Perpetually Drunk

I was explaining to my TCM doctor the other day, how it felt like to be currently recovering from Stroke. I had mentioned that I felt perpetually "drunk" - ie; light-in-the-head, everything goes on slower-motion - both receiving the notion, and of my reaction. Like you are seemingly aware of what's gong on around you, but not fully on control of your actions, much less your circumstances. Being "drunk", but without the thrill of irresponsibility being drunk.

There is hardly any 'sense of euphoria' involved in my day-to-day reactions to being 'drunk'. Things more slower than before, in what I hope to achieve and physically do, and sometimes even mentally; I am bound by my rapidly depleting energy-levels - which requires me to nap for a coupla of hours in the afternoon to replenish - versus the need and want I have to accomplish my tasks.

Most times it feels like the brain has been 'unmoored' from the docks of the skull, and when I turn my head, the brain turns along with it, but a fraction of a second slower. Whether this is because if the lack of blood going to the brains, or a literal physical manifestation, I have yet to ask or be determined. So in lieu of this happenstance, I move as slow as possible, react to sounds and activities, as slow as I possibly can. Ironically, because oif the Stroke which caused a crick/ache in my neck, I sometimes have to turn my upper torso area, so that my face can face whatever is in front of me - like Batman in the Tim Burton movies - where the cowl is one snuggle piece with no flexibility for the neck to twist and turn LOL

People may not realize, but the solitary action of "blogging", is not a hard thing to execute. Fair enough my eye-sight leaves me wanting on most occasions (I have double-vision post-Stroke) but it is nevertheless a process able to be conquered, or in my instance, "getting used to" (developing the head-twitching and big-eye-small-eye symptom does me no favors tho).

I receive news via my inbox. I line up the posts and images, and I blog them. I currently rely a lot on press-releases, and if something really grabs me, I offer my opinions and impressions. Once in a long while I scan thru my various online venues (extremely narrowed down to a scant few these days) and perhaps blog about them, or post them on my public Facebook page.

I've been doing up a lot of toy-reviews lately, both via pictures and via video (i do not show my face in lieu of my jagged teeth and big-eye-small-eye lol and still folks emulate my visual-crop? Seriously?). Not much interviews happening these days, as i sucks too much out of me, if people choose not to play ball.

In all, I spend about 10 to 12hours per day online doing up all these, when it used to take me a slightly smaller fraction of time to do them. And that in lieu leaves me very little chance to reply emails and such happenstance that people somehow continue to expect. "Frustration" has given way to needing to get stuff done.

I am restarting my Stroke Rehab sessions soon (I stopped for a few months), and am focusing on other endeavors in time for 2012 - all of which leaves me with less time to be spent online, and funnily throughout all these activities and plans, I still feel "drunk" thru and thru, and that is a feeling I do not wish to have, but reckon must live with, until such a time when it gets better? I have stopped waiting for that day actually, and I have grown weary of the need to justify my condition to folks who frankly, do not care beyond imagining I am "all well" because I continue to blog, tweet and post on Facebook lol



Passing Motion and the Dangers of Exertion

This information has stuck with me ever since Gabriel Tiongson of Philippines (both an Artist and a PT/Physical-Therapist!) shared this when we met up not too long ago:

MALADY: Why (older) surviving Stroke-patients (always) seem to faint and fall down in toilets.

REASON: Because it might be due to exertion of force, in trying to clear their bowels, that might lead to blood-flow which affects their brains. Remember squeezing with all your might, and your head suddenly feels woozy?

Makes complete sense to me. And caregivers of Stroke-surviving folks might do well to take care of that aspect. Find out from them if there are any problems with bowel movements, and find a simple solution with your attending doctor/s - but not self-medicate, or laxative enhancements, I guess.

Remember, only when in the toilet, is when the patient/survivor is left all alone, compared to when there is help anywhere around the house, and that is one of the places you might not be able to supervise or watch over.

In the early days of Stroke, while I was lying in the Stroke Acute Ward, bowel movement was a major issue, and I had to be medically injected via my anus to increase fluidity of my passing of waste. And as well, i had extremely limited movement and my legs could not walk properly, much less make my way to the toilet by my own steam, which ironically laid 6 meters from my bed.

I am currently on TCM medicine that actually promotes bowel-movement, but i remember the strain earlier when i tried to expel my wastes.


World Stroke Day 2011 / Presentation of Cheque Donation of Proceeds from TOYSREVIL Silent Auction

October 29th was "World Stroke Day", and one of the activities in Singapore was organized by the Singapore National Stroke Association at the Yio Chu Kang Community Club in Ang Mo Kio, which saw an English and Chinese forum about Stroke (and as well a Malay forum at the Changi Singapore Hospital in the late afternoon). It was the venue for where I would be presenting the cheque of proceeds accumulated from the recent TOYSREVIL Silent Auction, as requested by SNSA.

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The night before, I had prepared the personal cheque written out to them, along with a 3-page print-out document explaining what where the funds had come from, based on the personal initiative - which I had launched on my birthday on September 27th, and ended on October 22nd - a day to the year when I fell to Stroke in 2010. As well a list of donators/contributers, and successful-bidders were listed out, and documents presented to SNSA along with the cheque. The contents of the print-out are posted below.

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I was accompanied to the event with my sister and father (coincidentally, both of them were with me when I fell to Stroke in 2010). After a short while of waiting (I also met Steven - a former fellow recovery at the SACH Rehab Center), I went on stage to present the cheque to Mr Seng Han Thong (Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC) on behalf of the Singapore National Stroke Association, in the presence of Mr Michael Yap (Vice President of SNSA).

[Click here to view slideshow of non-toy-images full-screen on a separate web-browser]

Dear Singapore National Stroke Association,

RE: Donation of Funds To SNSA

A "Silent Auction" was conducted online via the TOYSREVIL-Blog (http://toysrevil.net), which launched on September 27th, 2011 and ended on October 22nd, 2011 (The exact day a year ago when I fell to Stroke in 2010). The intention was for 100% of the proceeds of sales to benefit SNSA, and the intention was made known at every instance and when the items were featured and mentioned for auction, and subsequently sales online.

A variety of local and international artists and designers donated both production and custom 'art toys', as well as illustrations for this personal initiative, and the total amount raised at the end of the event amounted to USD$1,820.00 - which converts to approximately SGD$2,306.00 (Price Conversion via http://www.xe.com), for which I would like to humbly present to the Singapore National Stroke Association.

I would like to mention / list the people involved in donating their products for the auction, in appreciation of their support and generosity, as well mention the folks who had taken the time and effort to bid and buy the items put up for auction. (Please refer to the attached list).

Andy Heng
Editor-in-Chief at TOYSREVIL

www: http://toysrevil.net
Facebook: http://toysrevil.org
Email: toysreviler@gmail.com

Contributors of Auction Items:

Name of Contributor: Andy Mitchell (from United Kingdom)
Website: http://www.custard4gravy.co.uk
Item/Status: Custard4Gravy Goodie Pack

Name of Contributor: Andy Heng (from Singapore)
Website: http://about.me/toysrevil
Item/Status: Original Hand-drawn Sketch Cards / Partially SOLD

Name of Contributor: Bob Conge (from the United States)
Website: http://plaseebo.net
Item/Status: Clear-Blue Tint Molezilla Toy Figure

Name of Contributor: Chris Burt (from the UK)
Website: http://www.the-tarantulas.com/
Name of Contributor: Ralph Niese (from the USA)
Website: http://bruno83.deviantart.com/
Item/Status: Medieval Nibblers / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Cooper Berella (from USA)
Website: http://www.facebook.com/GoSuperCooper
Item/Status: Super Cooper Cool Pack

Name of Contributor: Cris Rose (from UK)
Website: http://www.crisrose.co.uk
Item/Status: Tri-Red Ruckus Original Resin Toy / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Eric Wirjanata (from Indonesia)
Website: http://www.thunderpanda.com
Item/Status: Portrait Sketch

Name of Contributor: Gabriel Tiongson (from The Philippines)
Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/DIKO-Gabriel-Tiongson/208423532559078
Item/Status: Squidwad Original Print

Name of Contributor: Hauke Scheer (from Germany)
Website: http://www.deepfriedfigures.com
Item/Status: UR.INAL-9000 Toy Figures

Name of Contributor: JC Rivera (from USA)
Website: http://www.artbyjcrivera.com
Item/Status: Custom-Foomi Toy Figure / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Mark Nagata (from USA)
Website: http://www.maxtoyco.com
Item/Status: Custom-painted TriPus Toy Figure / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Mico Suayan artwork (*donated by ALwyn Liang Jia Wei from Singapore)
Website: http://elseworldscomicartfans.blogspot.com/
Item/Status: Venom Original Sketch

Name of Contributor: Paul Shih (from New Zealand)
Website: http://www.paul-shih.com
Item/Status: Hand-sketch / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Rudy Ao (from Indonesia now residing in Singapore)
Website: http://www.aoillustration.com
Item/Status: Batman Original Artwork / SOLD

Name of Contributor: Shinji Nakako (from Japan)
Website: http://www.tomenosuke.com/
Item/Status: Variety of Japan-Exclusive Toys / Partially SOLD

Name of Contributor: Wendy Chew (from Singapore)
Website: http://mashi.deviantart.com/
Item/Status: Mermaids Original Paintings

These are the folks who had bided on and successfully secured the products on auction:

Adam Litvack of USA
Alaric Choo of Singapore
Beatrice Seifert of USA
Bryan Lopez of USA
Chad Schennum of USA
Cooper Berella of USA
Erich Lehman of USA
Jeffrey Ocampo-Tan of USA
Jerry Lien of USA
Zullikhan Abdullah from Singapore

Top 10 ways to cut your risk of stroke

Recognizing Stroke Video


Mobility and Dexterity

Two aspects of a human condition that is somewhat affected by the onset of Stroke. "Mobility" and "Dexterity".

