Friday, December 12, 2014

Stroke survivors and rehab

I was on the news this week about strokes and rehab. Though I am a private guy, I was asked to share my strokes story because my goal is to help other stroke survivors and their love ones and give them hope. 

Here's the segment:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Great article about aphasia

Why Some Stroke Survivors Struggle With Communication
From Health Day April 15, 2013
MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News)  

A shift of language function to the right side of the brain hampers some stroke survivors from recovering their ability to read, write and to say what they mean, a new study indicates.

The inability to do these things is called aphasia, and is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language.

The study included 27 right-handed adults who survived a stroke in the left side of their brain. Those who recovered from aphasia showed a return to normal patterns of having language function on the left side of the brain, according to the findings in the current issue of the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

“Overall, approximately 30 percent of patients with stroke suffer from various types of aphasia, with this deficit most common in stroke with left middle cerebral artery territory damage,” lead investigator Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, of the departments of neurology at the University of Alabama and University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, said in a journal news release.

“Some of the affected patients recover to a certain degree in the months and years following the stroke. The recovery process is [affected] by several known factors, but the degree of the contribution of brain areas unaffected by stroke to the recovery process is less clear,” Szaflarski explained.

The findings provide new insight and may help lead to improved language rehabilitation methods for stroke survivors, according to the researchers.
The study authors noted that a shift of language function to the right side of the brain can help aphasia recovery in children who have suffered a left-hemisphere injury or stroke. But this type of shift in adults may hamper recovery, because they rely on the left side of brain for maintaining and recovering language ability.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Talking Heads, "Blame Canada," and time is an asterisk

The lyrics from the song “Once In A Lifetime” includes the refrain “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads. I think of the song often when I realize that our son is getting older. He is almost 10 year’s old but he thinks he is older than his actual age. He wants to do so many “adult” things like driving fast expensive cars, have a great career just to buy “stuff,” and to buy a huge mansion. He talks about "his kids" as well. No mention of a spouse yet! 

He is planning his life without a clue about what life entails.

I let him wander in his hopes and dreams though we try to make sure that he is grounded in reality. I do not want to shatter his dreams but he need to be realistic about life, expectations, and limits. We caution him to know that money and success are not what life really should be about. Being a good kid when you are 10 years old will make you successful throughout your life: spiritually, financially, physically, and emotionally.

But he still eagerly dreams about life which is a good thing. Like the song says,

And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

On the other hand, I hope the subsequent lyrics will not hold through in his life:

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

For now, I treasure our son and his numerous quirks, sayings, and funny outbursts like these:  

Listening to my son and his friend Hayden, they were discussing college. When they room together in a dorm, Hayden wants to have the top bunk. Ethan said, "Dang it! It will smell too bad when you are above me.”

He also thinks they will live in the “domes” rather than the “dorms.” His standard answer when we correct him: “Whatever dude.” And then he giggles.

The good news, Ethan believes he will spend six years in college including graduate school. "You have to have a Master’s degree to get a Lamborghini Gallardo! Or a Hummer. Maybe both. But Dad, if you gave me a smart car for my first car I would have to blow it up. Just saying.”

Chanting during a swimming lesson, Ethan told me “Dad. When you are diving, the trick is to be one with the water. Hmmmm.”

On one of the rare occasions when the whole family goes to the movie theater, Ethan whispered to me saying, “We need to take tape when Mom's goes to the show. She never stops talking! She does not get 'silence your cell phone.' Sheesh!”

Last fall, he was excited that a meteor shower might be visible. However, he said, “Dad. I hope the meteor shower will miss our backyard, won’t destroy the house, my room and my Xbox.”

Ethan likes to listen to hip-hop music. I like some of it also. However, I am trying to broaden his musical horizons making him listen to classic rock songs sometimes when we drive. The other day, we were listening to “Why Can't We Be Friends” by the band War. He said to me, “Dad! That is a catchy tune. I really like it. Oh NO! What is wrong with me?”

On another drive, he repeated something, and I said, “You already told me about that.” He laughed, and said, “Dad. I have the Saxton gene! I repeat myself, a talk very loud, and talk a lot!” “The Saxton Gene” refers to his mom whose maiden name is “Saxton.”

I usually say very irreverent – sarcastic is a harsh word – just to rile up Ethan. His new tactic when I do this is sighing and saying “Dad. You are so sad in so many different ways.”

