Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stroke, Rote learning, and TV remotes!

When I was a child the first time I saw a TV remote I was mesmerized. I was shocked that you didn't have to walk to the TV to change a channel. This was in the late 60s.

When I bought my first TV when I was about 20, the cost to have a TV with a remote was very expensive. 

Fast forward to today's TVs and remotes, it is a given to have a TV remote. TVs, technology, and remotes are expected. They "are" like air and water. Working a TV remote is "rote."

Definition of "Rote:  1 : The use of memory usually with little intelligence; learn by rote.”

It is a very simple yet obscure word. When you have a stroke, the meaning of rote -- "memory usually with little intelligence" -- doesn't tell the whole story.

The first inkling I had about my stroke that early morning when it happened, I could not turn on the TV with the remote.

"How odd," I thought! I used a TV remote thousands of times before. When the stroke happened, the fact that I could not use the TV remote was a sobering first clue that I was having a stroke.

Tried and tried to get it to work. A television remote is rote until the complicated maneuvers made no sense in the midst of my stroke.

When my second stroke happened (in the hospital three days after the first stroke) my TV remote was a clue for me. I could not operate the TV remote even though I was getting better in the hospital. And then "BAM!," I had a massive stroke. Was paralyzed and I could not get to the call button to alert the nurse. I laid helplessly watching TV until they found me.

After that second stroke when I was in the hospital for two weeks, the hospital TV remote was very simple. However, it took me several days to figure out the simple TV remote until it became rote.

When I came home, I was nervous about that TV remote -- the intial scene of the crime as it were! I was very apprehensive to see if I could figure out that damn TV remote.

And I could not. I would try to change channels and I just volume, but I got so confused and angry.

My wife was very patient trying to explain how to use the TV remote. Over and over, I practiced and tell it became rote.

Simple tasks like using a TV remote when you have a stroke is mind boggling. Pun intended! 

Rote is an obscure term until you have a stroke. The brain tries to make new pathways: TV remotes, personal grooming, cooking, driving, having relationships, adjusting to not working again, etc. 

When the fog clears in your head when you have a brain injury, the mind takes over. Rote is the way the brain helps an individual to recover. When the haze clears in your brain, a TV remote is so commonplace that you don't have to think about rote. It just "is".

I'm going full circle. I am channel surfing just like I was that awful morning when I could not figure out my TV remote.

It's good and bad. I am channel surfing a lot. Because I can. The problem is I'm watching too much TV.

Because I can!

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