Basically different folks are affected in different levels of ability - as Stroke effects are different from person to person. There is not an exact catch-all chart or anything like that to read from, but there are general guidelines for doctors' and rehab specialists' actions for.

Some folks need a wheelchair for the rest of their life - for lack of mobility or even dexterity - and some, well, their dexterity is affected in someway that they cannot deny.


Lying in the Stroke Acute Ward for a month, and recovery ward for another month, I have seen different folks affected differently by Stroke. Some folks walk around like nothing ever happened (more brain-problems than physical problems) and some need a wheelchair or a walking aid to move around.

I remember regaining consciousness after a few hours of being under (or rather "under observation" for a limited time before folks feel i could recover or go under the knife) and the subsequent days to be quite a mindscrew. I remember walking, i remember jumping, skipping and all the things "regular" folks do on a daily basis - but my limbs "did not remember" any of that. I could hardly put one feet in from of the other, much less be able to go to the toilet on my own, or even shower myself. I couldn't even stand up straight while holding unto a side railing in a hospital corridor. This lasted for a few weeks.

And for weeks after "re-educating" the limbs, had i also gained the strength to carrying on with daily exercises, to reach a point where i can walk myself to the toilet, take a shower standing up, and get up and about with my walking cane (and my chaperone aka "Dad") to my acupuncture and (former) rehab sessions.

But these are the general broadstrokes that are visible immediate to the eye - as is the way i "walk" - with a slightly tilt or as the medical practitioners say "gait" - I walk not like a normal person would, but with a slight feeling as if something is wrong my legs (which loads of strangers had actually attributed to an accident involving my legs) or i am a struggling "drunk". Some folks walk with a very obvious gait, like broader legs apart and affecting the torso and entire body rhythm.

Regardless of how we walk, i reckon we (or at least "me") is bloody happy I can walk in any instance, innit?

And a lot of the issues which affect such mobility, is that a portion of the brain, had been affected by the blood clot or bursting, when the blood flow to the brain is affected, as in the case of Stroke. The region of the nape/neck s where most problems happen, and a whole lot of time - for the physically disabled - is the "balance" of the person, is affected.


You need balance for basically everything you do, that involves you standing up and being mobile. And it is not just walking a straight line (I still have trouble doing that now), it is also other simpler things in life folks take for granted. I use myself and my abilities (or lack thereof) as an example here:

1. Standing on one leg balanced for more than 2 seconds. I am improving but not great. As with most Stroke, one side of the body is affected - in my case, the "Stroke-side" is right, where both my right leg and arms was/is affected. My master-arm is the right-arm, so you can imagine my freakout (more on that later below under "dexterity").

2. Walking Up or Down steps. Up is never much of a problem (with or without side-handles) but am working on my walking-down without side-handles. And it is a slow walk, as at moments in time, one leg would be suspended above while the other takes over the weight, right? Hence, "balance".

3. Crossing over a curb or bump. Again, same issue of balance, but in the middle of nowhere, there is no side-railing to hold unto - hence my walking stick comes in handy. These days i tend to maneuver around/over obstacles like this without much fuss (but for the fear of falling flat on my face of course hahaha) but tis conquerable, nevertheless. You think walking and crossing over the raised step in the HBD toilet doorway is "easy"?

4. Closing my eyes and standing with one-leg-in-front-of-another. Try it yourselves and see how it is. I cannot do it for more than 5-8 seconds (or less) as the feeling of falling is ever present and is a tangible situation happening.

Because of the lack of balance, or the uncontrollable aspect of such, a lot of folks tend to "fall" - especially happens for older folks. Although this is not exclusive to Stroke, the ability to be stable affects older folks as well - but with Stroke - it is an added risk.

I have heard numerous stories and recollections of old folks who fall, after leaving rehab (or even during, but specifically at home), dislocate their hip, or other parts, and it is heart-breaking. I am also wary that even tho I might be able to waddle around like a drunk man - because that IS literally how I look like and feel like moving about - there is also the fear of falling or taking a misstep, and getting all the issues back up again.

For sure folks can say: "Take That Step Forward!" - but for the lack of balance skills, how can folks dare be able to "right" themselves as easily as healthy, able-bodied folks do?

But of course try, day to day, step by agonizing step.


When Stroke happened, it affected my right-side of the body, which meant my master-hand (which was the right hand) was affected severely initially. Some folks (including myself) pretend to act like a spastic-person and cup their hands to represent that - and that is not wrong. Besides the obvious bodily-mobility, dexterity might also be affected, with the "cupped hand"one of the more recognizable effects.

I remember not even being to hold unto something with my hand, much less be able to draw, or even write. Through time I was lucky in such that i can hold and draw, and even trained myself to write unlike a small kid would, and write in a decent-ish straight line/s. I have a notebook filled with essays (written during my months stay in rehab-recovery) to show the change.

And being able to type with both hands (yes I do that lol) is a relief, although I have not been able to hold a pen or ink s steadily as I used to - which disturbs me greatly, but I shall not complain as I am still able to scribble.

Being able to hold my own fork and spoon is also a relished ability (although my chopstick work leaves much to be desired), and seeing some other folks who are unable to even feed themselves, I am grateful I can.

I remember "tests" in the hospital, where groups of us would sit around to test our eating abilities - aka the level of foods were are able to swallow and chew, like porridge and oats (which everybody can) to chewing on meats and vegetables, and being able to swallow them. I remember aching to have solid foods, but struggled to hold a spoon, much less a fork lol

But yes, not long after i gobbled down hospital food like manna, and no they do not "suck" as most folks think - they just are not as "yummy" as you expect normal food you are used to be. what? You need to fill yourself with energy so you can exercise it off, don't you? LOL

These days, I wander around my own house freely and without a walking cane as when I am at my rehab center as well - more probably because I feel "safe" within the boundaries of the space, and able to maneuver around any known bumps or barriers, as opposed to the whole wide world outside now - which I move around with a walking cane - not for walking, but for balancing myself, and helping me conquer said hums and steps.

"Going out for a drink, or chat with friends", or heading off for a movie, is something I miss dearly in my life - and is something that I still strive to achieve, given time. Folks these days ask to meet me out for a drink or sum-such activities like i'm all fine and dandy - which i cannot blame them for, as they either do not know my condition enough, or simply do not deem important to find out if i am able to int he first place. Both irks me and leaves me disappointed, but hey, who is to know if i do not say anything?

Ironically with my pre-Stroke days being a literal hermit (for 5 years, i kept to myself in real-life versus online, and remained single for that long a time as well, until now lol), these days i am actually more active in leaving the house, moreso than ever before (even if tis only for rehab and acupuncture hahaha).

This coming late-ish August, I will have a massive task ahead of me: Walking around Suntec City for the Singapore Toy, Games and ComicCon. Last year, I had my sister wheeling me around in my rental wheelchair - this year? I'm walking in with my walking cane, laptop-bag slung around me and struggling with one hand on a cane, and the other on my digital camera (and possibly handling my mobile phone - urgh) - although I have to seriously consider I need a chaperone with me … currently I am still stubborn enough to do it tho haha …

This morning, i sat down on the floor to get at something, and then later struggled to get up by myself without holding unto anything - believe you me, that was a massive act that I do not look forward to doing again - but in actuality, it just serves to remind me there is a HUGE way more to go, before I dare claim my own "independence" - something which I took for granted, before it all.

There had been a plan to visit jolly old England in late-September-early-October, where my sis is going to visit her mates and attend a wedding, and I would go along and perhaps seek out friends in UK who would be willing to meet or even host me (and I would be celebrating my birthday there too - yay!) but the reality is, I can hardly even carry the weight of myself, much less my own luggage, so how the heck dare i claim i can move around as i think I can?

this notion saddens me more than i'll ever be able to express tho.

I am trying to regain my "rhythm", and that also includes being able to step on an escalator without the fear of falling! So i guess recovery is indeed a literal step at a time, for both physically, and mentally - beyond just my own abilities, as well as for all recovering Stroke patients. And sometimes, "patience" might not be enough, but for an understanding, or even an assured holding of one's ahdns as he/she crosses a seemingly negligible hurdle, which might be a massive hurdle to his/her own life, and surviving it.



i remember my doctors and therapists said to me while i was being wheeled out of the hospital circa Christmas Eve in 2010: "Be thankful you have great family and have friends' support" (or a derivation thereof - i was happy just to get out of there lol)

And that is something that holds true, in my life right now.

