and back at 5 months post stroke and got along fine. I was able to complete the trip again in 2005 with a 6 week stay that time. We usually call each other about once a week ever since the stroke. (she now has a computer so communication is much easier using MSN messenger) She has been a great support.

My stroke date was August 10, 2002 when I had stopped at a local coffee shop to grab a coffee. It happened right at the counter. I suddenly could not speak. Then numbness in my left arm and shoulder. Somehow, somewhere during my life I had learned the symptoms of stroke and I knew when I was losing my voice and when my side went weak, it was happening to me. My voice came back long enough for me to wisper 'I'm having a stroke call 911' 

I blacked out and remained in various degrees of coma for three weeks. In going back and forth between hospitals, I had five ambulance rides and I don't remember any of them. I was aware sometimes of people being in my room but they had to be right in my face before I could deal with them.

I woke up on Sept 01, 02 around 6:30 pm, just as two nurses were getting me ready for the night. I remember wondering why they were taking my clothes off. I asked them what was going on, and one of them looked at me and said 'Gary, you're back'.

For the next 7 weeks in hospital I had speech, physical and occupational therapies. I made good progress and was released on Oct 18, 02. As I was not able to be on my own, my friends Chris and Magie Clarke became my care givers and I lived with them from October 02 until July 03. 

On August 01, 03 I moved into a one bedroom apartment back in Montague. It is close to stores, Doctor's Office, Hospital, Library and bank ( I can walk to them all). 

That same month I began going in to my old office job one day a week. In September 03 I drove for the first time post stroke and got along well. It took me a long time to trust my body and my mind again. I expercise every day, no execptions, to keep my Left side mobile. I spend one day a week with friends, doing service work. I have a few toys to assist me with independence such as a one handed can opener, a rocker knife, one handed portable vacuum and a wrist BP/P monitor.

I have also received visits and telephone calls of encouragement from stroke survivor buddies, friends and family during the period of time since my stroke. So I have learned to accept my life change, keep a good routine, set attainable short and long-term goals and keep a positive attitude.

Some of us stroke buddies are using MSN to stay in touch so if you want to add me to your buddy list my address is

 Thanks for reading my story.

You are invited to connect with me on my "My Life After Stroke" page on Facebook
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"Twitter" feed (coming soon)

Smiles :o)

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since 2002

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Gary Gray - My Life After Stroke

Welcome to my life after stroke,

As I begin to write I am at a point in time eight years, nine months and fifteen days post stroke. Interestingly enough this is just a reference point in time. The actual reality of the matter is that just like thousands and thousands of other stroke survivors I am getting on with the rest of my life. Living each day in what I like to call my "new normal"

My plan is to create my web profile where I can relate to others the reality of stroke and just what it is like to experience a stroke, survive and live life post stroke. This blog will be a part of that profile and I hope to use it to help interested people, other survivors, family members, caregivers and health care professionals gain insight into a  stroke survivors world post stroke.

If you are interested I invite you to become a follower of my blog posts and together we will explore "My Life After Stroke". 

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since August 2002

You are invited to connect with me on my "My Life After Stroke" page on Facebook
Please click on the "Like" button to follow me and receive new content as it is posted.