Our son likes his Xbox. We monitor his on-line activities a lot.  We make sure that his on-line friends are the same age, we have a lot restrictions about privacy, etc. Recently, he told me that he “unfriended" a boy. I said, “I thought you like that kid.” He said, “Dad. That kid is very annoying. He is Canadian. He has a weird accent. And he yodels. A lot. I cannot concentrate on my game because he his a Canadian yodeler.”

Ethan wants a husky dog. I said,  “That will never happen. They are too big and they shed too much. Our lifestyle will not allow that kind of dog."   He said, but, the blue eyes are so adorable.” I said that I have blue eyes too. Ethan responded, "Really Dad.  You’re eyes are ugly NOT adorable like mine.”

At a restaurant, background music was a disco song called “Good Times.” Ethan asked if the singer was Michael Jackson. I said, “No, the singer was a woman and Michael Jackson was a man and he died several years ago.”  Ethan said, “Well, she sounds like a dead Michael Jackson.”

Trying to get our son ready for a basketball practice, he would not hurry. Irritated, I said, “Why do you challenge me all of the time!” He laughed and said, “In Mom’s belly, I was warm and comfortable. I did not want to be disturbed. So, I was born difficult!”  

The Catholic Church owns a house across the street from us. The Bishop retired, and a new Idaho Catholic Bishop will be installed in December.  We have no kids in our neighborhood, and our son is often lonely as a result.  Whenever a house goes up for sale in our neighborhood, he hopes to find a boy the same age as him. When I told him that the Bishop will be leaving the neighborhood, he excitedly said, “I hope the new Bishop will have a boy or two!” I said, “Hmmm…Well….a new Catholic Bishop is a priest. No kids. Understand?” “Oh,” he said, “I got it now. Oops. Nevermind. I keep trying!"
At the dinner table, our family was laughing. I said something cynical, and my wife said, “You are grounded!”  Ethan retorted, “Mom! You cannot ground Dad because he's old. Really old!”

Out of the blue, Ethan said, “Dad. I am a gun nut. Guns and ammo. Deal with it.”

At a family dinner with relatives, we were discussing different foods. I said, “I really like split pea soup.” Ethan said, “Dad. You are disgusting. You are officially on my unfriend list now.”

Getting ready for bed, Ethan said, “Dad, I am multi-tasking: brushing my teeth and petting my dog. I am very talented.”

Yes he is. I hope he will continue to have such a life force. I will miss him when he grows up. I just want to enjoy this precious moments.  He will be gone before we know it.

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Look where my hand was 
Time isn't holding up 
Time is an asterisk 
Same as it ever was...

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Sounds of my Blog Being Silenced and "What's Up Doc?"

I am a very private person. However, a blog is very public especially when you write things about yourself that might uncomfortable. Talking about depression should not be uncomfortable but it usually is. 

In my mind, "Depression" is a dirty secret that people do not talk about. Especially, me. 

However, I have been trying to use my blog to educate people about stroke. Warts and all. "Stroke" is not pretty. Depression is not pretty. 

I try to do my blog every week; however, I have not done it for many weeks because I have been very depressed.  "Depression" is common when you have strokes.

About 6 weeks ago, I was startled when I realized “this is basically it for my life.” Sure, I get better every day, but I will NEVER be back to what I was before. That is a shattering realization for me. Despite brain scans and doctors, I just assumed I would “back.” There is no going back for me. This is it.

Even though I have never really liked Simon & Garfunkel, their sad song -- Sounds of Silence -- is apropos for me right now in many ways.

“Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again, Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping, And the vision that was planted in my brain Still remains Within the sound of silence.”

My blog has been silenced.

Even though I know depression is common after strokes, I did not think I needed any help. “Anti-depressants” are for weak people. I remember my parents saying that people you need anti-depressants were crazy and pathetic.

Intellectually, I am smarter than this. I do realize that people need help. But, I just assumed that, even after my having strokes and seizures, I was strong to need any help. “Buck up” was one of my motto's.

One of my favorite movies is “What's Up, Doc?” is a 1972 screwball comedy  starring Barbra StreisandRyan O'Neal, and Madeline Kahn. In the movie, Streisand’s father is a judge who is exasperated and tired. In a funny scene, the judge talks to his bailiff:  

Judge Maxwell: You see this yellow pill?