Since getting out of hospital-stay, i have moved from out of the need for a wheelchair, to a 4-legged walking-crutch (which has become a makeshift clothes-hanger muahahaha), to now waddling like a drunk-man around with a walking stick (that one moment during Father's Day, when i walked out of the house forgetting to get my cane, was a sign of great things to happen lol), is an improvement i cannot and will not deny. i am just elfin happy i can 'walk', ya know?! LOL

As much effort as I put in to my self-recovery, I am also grateful and accept the power of "support" from my family, and folks who "care" about me. "Support" could range from simple silent embrace, to inactivity, or simply offering kind missives. These are powerful tools to aid in the spirit of the recovery ("Religion" notwithstanding) and of providing the mindset of the recoveree in question. Folks might not be verbal enough to say it out loud, but trust me - it DOES have an effect, and even sometimes, an 'impact'.

I will not venture into delving into the mindsets and family-histories of the folks i share my rehabilitation sessions with - but sometimes (very rarely tho) i might overhear a healthy-family member deriding the patient his/her lack of recovering and effort taken in recovery … like THAT would encourage the person from laboring forth? Does the power of "Guilt" outweigh the possibility of "Hope"? Again, that is "their" life unknown to my comprehension - but you know where I'm getting at.

People tend to forget that folks who survived Stroke, were not looking to be downed by Stroke in the first place - as are any other ailment or physical-health issues (but then again, I never had been the "healthy-one" in the first instance ~ hee ;p), but be sure a heck of folks might have been put into the rollercoaster-ride of GUILT, isn't it?

Frankly, I had never been what you call an "optimist". I used to relish dwelling in the negatives, and from my previous work, I had nadvertently learnt to look at the things in the negative - with problems to be solved first - then see the sunny rainbow at the end of the dark clouds. (One of the reasons why I left, i surmise). But post-Stroke? I have learnt to embrace the notion of positivity, for that is one of the most important "attributes" i have against conquering my own limited disabilities.

i am not strong because i am. i am strong because i have to be.

my family support provides me with the strength to carry on fighting. my dreams provide me with a future to fight for. and my friends' support provide me with the ammunition needed to continue on the day-to-day survival against my own mental-battles, and my own lack of physical abilities.

sitting in a chair for the whole day typing into a laptop does not constitute who i am, but unfortunately is the only aspect of my current abilities i have more control over. so frankly, i hope you can understand my main priority right now is making my life better by recovering.

my own aged father - who himself survived a heart by-pass 5 years ago - is now taking care (mostly) of my day-to-day physical affairs, and chaperones me to rehab and acupuncture sessions - offers me both the physical and mental support, as does the rest of the family - and are a strength beyond any mere explanation i can afford - to aid in my recovery.

Most folks do not ask for help. More folks than you know do not ask for support. And what you do, or not - affects the person around you. I am not (and never will be) asking you to sprout rainbow-flowers and shower the earth with blessings and happiness - i am asking you to perhaps consider first what your actions and words do to others (regardless of whatever consequences it may ensue afters - for that is out of you control in the first place) before you take a step forward.

And all i can do personally, is to cherish and support folks in turn who have been, and are kind to me and have continued to support me, wherever they may be (online or physical), and learn to turn away from the ones who do not give a shit, because you sure as hell ain't doing much to aid my recovery! LOL

BP Issues

I have not been attending my rehabilitation sessions for over three weeks now. The reason is deceptively simple: My BP / Blood Pressure levels are now too high.

This has not always been the case.

And while folks do not dare claim it is beyond safety levels (or I'd seriously be in trouble), it is affecting how my recovery journey is to be now.

My BP levels are checked each time before I commence my rehab sessions at the center (twice a week, all in the mornings) and if a certain tolerance level is maintained, I can continue forth to sweat myself out in the vain hopes to recover from my Stroke-effects.

But recently, my BP levels are above the tolerant levels, and I find myself sitting and waiting, hopefully mt BP will go down, so i can join the rest of the other old folks in exercise. i joke with some of them that they were more "healthy" than me to be able to exercise even! It was funny for all of a coupla times, then afters, it was not so funny anymore. In fact, I have no doubt the waiting game affected my BP levels as well.

There was a short period of time when my BP levels were optimum only in the afternoons, while mornings and nights saw it on the higher side. And so I attempted to switch my rehab sessions to the afternoons, ya know? But the next thing I knew, the BP levels became an issue in the afternoons as well - so that plan is now bust!

I am not a patient man. I do not think I've ever been. Although having Stroke initially had shown me the value of patience - but thru time, i have regained my impatience for situations and folks. Waiting impatiently for a email reply for two days perhaps is tolerable (especially when folks choose to tweet and FB) but waiting for a month for an interview to be replied to, does not send my blood-pressure-levels into bliss, you know? Or maybe I should stop blogging altogether and recover first? Hell, i KNOW i will be too impatient for that! LOL

As of this morning (I check everyday, three times a day) - the levels hit the roof - which frankly scares me to effin-bits, as this condition has had, for the past few weeks.

No one is able to provide a tangible answer for recovery. Oh sure there have been a number of "whys" - like weight-gain (i stopped smoking and drinking coffee, and in lieu munched) or even lack of sleep (*cough-TTF+SDCC-cough*) - which frankly I wholeheartedly accept the reasons for (in lieu of the lack of other tangible medical factors) and because frankly, I do not want to self-medicate and leave my future in the hands of "professionals".

Sure there was a slight up in dosage of my western pills, but it sure ain't working! And if "weight-gain" is one of the main reasons, therein lies the painful rub.

I cannot go to rehab and hope to loose weight if i am not allowed to exercise past the BP levels. I dare not even use the spanking new exercise-bike/machine we have at home now, due to this reason. I am not a "hero" out to prove everyone "wrong" in their assumptions, because simply put, the rules are there for a reason in the first place.

I have reached a point now in recovery, that i no longer worry if i can ever walk free again (i feel i have already hit a plateau that i can no longer cross the hurdle of recovery for - but that' another mindfrak for another post), i am just plain scared i'll get downed by Stroke again.

Yes folks, not to alarm you all, but once you get Stroke, there is a likelihood you'll get downed by it again - although timewise, there is never a particular reference-point (or so i'm told). And what are one of the deadly causes for Stroke again? High Blood Pressure.

So besides fearing for my life - which shouldn't really be the case, as no one else medically seem to be fearful off (*crosses-fingers*) - tis more an innate frustration I have with the situation now - as NO ONE is able to afford a resolution!

And imagine the frustration I have now, is to be able to only blog about it.

Where Western medicine has failed me now, I will have no choice but to turn to Eastern suggestions. Simply put, I need to get my BP down, so I am able to exercise (and personally feel safe about it) and convince myself somehow I am on the path to recovery, because right about now, I am sitting at home and facing the BP-monitor and hoping for a better BP is like waiting for gloss ingots to fall into my lap from the sky.

Funnily enough (okay fine, NOT so funny) in writing this post, my BP has no doubt risen a few knotches - because I write with my heart, not with my brain - and stirring these issues up - is perhaps not as helpful to my condition as I had expected it to be LOL

Mental Health

In a confluence of situations prior, i had found myself sitting in the patient's chair in the office of a clinical "mental-health" expert (whose official name for, has escaped me - for that I apologize) in the hospital, for which I was referred to (no doubt simply because I blew my top at an attending doctor who did not seem to be able to offer any reasons for my malady - another post about that soon).

And then I had subsequently spent an hour and a half (yes, time was indeed measured at my end, as was the doctor's wrist-watch she was constantly referring to, which i conveniently ignored) yakking on about my life, my Stroke, my life after having Stroke, my blog, and what contests I was planning to hold on my blog (in that order). And while i dare say i had (nearly) a clean-bill of mental-health (no, there is no actual paperwork available to me to claim such ;p), one thing was mentioned (when she had a chance to have a word in edgewise) was that perhaps I should update my Stroke-blog (which you are reading now).

I had mentioned I had started a blog for Stroke, and was pretty diligent in updating it with info about both my own recovery, which in turn was to more importantly "educate" folks about the effects and recovery of Stroke (moreso than regaling about my own health, I insist!). But this blog has been left un-updated as of late, simply because I had developed into a stage of recovery, that this blog begun to remind me more about my Stroke - and the nasty effects that had gone along with the memory of - with it.

Recovery thus far has been … "spotty", with a number of speed-bumps along the way (more on that in another post, promise!) and perhaps I had let my own personal feelings affect this blog - which as of right now, with this very post - I have learnt to reconcile with, simply because this blog is mine to maintain, as much as this life i have now, is mine to lead.

I had actually asked a couple of folks to add to this blog, about their own journey of both recovery and taking car of folks - but you know what? I should just do this on my own, as there will be less expectations disappointed, and perhaps a more focused journey of a single person would be more effective in this regard.

Hell, I'm not a medical practitioner, and frankly the last thing i need to be doing is "self-medicate" - and leave my health to the experts that know better … ah but when the experts cannot help? … now, THAT'S another post coming u sometime soon …


And while might be clear of my objectives and aims, not necessarily all folks downed by physical illness might feel the same. I can imagine folks feeling depressed, and even suicidal - because let's face it - being in Stroke is not like an illness you can just take medicine and "get better".

The physical recovery is "hardest". Some folks grapple with lack of speech abilities, and even worse still physical disabilities. I remember when my legs could not put themselves one in front of each other, when my mind remember they can. I remember peeing into a container (while in hospital bed) because I had not the ability to walk myself to the toilet - barely 6 metros away from my hospital bed. Hell, I remember looking at my own crotch and seeing the pee-patch grown larger while being unable to control my bowels! If that does not fuckup your thoughts, hey, do not know what will. I am thankful now I can take my own showers, walk about (with a walking cane) and can make my own way to the toilet at home (even tho the newly discovered diabetes makes me getup at 6am in the mornings to go take a leek).

