Written by Rebecca Schmidt-Lachlan, Altered Abilities
Thank you for joining me for the 3rd instalment of my blog series, for those who have just taken a look now…. I suffered a brain stem stroke that left me in a pretty bad way. You can read more about my journey in Advocacy in Hospital and Advocacy during Rehabilitation.
Learning it’s time to leave
At a certain point, the inevitable day comes where you are told it is time to go home. ‘Are you serious?’ was all I could get out at the time. There had been previous discussions alluding to my time in hospital coming to an end but now it was here I was ecstatic. Seven and a half months made each new day seem like ground hog day and I couldn’t believe it actually had come to an end. It gave me time to pack up all my clothes and toiletries along with all the different types of wonderful arm splints I had accumulated along the way, my awesome motivational sign had been lost after leaving Prince of Wales Hospital but I still had my Melbourne Storm blanket that had made it from the very beginning.
It also allowed that extra time to say goodbye to the friends made during my stay (both staff and other patients). Organising gifts for those people that had supported me in the recovery journey was an important part of getting ready to leave. Each person had given me a new perspective and coping skill that I would always be grateful for. It wasn’t important whether it came from a store or was hand-made, the main thing is it came from the heart and expressed gratitude to the people who helped me make progress.
This was the point I started thinking of what life will look like at home. So much had changed although being wrapped up in cotton wool forever didn’t sound like my cup of tea. Sure, a little extra help might be needed at the beginning but at the same time I would like the chance to challenge myself and improve. It was important to express my expectations for the type of assistance I would like once back in familiar environments. This gave a clear message to myself of where I wanted to be while helping the supports around me to understand where assistance may be required.
Sourcing the right services for you
Making my way around the various departments used each day, I asked if there were any Outpatient Services available in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Hydrotherapy. Each type of therapy was relevant to helping me get back to the level desired. Physiotherapy would aid with my mobility; Occupational Therapy provided the life skills for everyday tasks. While my written skills were still great although a little shaky, Speech Therapy would help the control of my verbal expression and the voice levels needed a bit of work. Hydrotherapy was a fun way to socialise and get used to different movements in an environment where it didn’t hurt when I fell. That was a massive bonus, there had been a few spills along the way and it gave me that extra layer of security to know the worst that could happen was a little water up my nose.
I also sought out the Illawarra Brain Injury service as they were able to give me additional support with my speech, offer socialising opportunities and eventually psychology assistance to take a cognitive test when I wished to return to driving. At first, I was very hesitant to opening myself up to certain groups and wanted to feel I was in a safe space where everyone understood the issues I was facing. Surrounding myself with people that made me comfortable helped to build my confidence before making my way back into the community.
Creating a timetable for your needs
My decision to approach rehabilitation like a job paid off in the long run as I saw this as an everyday task. The inner fighter in me wanted to try and improve something every day whether it be strength, endurance or an ability I found challenging. Basic housework and meal prep were high on the agenda, the next thing was the transport side. At first that was provided by outpatient transport services for trips to hospital. Further into my rehabilitation, I took on the challenge of a taxi where managing the payment side added the extra challenge as well and eventually, I got even braver to walk to the nearest bus stop and feel the accomplishment of doing it all on my own. This helped sort out my schedule to work in tandem with my appointments and manage the time required on transport each day.
Looking beyond the hospital
Once the routine had been gotten down pat, I looked to add a few more activities to my social schedule. I spoke to the day rehabilitation people at the hospital to join my local Stroke Recovery Association Groups for more outings and bus trips. Looking into the local disability service organisations I was able to see what they had that may tie in with my road to recovery. My connection with these services allowed me the chance to see what fit in well to progress in my own personal journey. I knew my situation was unique and aligning with people that understood what I wanted to achieve was the most important part of the process.