Bailiff: Yes sir.

Judge Maxwell: You know what it's for?

Bailiff: What, Judge?

Judge Maxwell: To remind me to take this BLUE pill!

Bailiff: What's the blue one for, Judge?

Judge Maxwell: I don't know. They're afraid to tell me."

Even though this is comical scene, is resonates for me. I do not like to take pills. On the other hand, I have no choice. Because of strokes and seizures, I have no other option: Take pills or die.

That should be an easy decision, but it not really when you are so depressed that you do not think there is any hope or relief.

I talked with my neurologist about my depression. My wife encouraged me to talk to her. I realize I need “something.” My family needs something to combat “me” and my depression.

My neurologist was somewhat surprised that I have not sought help sooner. She said, “When a devastating brain incident happens, depression is expected.  You are not weak. You are human and need help.”

She prescribed Zoloft.

Another pill I have to take…..

There is the definition:
“Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Zoloft is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
When I try to research medications, I get concerned about the side effects.
I was amazed that a side effect for Zoloft is to have “slightly improved verbal fluency but did not affect word learning, short-term memoryvigilanceflicker fusion time, choice reaction timememory span, or psychomotor coordination.  Memory, attention and alertness stayed unchanged. Divided attention was improved and verbal memory under interference conditions decreased marginally. Because of the large number of measures taken, it is possible that these changes were still due to chance. The unique effect of sertraline on dopaminergicneurotransmission may be related to these effects on cognition and vigilance.”
Since I started taking Zoloft, I have noticed that my speech is more fluid. When I do my vision therapy two times a week, my verbal memory and divided attention is getting noticeably better.  My therapist has noticed also. Who knew that the side effects would help me!
The stigma of taking anti-depressants pills for me is still a concern. However, I need to take them. My realistic and wonderful wife said this to me: "Anti-depressants will not make you happy. They will make me not be sad."

Hope so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Jesus Christ Superstar" and strokes

Last week I attended the Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council in behalf of the College of Western Idaho where I am a trustee. I came early to listen to several higher education intuitions present their building needs and wishes.

I know 4 of the 5 council members and many of their staffers. Before the meeting, many people shook my hand saying “It is great to see you!”

One person said, “You are completely normal. You are back! Good for you!”

I laughed and said, “I was ‘never’ normal, but, seriously, I will never be the same again.  20% of my brain is dead, and I have residual issues that will never get better. It is what it is. It could be worse.”

My statement was met with stunned silence and then a uncomfortable “Wow! But you seem so normal today.”

I said, “This is my new normal. I have issues that people do not even know about, but that is OK. I just try to live my life every day like it would be my last day.”

Today at my latest therapy session, I recounted that story. I said, “I feel that I am a broken record. People believe my recovery is complete because I look "fine." I am not.” My therapist said, “I should canned story like ‘I am getting consistently better and I am still working on some problems so I do therapy.'”

I feel almost ungrateful for my recovery. 

However, it has been almost three years since those strokes. I have no physical pain like some stroke survivors’, but the emotional toll resonates everyday.

One of my favorite movie musical is “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Perhaps my favorite song is Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)” where Jesus pleads with his father (“God”) not make him be crucified.  It is a tragic song about loss, devastation, and exhaustion.

After my stroke, I listened to that song over and over. Though the context is different, this lyric echos in my mind because of what I have been through:

“Then I was inspired, now I'm sad and tired
Listen, surely I've exceeded expectations
Tried for three years, seems like thirty
Could you ask as much from any other man?”

Amost “three years” of living, tears, therapy, and, yes, thankfulness for my life. I am happy but sad. Grateful but disheartened. Joyful for my family but trying to disguise depression.

If I had to describe one word about “me” today, it would be “family.” When I get depressed, feel lost, and despondent, I look at my son. I look at my wife. I think of my family.   It makes everything worthwhile. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two hospital in one day all because of my strokes....

On Wednesday afternoon, September 24, 2014, I attended the Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Center rededication.   The hospital remodeled the rehabilitation spaces, and it was about a $1,000,000 project. At the dedication, it was announced that it is now called a “Center” rather than just a part of the hospital located on the hospital's 3-West and 4-West floors.