Physical recovery for any Stroke patient, takes a certain amount of time.No Stroke recovery might be timed exactly like the other, as no particular Stroke by individuals might be exactly similar to the others. There are a myriad forms of Stroke-effects to be had, even of the symptoms might be similar.

I know of someone who has been in rehab for a span of over a year. I myself had been in rehab for nearly 5 months now (when I was self-confident enough to think 3 would do it - well, here's egg in my face!) and frankly, I have learnt it is a "marathon", not a "sprint". And the only other reason why we need to give a timeline to it, is (A) the cost of rehab, and (B) the ability of the family to go along with it.

But what is most important in this equation, is the mental ability of the recovering patient, to continue with this timeline - and NOT feel useless, being a burden, feeling helpless.

A lot of Stroke patients are elderly folks. And with a lack of a strong family structure and support, do you really think they have the mental fortitude to continue working forth, and not feel being "a burden, useless and helpless"? Especially for Asian families, and I am not being racist here - just pure simple observations.

But in actual fact, I have begun to see even younger folks being downed by Stroke. There a guy aged 34, and another aged 31 in my (former) rehab sessions. One os married (bumped into him and his wife at an exhibition in town not too long ago too lol) and the other has a one year old daughter. So "age" is no longer exclusive to Stroke. As is the mental stress of it, without a doubt.

"Mental Recovery" is a conundrum, for without the basis of fortitude and tenacity, or even a will to survive and thrive for the future, hell, the road will indeed be long an arduous! And sometimes. that "mental recovery" is not alone for the patients to bare - sometimes folks around them provide them that strength, to carry on with the recovery, with being "whole" again.

And while I am in no medical position to infer what IS good mental health, I reckon it is the ability to survive the long-haul, the strength of not giving up and giving in, and the sheer tenacity to go forth and rehabilitate. No one else will make you miraculousy "better" (Religious folks will not agree with me here ;p) besides you working on to rehabilitate yourselves. Just know that that journey is not you and yours alone to tread - for you need folks around you to support you, and perhaps aid in any way for you to carry on your task.


The Luxury Of Taking A Shower

Someone reply to my tweet about taking a shower today, mentioning: "Psshhhhh Shower? Don't you lead a luxurious life!" = And I couldn't agree with that statement more!

The thing about Stroke it, most times it affects the victim's mobility and ability to physically be able to do the thing he/she had done before Stroke, and one of them more likely is taking a simple bath.

Because my ability to maintain balance and limited physical ability post-Stroke was severely affected initially, I had spent my first two months in hospital, showering while sitting down. And nearly the first month of that, unable to even shower myself - as I could hardly reach or stretch to reach certain parts of my body (my entire right side of the body was affected by Stroke, and still is) hence soaping myself was a chore, much less be able to stand up after a shower, to dry myself with a towel. I struggled and managed to dry my front-of-body, but could not reach my back.

Hell, I was wheelchair bound in the initial weeks, and subsequently struggled with a 4-Legged Walker, how could I expect to stand for a certain amount of time to soap myself and rinse it off afters? LOL

After over 3 decades bathing myself, being unable to do so now, is quite a shock to get over, let me tell you straight out. But instead of feeling crippled and invalid, I struggled hard in my rehabilitation, and managed to be able to shower by myself (without any help) near the end of my first month in the hospital.

Imagine folks whose physical disability is further/deeper set in, and to be not being able to even shower themselves, or even take a shit or dump (that's another post for another time, I'd rather not rack up old stories of me peeing in my pants uncontrollably as I watched the stain get bigger…). The humility of needing help to do the most mundane of tasks everyone takes for granted, is most times greeted with silence, from both the care-taker, and the person being showered or bathed. Most times folks associate that with old decrepit folks unable to care for themselves. That notion needs to be re-assessed, methinks.

And no, I did not enjoy my sponge-baths in the early days of my Stroke. "Embarrassing" is a mild description but for the sheer fear of being unable to take care of yourselves. And as mentioned, most times maintain a certain silence to this situation. Especially us Asian folks, who tend to clam up especially from older-folks who do not want to feel even more burdened to their family or care-takers, and you know what happens when folks clam up? Other folks think everything is "okay", everything is "fine" and not needing to further investigate or further placate any misgivings. This notion needs to be re-assessed, period. . And as well to be addressed, but do bear in mind the sensitivities involved in such a situation. Being more caring by far outweighs "tough-love", IMHO.

The second month saw me transferred out of the acute-ward in Changi and into the recovery ward at St Andrews. By then, I had still relied on a wheelchair to scoot around, BUT I was able to shower myself! Funnily enough, I showered sitting down thru my one-month+ stay in SACH (as was the rule there) and was even strapped some of the time - as in strapped with a canvas strap ala a saftey-belt (but a looser-one, as was the rule there).

When I wheelchaired my way home for Christmas at the end of 2010, it took me a few months before I gained the courage and strength to literally STAND in the bathroom, to take a shower! But of course the horizontal bars newly erected in the bathroom helped me conquer the fear, and I gripped it for dear life! LOL

These days, I am thankful I can rinse myself off the sweat and grime of my twice-weekly rehabilitation, and after every perspiration-filled days, as the humidity in Singapore can be pretty merciless. And funnily enough, I shower still in cold water at home, and even gagging for it, while the hot showers in my hospital stay made me feel even more "needy" LOL

Oh but for the luxuries of being able to shower myself, and for that, I am grateful :)



Asking The Right Questions

The question of "asking a question" came to fore today, with my visit to the neuro-specialist at Changi Hospital, for which I had frankly no clue why I had to do so again, But that is moot, as I felt this is one of those fruitful consultations that are very few and far in between.

(FYI: Post-Stroke, I have irregular clinical visits, to a variety of medical needs, in addition to my weekly rehabs and acupunture. Mostly subsidized by the government and medisave etc - but all need consultation fees to be paid).

I am very candid with my condition, in fact very candid and am very open to express - within my own limited vocabulary and knowledge of what is happening to me specifically - with doctors. Not everyone is open to listening, as much as folks might say "we do not know how you are feeling if you do not tell us in the first place". Some literally are, and I leave my health and well-being in their hands. Some do not give two hoots what I say (or I feel so anyways), until I have to raise my voice for myself to be heard. I understand it might not mean they do not care, just that they do not care to listen, beyond what they think is right or wrong. This infuriates me to no end.

I do not like to raise my voice. I do not feel I have to raise my voice at all. I am recovering from a sickness I am in mortal fear of, and am not asking for freebies in a departmental store sale. As much as I used to give them reasons for their attitude (like treating too many patients a day blahblahblah), it still does not make me feel any better. And as much as I do not demand "service" per se ("sorry but the salmon is burnt" lol), I can only hope for some semblance of apathy, particularly in a medical locale. But hey, I know I am being naive, and everyone has their own days to handle blahblahblah but I do not give two hoots now. I am not the caretaker of your day, but unfortunately my health and future state of wellness, is in YOUR hands.

Does anyone know how utterly helpless that feels?

Knowing what "questions" to ask of your caretaker, is only limited to what questions you know to ask about your condition. Most folks ask about how to get "the cure", while caretakers explain to you "how you got it" in the first place. For sure, steps to wellness and recovery are explained for the patient - but what if the patient does not know how to articulate his/her own condition?

Are YOU willing to listen, and make an informed decision? And gauge against YOUR vast experience in the sickness? Or are you tired of listening to the same old same old?

Do YOU know how to describe the condition you are in? The feeling you feel when you are doing certain things? And I DO NOT mean medical terms or fancy-medicology, but simple events that affects your body, and how you react to the world?

Know that amongst all the questions asked, inevitably there will ALWAYS been a comparison between "before" or "after". And sometimes is is as clear as day-n-night, and sometimes it is something that never was noticed "before".

I personally have taken my "pre-Stroke" life for granted. And a lot of comparisons fail to have answers, simply because I have zero recollection of them. Some people might not like to hear that. But at the risk of being berated for that, do not IN ANY CASE, LIE about anything, just to get the "uncomfortable" situation over and done with. Try to describe as close as possible as you feel ails you. Be grateful if someone around or the doctor offers his/her take.

Your assessment of your condition, is also determined by the condition you are feeling then, that is being described to the doctor personally.

I have a medical file (as everyone warded has/have), and my "entire" medical life since being warded for Stroke in October 2010 - is in that file (two files actually, Volumes 1 & 2 - found out today ;p). And whomever you are consulting in, that is NOT your "regular" doctor, refers to the file, and have to trust in the doctors before them, who updates your condition, in the exact same files. Hell, even if she/he IS your "regular" doctor, they do not necessarily have your medical-history at the tips of their fingers, as they see a myriad of people, within the one or two months span in which they see you personally!

So whatever condition you feel, do describe it to whomever consults with you, so as your condition may be tracked, and diagnosed, so that medication or new treatments can be prescribed. There's nothing to be "shy" about, YOU are the person that is "sick" anyways!

Today's visit to the neurologist turned out to be a well surprise, if not slightly "shocking". I found out today, what I had experienced in October, might actually be my "second Stroke". 6 months after my experience, and NOW I found this out? And how did I know about it? It was written - nay - typed in my medical file, of the initial assessment of my condition.

First of all, let me explain something - one of my primary fears now, is not just the recovery of my body and eye-sight, but also to stem the occurrence of a second Stroke. Folks who have experienced the "first", will more likely to be susceptible to being in Stroke for the second time, whenever. So post-Stroke, all anyone can ever do, is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and have high-blood pressure and diabetes etc, in check.

There is NO CURE for Stroke. There is no pill to take to make it all go away. The pills and medication is to keep it at bay, and to sustain a life without falling victim to the earlier maladies (like highblood, diabetes etc). They are there to sustain your life, not "cure" it from Stroke.

So when the doctor showed me the file (well cool of her to anyways - lol) and what had been diagnosed much earlier, pretty much freaked me out there and then. But that was quickly put into perspective and ease, by the same doctor.

The "first Stroke" I might have experienced before (in a undetermined time), might have been an overt one, and unrecognizable by myself - and I carried on with my life, without ever knowing it had ever happened! *gasp*

(Seems to be a very common occurrence, particularly in Chinese folks - an accumulation of mini-Strokes leading to the "big" one, while conversely on a Caucasian person, just goes straight into a "big" one).

Thinking back, I had related to my family that there were times my hand (right-hand) would suddenly "freeze-up", with my fingers unable to move, for about 2-seconds or slightly more (at different times) before I could shake it off. But because nothing much continued happening afters, I never gave it much thought.

There was even once, in the Army (Reservist) nearly a decade ago, when being consulted for an annual body-checkout, I had related I once (but only once) smelt "sulphur" at home (when there wasn't any around) - to which one medical assistant memorably said to me point-blank: "You have Stroke."

I thought he was being an insensitive idiot then.

The "second Stroke" I had experienced, was the one I was hospitalized for. That was an "Acute Stroke" - though a "mild" one at that (I am no longer as angry about that association, as I am grateful to be able to shower myself, yo! LOL).

But no, there is not a tangible explanation for whatever happened then, and none being offered now. I just know that I have to take care of myself moreso than I had ever expected.

I look around my weekly rehab space, and I fear for a lot of much older patients. Do they know how to describe what it is they are feeling? Is anyone ever listening to them? I do not take them all as ignorant oldies or mentally challenged,and maybe I am being overly-sensititve - but who really knows? The chinese say "jia-jia you-ben nan-nian de-jing" (every household has a different sutra to be read) and everyone's stories might be different - just hope that folks get to say what they feel like, and there are folks actually listening to them.

My neuro-doctor said today: "We depend on your feedback and description, so we can diagnose you" ~ which is very refreshing to hear (ironically not something I am used to hearing from medical professionals, surprisingly so) - for which my frank answer was; "I only wish there was more I could be able to describe to you, so that you will understand my condition better" (or something to that derivation ;p). There really is no particular "answer" for that really.


Seven Hours Too Long

"Helpless" was what I had felt, "trapped" at the clinic in the hospital at Changi (for which has become my second home) - waiting for my turn to see the doctor, spending nearly 7 hours outside of my house (which included an afternoon session of acupuncture, to be fair) - which was essentially 7hrs too long. Bordering on "desperate", I knew whatever plans I had today for the blog, was a hopeless endeavor. But that turned out partially incorrect, as I still squeezed thru twelve quick posts, before I realized it wasn't about "squeezing", but of a level of comfort I had wanted to continue in my bloggery activities, foir me to be able to go the duration, and not burn myself out, while amidst the effects of being in post-Stroke.

The consultation today was for my eyes. Ironically one of the key problems I now face - versus being able to walk free, post-Stroke - is the ability to see straight. Me getting used to double-vision was a tangible fear, as well the developments with acupuncture (which was treating my eyes specifically) had indeed made my vision better - but I still needed answers. And "answers" were something people have dared not commit to me, for the past 6 months, post-Stroke. And I am not looking for "miracle-cures" here, just tangible explanations for my eye-sight - beyond "It was affected by Stroke".

I could still maintain a semblance of hermit-like existence squirreled away indoors and in-front of a computer, but it does me no favors if I cannot see properly, innit? But the wait was worth it, I can concrete answers (whereas before nobody dared commit otherwise) and as well new proposals. Tomorrow morning (before my rehab session at 10am) - I will know whether or not I will need reading glasses.

Against such quandaries in my life, maintaining the blog seemed mundane in comparison, let's not kid ourselves. But in reality, without the blog, and as well typing all this, I would just be another Stroke-victim, recovering while lying in bed the whole day. And that is not how I want my day to go by.

Funnily enough, my acupuncturist would have major issues with my statement just, as he is pretty surprised at my slow-recovery, as he seemed pretty darn confident in setting my eye-sight right, except for the fact i refuse to listen as much, and continue blogging … I would laugh-out-loud of not for the fact it may well be truer that I recognize it to be …


(FYI: This post was typed on May 4th and was basically a "daily whine" as opposed to a medical recollection :p)


Seeing Double

Imagine you cross your eyeballs, and you see double of everything, while folks around you laugh at the inanity of how "cockfunny" you look with crossed-eyeballs like a buffoon. Now imagine the vision, but without the laughter. That is how my vision was impaired ever since I was struck with Stroke back in October 2010.

Back "then", the separation was actually worse, most times diagonal rather than side-by-side, and further apart. But by covering up either of the two eyeballs, I could actually look pretty much clear and straight, and I have since been wearing an eye-patch, to assist in lessening the irritation.

And irritating it is, if not ultimately worrying. The analysis back in the initial period when I was less scared (and decidedly more worried about my future), was that, even in a wheelchair for life (touch-wood TOUCH-WOOD) I could still conceivable type on a keyboard. But without my vision? I sure had very little options left, innit? I would have been fcuked bad if I had given-up and given-in then.

The visual senses were affected by the lack of blood-flow to the brain, an aspect of Stroke that folks know the effect of, but not necessarily how to treat it.

[Days before the eye-patch of Piratey-goodness]

I remember literal hordes of trainee doctors visiting my bedside in Changi Hospital, where they would test my reflexes and be amazed (and as well confounded) by my eye-sight (I have always been a sucker for pretty ladies, and as well a good conversation, so I let loads slide *cough*). I actually wasn't funny then that folks did not know how to answer for my eye-sight condition, and it sure isn't funny now really (pretty ladies aside *cough-cough*).

Even now, I am not taking any medication for my eye-sight to get any better. Any sense of Western involvement in this endeavor has only led me to be treated with suffering silence, and/or the by now banal reassurance of the constantly repeated fact that it was the result of suffering from Stroke. I am not kind about this situation, and I have a right not to be, for no one has offered me a respite or even solution, besides: "The eye-sight will get well when the Stroke gets well" ~ which to me, is a whole lot of manure disguised with a smile.

In less than a week's time, I have an appointment scheduled to meet an "eye-specialist" in Changi, who perhaps might shed more light into my malady, and hopefully "cure", some semi-odd five months since suffering from my Stroke in 2010. Imagine that was how long folks had to go thru to wait for an appointment, or even felt it was "worthy" of seeking an appointment. In this, I am truly bitter and disillusioned at the current state of medical advances this country had to advise patients like me.

Meanwhile, I have been actively engaged in weekly acupuncture sessions, currently at three times a week (initially it was 10-days straight, when I was out of St Andrews, but that is the past now), for which they have straight out claimed to be doing work specifically for my vision. I grasp only at tangibles that lay before more, not hearsay nor mysterious circumstances. "Words" only mean so much to me right now, when I am dying to "see" the difference, truth be told.

[My Days With An Eye-Patch ... okay one of them does not count]

And I would state for the record, that my eye-sight has seen advanced improvement! There are even days when the double-vision is lesser (no doubt having my eyes used to the effect, might have been a boon), but of course there are days when the vision goes askew and I see double of everything still - most times due to advanced exposure and long time spent in front of the laptop and blogging, for which I have been derided by folks around me, the Chinese Sensei most especially LOL (bleh :p)

I type and blog with an eye-patch on, as well walk or go about in public with an eye-patch.

With blogging, it is reading and typing in large font sizes (controlled in the laptop, which is cool, compared to the 17-incher monitor of my desktop which basically died when I got home from hospitalization ~ WTF?). Some good days, I go without the patch, but most days I am reliant on it.

Since the Stroke, I no longer read the newspapers, or even novels, because the font is so blardy impossibly small for me. I had to even resort to using a magnifying glass to read printouts initially (online updates for when I was hospitalized). But just the other day, I grabbed a newspaper as I went to the bathroom (used to be a fav pastime of mine, yes, now you know) ~ the result being not too shabby, readable but with much focus needed, so perhaps the vision is getting better than I expected.

With going out in public, is another story altogether. They teach you in rehab, to see a vertical line in front of you, and walk towards it, to assist you in walking in a straight line. It didn't really use to work for me, as I had double lines to walk towards, and most times I stumbled like a drunkard man. With the patch, it does get better, and it forces focus unto the task in front of you. But when I am sitting down, or cycling on the treadmill, I would rather do without the patch.

My PT assistant mentioned this: "Wear the eye-patch when you're with girls, and not need them when you're chatting with the boys." = The patch might turn ladies on (sheeyahinmydreams) and the boys don't need the contest LOL

And traveling is also a worrying issue. I can sit still in a moving cab, but the moving visions outside of the window gave me a very bad headache initially. These days it is getting better, and I can actually look out the window, to see the world go by, or even read a natty magazine. Five semi-odd months into my Stroke recovery, I had better recover me sum, goshdammit!