It was odd for me to go to the celebration. Throughout my career, I have gone to hundreds of ceremonies like this dedication. I saw people at the dedication who I have known for years. It seemed like I was “there” just because I support so many causes. “Great! Mark Dunham is at the dedication! Of course, he is there because that is what he does to support the community.”

I chatted with many people, I ate wonderful hors d'oeuvres, talked with political junkie’s about the upcoming elections, and took a tour of the new remoldeled facilities like the therapy room, the nurses stations, the rooms, and the “Easy Street” where brain injury patients practice for everyday tasks. 

It was bizarre for me. I almost forgot that I was “here” as a patient not too long ago. I almost imagined I was “here” supporting the hospital in a official capacity like my role as a Board member at the College of Western Idaho or the American Heart and Stroke Association. Many people at the celebration knew I had strokes. However, many people did not. They assumed I was there to support the program as a public figure.

However, reality galvanizes my memory when I see my old room, Room 3447, where I thought my life was over. I could not even walk the hallway alone without a nurse beside me just in case I would fall.

On Easy Street, I could not recognize an apple or a orange. "Orange" was the worst: A color and a fruit! 

Saint Alphonsus has a wonderful Stroke Rehabilitation program. From their website:

Welcome to the Inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation Program at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (SARMC). We are located on the hospital's 3-West floor. The Stroke Program at SARMC has a highly experienced, skilled team of therapists specializing in assisting people recover from cerebrovascular accidents, also known as strokes.

The consequences of a stroke may cross the entire spectrum of medical, physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional and psychological problems. Because of this, SARMC provides a team of rehabilitation professionals who have specialized training in the treatment of individuals who have survived a stroke.

The Stroke Program at SARMC places a high priority on helping the patient and family deal with the effects of a cerebrovascular accident. Both the patient and the family are key members of the rehabilitation team and assist in goal setting and discharge planning. The team works together in a collaborative manner to meet the needs of each patient and family.

At the celebration, I talked to several therapists who helped me through those dark days. I talked to the doctor who oversaw my overall care. He patted me on my back saying “Wow! You look great!” I chitchatted with the nurse who I saw that first awful day with I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

We laughed. It has been less than three years. 

Even now, “this” is horrifying to me: “I had two strokes less than three years ago.”

It is ironic that the same morning, September 24, 2014, I attended a Aphasia Support Group at St. Lukes. I met two new participants who had strokes and have the obligatory aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria. 

I asked one woman if she could communicate via email. She said, “No because I cannot read. However, my husband helps. Here is his email.”

The problem, because of my strokes and aphasia, I still cannot hand-write at all!

We all laughed, and one stroke survivor said something like “It takes six stroke survivors to hand-write and copy a simple email address.”

In one day, two meetings, and two different hospitals, the truth of my life was so stark. I celebrate my recovery but I cannot do a simple task like writing a note.

The mockery of my life. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Strokes and our son

Mark and Ethan Dunham, January 21, 2012
The other day, I talked to my son about my strokes two and a half years ago. Now that he is 9 (going on 20 it seems), I asked him about his reaction when I had my strokes.

He was 6 when it happened.

I did remember falling in the family room, and he and his mom woke up startled. He said he was half asleep but he does remember yelling “call 911!”

After that, it was “kinda of a blur.” He said he was not scared though he hated the hospital.  “The smells were weird.”

Mark and Ethan Dunham, January 21, 2012
I asked him if my speech issues (I really could not talk at all) made him feel uncomfortable. “Not really,” he said. However, in realty, he did not talk to me much for a year.  He avoided me. When I would try to watch cartoons with him (a favorite pastime before the strokes), he stiffened.

One night in the hospital, my wife told me on a lonely Saturday night, “Get up, get dressed, and do NOT wear sweats. Our son needs to see you normal. Have the room very bright, and be standing up when we get into your room.”

I did all of that. I rehearsed my “speech” over and over. “Hey Buddy! How’s it going.” Over and over.  The fact that I, in my head, I could say “Ethan and Heather” was OK. However, I simply could not pronounce names and words at all. I really could not "feel" my right phantom arm. 

Mark and  Heather Dunham, January 21, 2012
That night was surreal. It was like an out of body experience. We took pictures to document that evening. 

What will happen to my family? I did not really care about what would happen to me. Just them.