I have also started taking the bus last week (all chaperoned of course, by my 70 year old father, no less) but frankly it works decent so far because I just focus on whatever is in front of me anyways, which most times might be my cane-handle, or a reflection of folks around me (hurhur). Sudden moves freak me out so much, I will not lie. And ironically, what I cannot see, I am afraid of the most.

Aside, what does it say about kids in Singapore, with ten out of ten mentioning "pirate" whenever they see me with an eye-patch? LOL

But of course I am worried of being too reliant on the eye-patch, and hope to one day be "recovered" enough to wean myself out of using it. If the acupuncture does not work, and there is no medication for it, I might have to wait until I have recovered from my Stroke, to know if it indeed will recover along. But I do not put much stakes into that notion.

[Will promote for a decent good eye-patch]

But hell, getting an eye-patch is not that easy an effort too, for most patches might not come with adjustable straps, and my recent gift has but been left with the strap disintegrated (no joke) thru sweat and constant-wear, and my new patch is hella tight and is giving me a headache whenever I wear them.

And if you need to know, I have a "home-patch", which I only wear at home, but is unsightly (I am still "vain" what? LOL). So typing this is not so much a worry, although my eye-sight is getting tired and crossing again (so this would not be too long an post :p)...

The irony of which is, my eye-sight is actually frighteningly crystal clear. I might see double-vision in front of me, but the clarity is literally shiny bright (no doubt thru the efforts of acupuncture) like looking at a HD screen-vision on most days LOL, and only goes to extreme blurriness when I am utilizing too much effort and for far too long a time, and most times it may be of eye-shit, but yes, I am giving excuses for myself.

What folks say is, say away from focusing on computers or tv and/or not spend too much time on them for too long. I find it hard to equate resting constantly and closing my eyes, then to getting better. But then again, I have never had Stroke before and know not otherwise.

Maybe one day soon I would have to be less stubborn, and stay offline for longer periods (but I don't want to be sleeping away, no?), and yes, typing less LOL

Actually, having impaired vision is not a laughing matter, but I thank god that I am not absolutely blind (touch wood TOUCH WOOD) because of the Stroke. And I embrace what I see everywhen, with humility, and being less judgmental (well, "try" anyways) in my visual analysis for "life".


Maintaining Balance

One of the key aspects of my body affected by Stroke, was the partial paralysis of the right-side of my body, most notably the limbs. And while the situation was only temporary (thank god for that), the road to recovery had been a hard-fought one. In this I do not over-exaggerate and can but only pat myself on the back, for what I have achieved so far since the faithful day I lied still on the hospital bed.

Function to both my arm and limb were sorely affected when blood-flow to my brain was cut off during the advent of Stroke. Essentially from then on, my motor-functions are simply switched back to the day when I first learnt to walk as a baby, or it sure felt like it.

My brain remembers "to walk", but the feets do not listen and function as they did. I remembered to hold something with my right-hand (my master-hand, no less), but the fingers could barely grasp at anything, much less having my arm lifted up and being able to grab at anything automatically.

Along with my Stroke, I had lost the ability to speak properly, or breathe and swallow properly (but both conditions did not last long / more on them alters), but my hardest truth I had needed to over-come then, and even now, was the ability to walk free.

Taking everything for granted when I was healthy and walking frantically, the sudden stoppage of traveling by my own steam, was a hard pill to swallow indeed, as I would assume anyone else affected in this area. I remember refusing to feel "crippled", and worked hard in my daily rehab in the hospital wards (when I had regained my strength to). Every morning for a hour or so, I was in the capable efforts of my Physiotherapists in the Changi Hospital Ward 18.

PTs took care to help me regain balance - which was the primarily hit region of function - which directly affected the feet. I hobbled like a baby (or "bear" according to my "size" ;p) and gripped the wall-handles for life, as I step-by-step got back into "shape", and subsequently being able to bathe myself and walk around on a 4-Legged-Walker.

Trust me, being able to bathe yourself is as crucial an imperative as you would be walking. If you can't even take care of yourself in this instance, it would be a much harder walk to take.

It helped that my condition was considered by some to be "mild", so it seems. Hell, just a month before being hospitalized, I was living out my dream and intent of the blog, which was to be able to travel overseas (because of), and to report and see for myself all of which I used to blog about online! But perhaps, thinking back, enjoying the life and times of Thailand and Jakarta, may have well pushed me to the edge of my health :p

(Causes of Stroke, in my instance, included the accumulation of High Blood Pressure, high tension, high cholesterol and an onset of Diabetes - gosh but the food was awesome tho LOL)

Regardless, a month spent in Changi General Hospital led me to being wheelchair-pushed across the bridge to another month in St Andrews Community Hospital. By then, the daily sessions were also the reasons which got me back on my wobbly-feets.

In SACH, every morning (excluding weekends) consisted of physical exercises after breakfast. A hour and a half at PT - training strength of legs, and then another hour and half at OT ("Occupational Therapist"), which essentially trained the motor-functions above the waist.

I had re-learnt to "walk" (aided of course), down corridors ("stumble" be more accurate LOL) and even climb stairs (thank gods for railings!). I had regained the mobility of my right-arm and hand, I could draw and write again. Most of all, I felt itches on my hand and feet, which literally meant I could FEEL again.

Can't decide if that's a good thing or bad. I have had sratch-marks where I might not have felt scratching them previously tho :p

I worked my ass off everyday single day, and came back to the wards with sweat-patches that would make a grown man cry lol ~ I had wanted to walk again damning and no one could stop me!

A week before Christmas day in December 2010, I decided it was time to leave the ward and begin home-stay and recovery. I had felt "well" enough to be bold (as well a financial situation reared it's head there and then, which was sorted before I left the ward) to imagine leading a "new life" outside of the protection of the ward. And I made my decision known.

(There was also a "test" previously, when I had ventured out for a weekend at home, which was the Saturday I had actually visited STGCC in my wheelchair! I had wanted to as well see my reaction to being outside of the ward, and to be in public. It was a hella shellshock I haveta admit, but highyl doable then LOL)

Let there be no doubt, within the ward, you have a small army of folks surrounding you to assist you in anything you needed or wanted (reasonably, of course), as the folks are trained professionals. Most folks do not see that and expect their family at home to be just as effective and attentive. That is a totally false notion.

Fair enough that one condition of home-stay, is that one of the patient's caregiver come to the hospital, and be trained in bathing them, helping them get from bed to wheelchair etc. Everybody takes for granted their own body-weight, but imagine folks smaller than you trying to balance or contain you, is a harder pill to imagine, IMHO.

Out of hospital by Christmas, and back into weekly rehabilitation in February (after a short stint of reprieve and getting fat again urrrgggh), I had to attend two weekly sessions for about an hour and a half each time, split between my OT on Mondays, and PT on Thursdays, and as well a smattering of home-exercises in-between. But truth be told, being self-motivated is a harder challenge. Although ironically enough, during rehab in the wards-era, most folks around me did not seem too concerned with "getting better" and doing their individual exercises ~ which I attribute to a sheer lack of interest physiologically in attaining their life back. Most folks seem to wallow in despair and choose instead to make do with what they were dealt with - which makes it even harder for me to be energized about = no one to work out with! lol

I have since then learnt to "zone out" and block everyone out while I do my exercises, and just carry on with my own rehab - the trouble being sometimes I over-exert myself, and my aching body constantly reminds me of that lapse LOL

In a way, I have also learnt to be more selfish than usual, as no one will help me get any better (beyond my PTs and OTs) except for myself, and of course educating my family with what is happening to me and my body, which I constantly do. I reckon loads of folks need to be able to communicate with their families as well, or all they can do, is buy you a better wheelchair and provide you amenities, but do not actually know how you are doing physically. Fair enough some patients have a hard time verbalizing, or even "talking", but it pays to work out hints and clues to whatever feelings and situations may permit. It will only do you good, and no harm, IMHO.

I reckon most of the "domestic help" assisting the older folks at rehab, may well know better about their ward, than their actual family does. But that is just conjunction on my part, and it is not and never will be my place to pry.

Two months at home, I had travelled around in public on a rented wheelchair, and hobbled around at home without aids. Perhaps it is familiarity at the home front, but I felt more safe going around at home, than at al in public places. In time, I walked free in the rehab area as well, as frankly, I felt protected by the staff around me.

In reality, the sense of "being protected" is well attached to one's ability to be able to walk, and once you regain that ability - in whatever level - you will feel you have regain independence, and hence the notion to be able to protect yourself (from falling etc), and you'll be more at peace with what is needed to be done, to get better. I know I did, and still do.

Walking fast or slow, is redundant if you do not have "balance", and I have since realized that is most important, as there IS strength in my limbs, but being able to control them and so whatever I want with them whenever? Therein lies the rub … Any semblance of metaphors related to "life" and the balance of, I remain both skeptical and as well highly appreciative of though :)

Fast forward to end of March, scant five months after my Stroke in end-October 2010, I had made my way to the cinema on Thursday last (to view Sucker Punch, right after my weekly morning-rehab!), and wandered around Marina Bay Sands on Sunday - all with a walking stick (and a whole lotta rests on seats in-between LOL).

The downside of it all, is I recognize I tend to stumble around moreso than I ever did before, perhaps regaining my "speed" is not an indication I have my life from before back at full-steam. And the fear that I have begun to "make do" with whatever ability to walk I have had, actually worries me quite a bit. But regardless, I still try to keep myself in check, as ultimately, it is only me who knows what's capable to be achieved for myself (although my trainers have other plans for me LOL).

Ironically, I had not been much of a supporter of walking canes, having remember something my PY mentioned during my stay in Changi, that she did not want me to develop a "slanted-gait" while walking with a cane. Months later, I embrace the cane, and as well relish the day I can chuck it away and walk free again, and maintain balance, and yes, to travel overseas (if I can afford to anyways).

I'm looking at July for Taipei Toy Festival, and maybe a September walkabout in United Kingdom - but perhaps yes, I am getting ahead of myself again … I will be looking forward to another trip (and more) to the cinemas, bummed-eye be damned! (Now THAT is another post for another day!). And as I near always reply when folks ask about my health = *Rehab Continues* ~ because in all truth and honesty, it still does :)


Stroke Happens

How do you recognize when it is you are having Stroke? How do you react when you are having Stroke?

All these can be readily answered, with prescribed ways to handle yourself, given the right circumstances. But from my personal experience, when it hits, it doesn't take a whole long while before the effects grab at you and leave you helpless.

I remember a story from Jason, my bed-neighbor (in Ward 18 in Changi Hospital), whereby his second Stroke (yes, it happens twice in your life) hit him while he was about to go to work. He was locked in his own home alone for nearly seven hours, before police came to bang-down the front door of his house to get to him.

Apparently he had the notion to call his office (having the experience from the first Stroke, he was prepared) while lying on the floor from the effects of Stroke, and apparently the story went that his secretary thought it was a prank joke played on her on the phone, as his speech had by then was affected (when I first knew him in the ward, his speech was badly slurred). He got thru subsequently it seems.

Being alone when it happens? Man, that story sends chills down my spine.

On the other end of the spectrum, I was told another occurrence, this time by Alex, my bed-neighbor in St Andrews. Apparently he had experienced the event throughout an entire day, and not know about it! He even continued at work, and drove the car home. Until an uneasy feeling (and as well advise from his wife) made him visit the doctor's the next day, who promptly told him he had Stroke!

Not knowing you've got it, and still carry on with the day? Spine-chills, you get the picture.

Regardless of how extremely discomforting or even cluelessly uneventful, the effects of Stroke ultimately leaves a person paralyzed to a certain degree, and steps need to be taken to rehabilitate and make that right again. Rehabilitation is "after the fact", and as necessary as it is, this is not what the post is about.

Jason's speech got better and better within the month I was lying beside him (hence he could tell me his story), while Alex's ability to walk improved as the days went on, while we were both doing rehab, within the month we spent together in the same ward.

Yes, there is hope for recovery, and yes Stroke is devastating. But what may be different from each other, is how and when Stroke happened, and how some stories are absolutely different, or the same altogether.

Here are some "simple" warning signs of a Stroke (via Snopes.com):

- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding.

- Sudden trouble seeing in one of both eyes.

- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

You would notice ALL of the above has "Sudden" mentioned. Simply because generally Stroke hits you quick and you feel the effects just as quick (although not in the case of Alex ;p). Essentially, Stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is disrupted, which affects all or some of the points mentioned above. Quite ironically, it is the literal metaphor or someone sneaking up behind you and SUDDENLY attacks you by the neck ~ because that is what Stroke literally does, with the veins most times situated at the back of the neck being affected!

For me, I had headaches first, followed by numbness on my right-side, followed by loss of balance and sight, and eventually speech. [How it begun for me].

I really do not know for a fact how to even get prepared for this. Have your telephone near you always? Always be near other folks? All I or anyone else can do, is to spread the word and let folks know about what needs to be done. Know that the first 24 hours is crucial, so don't dally about, not that you have time to anyways!

Seriously, when all of the above hits you suddenly, it really needs you to have strength of mind to no freakout and to execute even the simplest task of calling for help, be it on phone, or screaming out to people around you. Hell I was clueless about my condition to even begun to freakout (which now, sorta freaks me out a little), but I thank my graces everyday, that I still lived with my parents, and that my dad and sister were present in the room, when I had my episode.


P/S: I had the notion for this article while having a conversation with a rehab-volunteer today. Eric asked me how it begun, and I realized not a whole lot of folks ask that (well, folks "in the know" of course), while most folks outside of the illness are more concerned with "what lead to it". I would not deny "Prevention" might perhaps be a good "ciure" to Stroke, but perhaps an educated knowledge of it, can help as well.


Me and My Pink Walking Cane

Been "walking" around with the aid of my walking cane (in metallic PINK, to match my 4-Legged-Walker) for over a week now ("constant shuffle", more like), since lasy Monday when I was wheeled-in to rehab, and walked out with a cane (The wheelchair was a rental). Ironically, the past week or so had been about daily walking, with near everyday having a clinic appointment, acupuntcture session and dental happening, and I walked for my "life" like a marathon! Thank gawd the weekend was a reprieve of home-shuffling only LOL

The thing about walking with a cane, was in fact a mental fear I have had, not necessarily of falling (initially it was), but of how folks react to a man in cane (as mentioned in an earlier post) and for the past week folks seem to barely avoid walking into me (perhaps my eye-patch helped their keeping away LOL). The cane has become such a pain to walk with to, but it keeps me balanced when needed be, and I should be just thankful I can "walk" at all!

The weekly rehab has let me see loads of folks (mostly old) being wheeled in by their maids/help, and I cannot help but think what actually goes thru their minds, when they have lost their mobility, even temporarily. Folks should take the time to consider the mindset of victims such as them, and spend the time "talking" to them and knowing what it is they are really thinking. Far be it Asian-based folks tend to be less verbal and in-touch with their thoughts and feelings ~ especially older folks a generation or two before, who actually might have lived thru WW2 or even harsh atrocities ~ but it is far better than just providing them the physical necessities needed to "get by" in the current real world.

Actually this notion seems only slightly touched upon initially during recovery, but then again I might not truly know, as my experience was pretty decent, as folks no doubt had seen how my family rallied around me and supported me in my time. Thinking back, I realized I might not have been as verbal with my thoughts to my family during Stroke-recovery, as I had been before that, choosing instead to hole myself up in my own world, blogging like a madman and embracing hermitdom for soem years.

Funny how life throws you curve balls when you least expect it, and you relearn how to deal with life again.

As I struggle daily with my post-Stroke rehab, the past weekend also saw earthquake and tsunami hit Sendai off the coast of Japan, And now with rumored Nuclear/radiation leaks? Somehow my state seemed so minute compared to the folks in Japan, but we try to live on as best as we can, and pray our friends and folks in Japan better days and heathy recovery.


Of Self Vanity and Growing Up With Hair

"Vanity". An oft utilized word to describe one's attempt to look more than well and good, to the world around them.

"Vanity", to a Stroke victim (or at least me) is the last thing on my mind, even if it was the first in my days before.

Loads of folks used to ask me; "Why keep long hair?", which my answer was simple; "Because I am vain." To which many a folks could not grapple the straight forward answer with. I'd explain further that since I am not a "handsome man", I'd rather be a "unique-looking man" because of my long-hair (and as well beard ;p). Again, most folks cannot seem to grasp that concept, which I find extremely strange.

Frankly, I am not THAT vain enough I will work out and have swish ads or rock-hard biceps, I am purely, just "lazy-vain" in that instance, I reckon ;p .. anyways...

Lying in the hospital bed, the last thing on my mind was any sense of vanity or "looking well", in any way shape or form whatsoever, as are most patients, I surmise. I'm not going to comb my hair early in the morning because I wanna look well for the doctors or nurses. I'm not gonna worry if my shirt was well pressed to greet visitors for the day. Frankly, I do't really care if I looked well in the least bit, besides having the ability to walk free again then! My priorities have changed since the medical-event (FYI: I've decided to call it the "medical-event" because it is hardly an illness or sickness, this happenstance I call Stroke).

Tis funny I mentioned the long hair earlier in the post, as the "evolution" of which, happen to have paralleled my personal "growth" stages these past four months.

[I do not look all that awesome in a braid, do I? @ CGH]

When I first had Stroke, the longest part of my hair near reached my waist (I did not trim the hair, hence the wild growings). Lying in bed, I remember the nurses braiding my hair, because it was difficult to maintain, while giving my sponge baths (no, I did not enjoy my sponge baths) in the early days of Stroke. Being braided was funny only but for a coupla days, then from a Chinese-warrior soldier, I had become a wretched looking poor country folk, when the strands of hair became disheveled.

Keeping my hair long for a span of 5 years, I reckon I had become very attached to the comfort long hair provided. (I loved the feeling of hair sweeping pass my nap, truth be told). A decade ago I've kept my hair long for a couple of years, before National Service came a knocking, and I'd shorn my locks to fit the mold, like many a Singaporean men in Reservist. And I'd realized having my long hair now, had become a "security blanket" somewhat, or perhaps a "shield" I had possessed, that kept me blocked from everyone outside my world.

Truth be told, not many a folk like to chat with a guy with long hair (and beard) hahahaha.