When my family left, I wept.

The day a got out of the hospital was on our son’s 7th birthday. At the restaurant to celebrate his birthday and my release, I was so scared. When my son helped me to the restroom, I was even more sad. I assumed I was just a mental cripple.

From a CEO to a man who’s 7 year old son had to help me to tie my shoes.

Now, he does not remember those specific evenings. Perhaps that is his way of NOT remembering an awful time in our lives.

Now that he is 9 years old and in the Fourth Grade, sometimes he seems so melancholy. He has had to grow up too soon. 

Because of me.   

Funeral program

Last night after a BSU banquet, when I took off my suit, I found this in my pocket: Mom's funeral program. I haven't worn that suit since my mom's funeral almost 2 years ago. Sad

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stroke, possibilities and friendship!

Great article about two women who had strokes! It reaffirms that friendship and possibilities are endless!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Strokes: Is my recovery resignation or acceptance?

I went to a stroke support group this week and it was enlightening.

I have been going to that support group often on since my stroke 2 3/4 years ago. There are the "regulars." They are wonderful stroke survivors, and I have gotten to know them pretty well.

This week was different. The “regulars” (as I call them) shared their stories. However several new stroke survivors and their caregivers shared their compelling stories.

A woman in her mid-40s seems very normal. For the outside world, she seems "just fine" because of her outward appearance.

But after the meeting we talked about recovery possibilities and limitations. We both know how people treat us differently since our strokes. Because we look fine, people assume our recovery is complete. We are NOT complete. Until you have a stroke (or two like me!), people just cannot understand the emotions we go through in our daily lives.

Another new stroke survivor shared his emotional story. He is very successful and an alpha male. Like me, he was “in charge,” a leader and accomplished in every way.

However, since his stroke, the emotional toll he is experiencing is similar to mine.   He is just getting used to his “new normal.” He needs help just to do basic life skills. You feel like you are less of a man in many ways. You never needed any help at all, and, out of the blue, you cannot do anything alone.

Two other recent stroke survivors, talked about their limitations and their depression.

The roads they are going on are difficult. Their journey is just starting and they had no idea their life would take this awful difficult turn. I'm grateful that my strokes are behind me even though I know I will never be the same. 

But I've had almost 3 years to deal with the aftermath. The most recent stroke survivors are still dealing with the question of “why me?" Their anger is raw, palpable and understandable.

I'm not sure when I turned the corner realizing that I had to accept my strokes and get on with life.  Is my emotional recovery after my strokes resignation or acceptance?   Is there a difference?   

I am hopeful that I can help with these recent stroke survivors. They are “survivors,” but they just don't know it yet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Time For Letting Go

I went to the Idaho Governors Cup last week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. This is a annual event started when Gov. Cecil Andrus started a Idaho scholarship event 40 years ago. Last week, current Governor Butch Otter announced that the event raised $1.25 million for Idaho student scholarships.

It was a great event, and I saw so many people I have known through the years. When I started to lobbying when I was 23, I interacted with all of the governors: Andrus, Evans, Batt, Kempthorne, Risch, and Otter. Throughout my career, I have dealt with hundreds of legislators. I have lobbied in Washington, DC with Idaho’s congressional delegation. I have worked with countless mayors, county commissioners, city councils, and university and college presidents. At some point, I was elected twice to be on the College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees. So I am an elected official. Recently, Gov. Otter appointed me to be on the Board of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association which was a shock considering I had my strokes after he appointed me.

All the while, I juggled a demanding career in association management and college administration. Budgeting, HR, strategic planning, making speeches, testifying, traveling throughout the nation, teaching, etc.

Sometimes I do not realize how much I accomplished. Again, it is just "me."

It all started with a paint bucket when I was 20 years old.

My brothers had a construction residential company, and we built a house for the Director of the Southwest Home Builders Association. After work, the client would often visit the house during the construction. More often than not, he would sit with me drinking a beer with us sitting on 5 gallons paint buckets. We talked about my goals, and we loved to talk about politics.

In 1982, he left his job to take a position running a gubernatorial campaign for GOP candidate Phil Batt. He asked me to be the Boise State Coordinator for the Phil Batt campaign. I loved that! I met so many people, and I loved working in politics. However, Phil Batt lost.