But long hair and Stroke, did not mix. So when someone offered to cut my hair in the Ward, I'd surprisingly agreed to have it done. At that point, I wasn't exactly in the mood to be vain, yah know? I had just wanted manageable hair, that did not get in the way of me recovering. There no longer was sense of comfort, but a burden of the past, that had still clung unto me.

[My "Mad Violinist" 'Do, but without the violin]

Ironically, the first hair cut I had in five years, was not exactly a pleasurable one. Till now I refer to it as the "Mad Chinese Violinist" haircut. Being totally racist (hey, I'm Chinese in the first place, so don't need to go on a rampage here!). The wavy locks made me look like a dude trying to be hip, with said locks flowingly jumping as I performed on my violin actively (no, I do not play the violin). Maybe I'd seen the hairstyle on such a person on the telly or something, but nothing pops into my conscious-mind, so that is that.

I might have made some wrong turns in my journey, but I know what I want, tis just trying to ind the way to get there as fast, without the wrong turns.

Vanity did somewhat reared it's ugly head around that time, as I had become quite conscious of how I looked in that hairstyle! Not in a decade have I felt like that! It was so "bad", I had even a comb in my drawer in the hospital! I had not carried a comb for 5 years and now this? I was flabbergasted went in fact I should be more worried about learning to walk again!

A chance came when I decided I wanted to have a crew-cut. I've always wished I had a bald-'do.but never had the courage to, remembering the time when I did indeed have a bald-look, was when I was 18-ish year old, and cut my hair for the Army, and looked like an Alien Conehead with a sharp-dome! (But then again I had a 28 inch waist and a jawline to die for … *man-sob*). Now that I've past forty and possess a respectable waistline (*cough*), perhaps I' not have a conehead as before innit?

[Having my hair cut crew at Changi General Hospital]

I'd loved my new crewcut. Suddenly, nothing else seemed to matter then. Free from my decade of burden and worldly vanity, I feet free to do anything! And by anything, it included learning to walk and balance again. Not having hair gave me the confidence to meet people face-front again, ironically so. And I did. And maybe the eye-patch helped too (in looking "unique") and perhaps folks all around were extremely helpful in providing "positive reinforcement" when it came to helping patience regain their confidence and feeling good .. but it didn't matter to me then, I had my confidence to move forward, and nobody can ever ask for more than that.

[Leaving St Andrew Community Hospital on Christmas Eve]

Fast forward the now, with my hair slightly grown out, I'd still use a comb to kept it intact (altho never do carry one along with me) and I sort of like it where it's at, although a tad longish, and near everyday waking up with a bad-hair-day, I'd still trudge along as best I can.

Hair aside, having being to sit in a wheelchair all these while, and left me donning tees and board-shorts, because frankly, I'm sitting down anyways, yeh? But on Monday, I had returned my leased wheelchair and begun walking free with a walking cane (I consider "limping" mildly still "walking" ;p), and I had a Dental Appointment Tuesday, which had both made me comb my hair, and wear something else other than a board-short, because I ha wanted to look decent in public ~ by gawds I was VAIN again!

Tis somewhat like re-living my life decade again, a new lease of life I can journey forth into, and that is a chance I intend to walk well and good into, IMHO, hair-combs be damned!



Walking On

With a newly bought metallic-pink walking cane in hand, I'd scamper across more floorspace than I ever have had in the past four months of suffering from Stroke, this warm Monday today.

Earlier in the day, I'd attend my morning rehabilitation session at St. Andrew's Community Hospital (OT on Mondays), and I was wheeled in on a wheelchair, which was promptly returned to the shop (it was a rental, and I reckon it is time to anyways), and limped out of the session on the new cane. I had purchased a second-hand cane the week prior, but seems it was near 2 inches too short, as frowned upon by my physiotherapists, so being stingy did not much pay off (am still keeping the cane tho ;p).

I had earlier admitted to both the PTs and my family, that it was my "fear" that had kept me from walking with a 4-Legged-Walker or cane in public. The fear of falling is a constant regardless of how safely I might try to maintain, no doubt ~ but moreso the fear of others, who might not, DO NOT know how to react to a man with a walking cane ~ hell, I have issues moving around in a goddamned wheelchair, much less walking free!

[Me in wheelchair at the beginning of my 2nd month in hospital stay in
November 2010, being wheeled to St Andrews. Yes that is a seat-belt!]

The in-built lack of empathy generally for others latent in average Singaporeans, scares me. I may be over-imagining a lot, but the 2 months in wheelchair has shown me otherwise. Just in the morning, while waiting for a cab by the roadside to rehab, a strapping young man literally walked 10-ish metres in front of me in a wheelchair, and flagged a cab down. Yeh sure he is in a mad rush. Yeh sure he is a nice guy at heart and treats his friends well. Yeh sure he did not see me in my wheelchair by the side of the road … nah, we are not living in a Korean television serial where most folks are blind to surrounds around them, yeh?

Regardless of my nativity and man-bitching, life does go on, and an incident like that is sadly accepted as a main-stay in my life now, regardless if I am in a wheelchair, or not. Ironically, I have no idea how his face looks like, as I reckon it is harder to "hate" and be angry with someone, if you do not see their face in your mind (Remember Wong Ka Wai's "In The Mood For Love"? Where you were never actually shown the faces of Tony's wife, or Maggie's cheating husband? Heh).

Back in reality, I remember walking head-high to the canteen in Changi Hospital for an early lunch, where I had bumped into a small group of doctors for my stay in Changi (for the first month of getting Stroke), also getting their lunch! To their credit they remembered me and asked how I was doing. All the smiles and "thumbs up" they had given then had such a positive effect on me, lunch somehow tasted better too LOL

No matter how I pretend it did not matter as much, it did, and the boost of confidence really helped the day pass better, even later in the afternoon, when I made my way to the Chinese acupuncture sessions (three times a week, mind), which ended up with me and my sis (a chaperone I have still, mind) purchasing a box of pizza and an awesome loaf of cinnamon-infused bread (super nice! super guilty with my diabetes! treat myself! sugar-rush!).

Today is a milestone day for me. Today I take yet another step towards "independence", and hopefully an eventual recovery in full, when I can chuck away my walking cane (of course I will donate it for free at the hospital) and sashay down any street, any lane, any pathway laid before me.

I had mentioned on my FB that my life's priorities have changed after the Stroke, and they indeed have altered my life's habits and aims, and today seems like one of those "first days", in many more "first days" to come, and I am fine with that.

Cheers to more glorious days ahead!


Tong-Kat-ing It And The Price Of Words

Funnily enough, it all started with a walk outside around the compound of the rehab space I had been spending my mondays and thursdays in. Both my OT and PT (which is "Occuppational Therapist" and "Physio Therapist" to you folks) had been speaking to me at the end of my rehab day on Thursday, which had seen me standing (always leg apart, though constantly trying to stay arallel and less than a feet apart toes pointing straight front) at the reception counter.

We were going on about the non-usage of the wheelchair (for which they highly encourage me not to use) and the usage of a single-cane (known as a "tongkat" here, a literal Malay word/description) in my life, where I was more insistent on utilizing a 4-Legged-Walker instead, remembering and recollecting a PT in my earlier days of Stroke, who had not wanted me to use a tongkat, simply because she feared I night end up with a habitual weird one-sided limp. And I had understood and agreed with her all these months too.

Then I was "dared" to have a go around the compound outside of the space, with a tongkat (well, truth be told, it was "heightened persuasion") and besides, both my OT and PT will be beside me, so the fear of falling wasn't messing too much in my head! And off I went …. and it was a decent round too.

Reassuring comments came thick, afters ~ "walking with a proper gait", "walking straight" and smooth be this usually wobbly shuffler, and I ended up in the neighborhood second hand shop, picking out a second hand cane for SGD$5! (Usual fancy adjustable metal cane cost SGD$16.90 per - even the lady at the shop told me to go check out the 2nd hand place first LOL).


And with that, I have a cane to depend on walking free outside, rather than a wheelchair (which I abhor anyways, and as well the rental-lease is up lol). And that is a weight lifted where I had not imagined it to be, before.

The plan "before", was to go from my wheelchair, to my 4-Legged-Walker, to free walking. I have had the stigma of a cane from the get go, I admit. But all it took was a "chance" walk around, and no doubt verbal assurance, to shake my self-belief system, and dared think and imagined beyond it.

A lot of times folks do not seem to cater to, is the need for psychological support of a Stroke victim in the early stages. A whole lot of folks insist on a strong family structure (which I firmly and whole-heartedly believe in), but perhaps many a times, folks might not take stock in the subsequent support a victim needs (non-hospital or rehab folks, if course), and the constant requirement of it ~ and I do not mean a in-your-face preach too, or even "tough-lurve" for that matter (it might work for you, but never me ~ and neither is it ever appreciated). It is the support (both factual and illusionary haha) that folks need, for them to know they will not walk alone, in the road to recovery, and even beyond. The decision, of course, is left to the individual. But what you do not see, might be the tangible but precious help to carry that person for miles longer more, before he or she can walk by himself/herself, IMHO.

In a world where the physical fact is the inability to walk, "words" somehow play a stronger act than anything action ever possible. You can choose what to say whenever you want to say it (and no one can tell you otherwise) but know that words mean something to some folks, and you cannot control the effects of what you had meant to say, versus saying it "right".

Cheers :)