Our homebuilding client and my mentor was out of a job. I was crushed in many ways. My mentor said, “There will be other campaigns. You have a great future. Keep in touch.”

And I did keep in touch. At that point, who knew Dirk Kempthorne
would be Boise’s mayor, a US Senator, and a Governor.

He wrote a letter of recommendation for me when I pursued my first “real professional” job in politics. I interned as the Assistant Lobbyist for the Idaho Association of REALTOR’S. In one year, I became the CEO of the REALTOR’S, and here I am today with 30# years of experience as a lobbyist,  elected official, a university administrator, and several CEO association positions.

Years ago when Gov. Kempthorne was seeking reelection, he called me and asked me to be the "Chair of the Kempthorne of the Lobbyist Group." I was flattered, and I asked “Why me?”

In a nutshell, he said, “You are perhaps one of the best lobbyists in Idaho. You are very effective yet everyone likes and respects you even your adversaries.”

Throughout my career, I have tried to live up to the standard that I set years ago. I strived to be effective and professional with integrity.

At the Idaho Governors Cup last week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, it was great to see Governor Kempthorne again

Throughout the event, I was humbled that so many people told me about “me” and the respect I still engender. I was happy that people still respect me.

On the other hand, I was troubled that so many people have told me that some of the organizations I used to run have been so polarized and politicized that they wish I was in charge. Certainly, organizations have political goals, and I know I made enemies. That is the nature of the political beast.  To be effective, you make enemies.

However, when I hear news about organizations which I still care about even though I have no role, it still makes me feel sad.  How do I stop caring?

Ethan and Gov. Butch Otter August 27, 2014
The National Association of REALTOR’S is considering disbanding small boards. I am saddened because I helped create a national program to help small organizations. Another organization I love is doing political “things” I would not do. There are so many examples where I think I could make a major difference. However, my time is passed.   

When my strokes happened, my second one was so severe everybody assumed I had memory loss. Memory loss is common for stroke survivors. The doctors knew that the 20% of my brain which is dead and I should have memory losses. They tested me, but my memory loss was insignificant.

The great news is I have a great memory. The bad news, I still care about things I have no business still caring about!

One of my favorite obscure singers is Jude Cole. He released a song called “
Time For Letting Go.” Though the song is about ending a love relationship, I have thought about this lyric over and over because of my inability to stop caring politically about things I have no control over.

"And way down deep inside
The time is telling me it's time for letting go
Let it go
I keep telling myself over and over
Let it go"

I will remember great professional memories like wonderful public officials who helped me throughout my career like Dirk Kempthorne 
and helped me when I had my strokes like Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. 

However, I will try to “let it go.” There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page or just closing the book. Perhaps I will should write a book myself.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Returning to therapy!

I took three months off of vision therapy, and I returned this morning.

Before my break, my eye doctor and I agreed that I should take a break. After all, 

I have been doing all sorts of therapy since my strokes 2 1/2 years ago.I just said, "I'm just so tired."Our fourth-grader started back to school on Wednesday. 

This morning I took him to school, and he complained jokingly saying, "I just don't want to go to school!"

I told him that we both had the summer off and now we are returning to school. 
Amazing but I'm still doing therapy. I'm still "doing school." I believe I have done over 400 sessions of therapy so far. 

From kindergarten through college, I excelled in school.

But my therapy is the toughest challenge I've ever had. 

This morning returning to therapy, I did well. But now I have a massive headache which is expected.

I assume when I pick him up after school, he will say, "I am so tired and fourth grade is so hard!" It's been four days.

You have no idea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Relevancy, getting back and giving back

On November 10, 2011, I wrote a blog post about sons and fathers. My son was six years old when I did that blog post.

Now he's nine.On November 10, 2011, I wrote about our son: "He  admonished me to get a different job such as a mechanic because they know how to do cool things, make lots of money, and don't have to travel."

Today, 2 3/4 years later, I am missing our son's first day of fourth grade at Sacred Heart school in Boise. I'm in Coeur d'Alene for meetings. 

I am missing him already.

It seems so normal. I hark back to when my son said I "should get a different job."
And here I am again. Is it worth it for me to strive so much to "get back" when I miss my son and my wife?

This morning, at that Idaho Governors Cup, Gov. Butch Otter sat down with me alone and asked how I was doing. His concern is so genuine. 

Six years ago at the Governors Cup in Coeur d'Alene, I left early to see my son's first soccer practice. When he checked out, I saw the governor hugged me and said, "That is what's important! Good For you!"

This week, several people expressed heart felt concerns for me even now. I am grateful and so many ways. 

But for the most part, most of these attendees think that I am just fine. After all, I am attending the Governors Cup representing thing the College of Western Idaho, laughing like I used to, traveling, and people say "Mark Dunham looks great (i.e. not paralyzed)! And his speech came back! Wow! He is really back! He seems so normal now."

My old normal self and my new normal self is completely different.

Seems it was eons ago when I wrote that post. So much has changed: Strokes, seizures, finances, disability, 20% of my brain is gone, the death of my parents, Aphasia and Apraxia, reading and vision issues, anger and depression but some serenity about my condition, and striving every day to "get back" and to make a difference in my family's life. I still try to make a difference in everybody's lives. I try to contribute many ways to help other people.

"Relevancy" in my career is different than relevancy see in life. Can I do it all? Time will tell.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Big Brothers, Sandwiches and Electric Typewriters

My brothers have been a big influence in my life. My brothers are different in some ways but similar in so many ways. I am the youngest of the four brothers, and I learned a lot from them.

When I was in the 8th grade preparing to preregister for 9th grade at O’Leary Junior High, one of my brothers suggested that I should take typing in the 9th grade not the 10th grade which was normal. He took typing in the 10th grade.

He said the typing teacher at Twin Falls High School had some issues with him. It involved a sandwich and electric typewriters. It seems that my brother did not really like typing, the teacher, and perhaps school in general.

The fact that the typing teacher had been teaching since the early 40’s predating electric typewriters was not the issue. It seems that my brother took a bite out of her sandwich when she was not looking and he also sabotaged one of the electric typewriters.

I took his advice and took typing in the 9th grade. I knew my brothers well.

That same fall with I was in the 9th grade, I took Drivers Education. That first day, the teacher said, “Do you have any brothers?”

“Hmmm….” I thought this might be a trick question.  I replied, “Dan?”

He thought about it, and said, “No. I did not know Dan. Any others?”

I responded quickly, “Maybe Steve?”

“I think I remember him, but don’t you have another brother,” he asked?

I sighed, and said, “Dirk.”

“Ah Hah! Dirk! I assume you think you can drive already because of Dirk!”

“Yep!” I said. Honestly, I was proud of him.

He always pushed boundaries, and always wished that I had his courage. Even now. 

I was so glad to take typing in the 9th grade. I could whiz through the typical test typing:  

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” in no time flat! 

Not just because of my ill-fated brother’s experience, It turned out to be the best class ever.

Typing prepared me for life. I wrote a regular column in my high school newspaper. After that, in college, word processing changed my life! I was just the fastest typist around. I could pound out articles, reports, op-ed pieces, and detailed, nuanced and thorough research written projects with no problems.

The stroke halted that in one instant. 

I could not even remember what  a letter was let alone the alphabet. The concept of typing was just “gone.” Because of apraxia and aphasia, when my therapist told me that “You HAVE to start writing again,” I said, “I cannot.”

Apraxia (from Greek praxis, an act, work, or deed[1]) is the inability to execute learned purposeful movements,[2] despite having the desire and the physical capacity to perform the movements. Apraxia is an acquired disorder of motor planning, but is not caused by incoordination, sensory loss, or failure to comprehend simple commands (which can be tested by asking the person to recognize the correct movement from a series). It is caused by damage to specific areas of the cerebrum. Apraxia should not be confused with ataxia, a lack of coordination of movements; Aphasia, an inability to produce and/or comprehend language; abulia, the lack of desire to carry out an action; or allochiria, in which patients perceive stimuli to one side of the body as occurring on the other. Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is the developmental disorder of motor planning.

I have been blogging for years, and after the stroke, it was very hard for me in many ways. Because of Apraxia, when I type the letters “P” and “K” are simply gone.

That old test when I type “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” is incredibly difficult.

When I write this blog, I do not look at the keys but I have to “talk” when I write. Here is a test:  When I copy this text “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country”, this is with I type: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their countyur.”

Now! This is real time! I just did this now. One mistake! Perhaps I am getting better! 

In honor of my brother, I will have a sandwich and keep typing!