Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Albert Einstein and "Give me therapy!"

Tomorrow will be a red letter day for me.
Tomorrow, I will complete the last day of my therapy sessions. It will be 3 years and 46 days since my first stroke.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it also seems like yesterday.

Since the strokes (and assorted other things like seizures, ER visits, and worry) I have been doing all sorts of therapy including speech, physical, occupational, reading, vision, acupuncture, massage, and hypnosis therapy.

I cannot fathom the hours of appointments I have had. I cannot calculate the hours of “homework” I have done. I cannot imagine the countless hours striving to be back to “normal.”  And, it comes down to this: I am blessed in countless ways, but I will never be back to normal. However, it has taken 3 years and 46 days for me to count my blessings and realize I have a pretty good life.

Certainly, I miss “Mark Dunham.” 

I miss a lot of things from my old life. I miss reading. I miss helping my son with his homework. I miss math! I miss not having headaches when I concentrate. I miss making a difference at the legislature. I miss not being scared all of the time about having another stroke. I miss driving on the freeway. I miss not being scared when I drive anyway. I miss being in complete control of my life and my fate. I miss not worrying about money. I miss not worrying about our son’s future. I miss not needing a nap. I miss doing my blog right now without a headache!

Simple needs!

3 years and 46 days….

Yet, I am busier than I ever thought. Between  board meetings like the College of Western Idaho, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the Idaho Chapter of the American Heart and Stroke Association, and other assorted duties and chores, I am astounded that my schedule is so demanding.

My neurologist keeps cautioning to slow down. “Resign from some boards. Take it easy.” However, I cannot. I like to be busy and contribute. I cannot do “nothing.”     

Nevertheless, I have really been trying to take her advice to heart. I cancel unnecessary lunches and meetings. When I have options, I try to participate in stroke support groups rather than board or legislative commitments.

When I miss support groups, I can tell. I need those people. I need to be refreshed. I need other stroke survivors. Perhaps it is like AA. My 12 step program. I almost physically need my stroke survivor friends.

At support groups, we laugh and cry together. We have common solutions and concerns. When we cannot express something because of aphasia, we understand. We laugh that often people cannot imagine that we cannot write or sign a signature or complete the alphabet.

So, though my official therapy sessions are concluding, my life of therapy is not. I have so much therapy to do at home. Everyday. For example, in one year, I need to write the alphabet backwards. I have to do eye and vision therapy forever. To reduce headaches, I need to do physical exercises but not elevate my heart rate too much!

My life is a balance. Do not do too much but do not waste away.As Albert Einstein “Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Darth Vader, Strokes, and Sleep Apnea

When I was a kid, my parents recorded me snoring. I was embarrassed. I was about 10. Throughout my life, I routinely made sure I would not snore. Never sharing rooms, staying awake, etc. My dad snored as well.  

Years ago, my doctor asked about my sleep. I thought I slept well usually. However, I realized I was often tired. My wife (bless her) is a sound sleeper but she made sure she went to sleep before me!

Dunham Sleep Study 2009
In 2009, I had a sleep study. The results were startling and somewhat concerning. The sleep doctor noted that I rarely completed a deep sleep. He said it was one of the worst cases of sleep apnea he had encountered.

From the Mayo Clinic: “Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night's sleep.”
I have “Obstructive sleep apnea,” the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
On the advice of my doctor and the sleep “guy,” I was fitted for a CPAP Machine. “Continuous positive airway pressure” (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It includes a small machine that supplies a constant and steady air pressure, a hose, and a mask or nose piece. Common problems with CPAP include a leaky mask, trouble falling asleep, and a dry mouth or nose."

THAT is an understatement.

I wore it in the beginning often, but I stopped using it routinely several years ago. I rationalized that my sleep apnea wasn’t too bad, I hated the CPAP Machine, and my wife and son slept despite my snoring.    

I knew I snored a lot. I did not realize that sleep apnea could cause many health issues. The concept of stroke and sleep apnea never entered my brain.

Dunham Sleep Study 2015
Who knew that a stroke – or two – WOULD enter my brain with the resulting 20% loss of brain tissue, aphasia, apraxia, and the assorted “excrement” I have to deal with forever.  My life has changed because of strokes and perhaps sleep apnea.

Despite what I knew, I still did not wear my CPAP Machine. They are incredibly uncomfortable. 

I had two strokes and a seizure. Great. 

My neurologist told me that I should do another sleep study. I did the sleep study after that.

Since that sleep study, I have researched a lot about stroke and sleep apnea.

A new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows “that moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with an increased risk of stroke, cancer and death.

Results of the 20-year follow-up study show that people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea were four times more likely to die (hazard ratio = 4.2), nearly four times more likely to have a stroke (HR = 3.7), three times more likely to die from cancer (HR = 3.4), and 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer. Results were adjusted for potential confounding factors such as body mass index, smoking status, total cholesterol and blood pressure.

“Sleep apnea is a common disease that has a powerful impact on public health because it greatly increases the risk of strokes, cancers and mortality from any cause,” said lead author Nathaniel S. Marshall, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical trials at the University of Sydney in Australia.”

I get it.

But, I hate it. I am so frustrated anyway because I will live with the effects of my strokes forever. Forever. My life is different.  I thought my life "was over.” It is not, but I miss “me.” 

Nonetheless, I am waiting for an appointment to be fitted with a new damnable CPAP machine.

I hate the machine, but, if I want to see my son grow up, I need to use a CPAP Machine. It's like a Darth Vader Mask....

CRAP or CPAP. Same difference. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"What would Lincoln do?" "Add the Words" Idaho


There have been a lot of stories about the Idaho Legislature’s stance about LGBT  (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). For nine years, the LGBD community  has sought equal protection using the Idaho Civil Rights Act.

For years, the LGBT community, friends, loved ones, etc. have used this tag line: "Add the Words" in reference adding four words, 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity,' to Idaho’s Human Rights Act

This year, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee finally granted the hearing. The three days of testimony was heart wrenching. The committee did not support the legislation but this was a step  in the right direction.

It is sad that in general, Republican have the perception of NOT supporting the LGBT community. I have always voted Republican.  But it seems I am “out of touch” because I am an economic conservative and a social liberal. Most of my Republican friends would add the words. Republicans are not bigots.

When I studied economics, I loved this phrase:  Laissez-faire is French term and literally means "let [them] do," but it broadly implies "let it be," "let them do as they will," or "leave it alone."   

For me, from the board room to the bedroom, "let it be."

I am hopeful that the testimony helped legislators to understand. Legislators want to do the right things. This IS right.  

My fellow Republican brethren, ask this question:  "What would Lincoln do?"

I believe Abraham Lincoln would have added the words.   

I cannot stand discrimination whether it is racial or LGBT.

From when I was I child, I “knew” that some of my friends were “different.” I did not know term “LGBT,” and I did not care. They were friends of mine regardless. They still are.

People have been asking why I care so much. I will tell you why.

When I was eight in 1970, my parents got divorced in Twin Falls, Idaho. Our mother rented a small house. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was in its infancy and enforcement was almost nonexistent.

Ultimately the landlord (A Realtor) booted out our mom and her four boys. He did not approve of a divorcee raising four boys as a single mother.

Years later, when I was the CEO of the Idaho Association of Realtor's, I made speeches for 19 years throughout Idaho about fair housing. 

I did a speech in Twin Falls (my hometown) about fair housing. After the speech, the Realtor who kicked out our family shook my hand.

I said, "Do you remember me?"

He said, "I do not think so. Should I?"

I responded saying, "When I was 8 years old, you did not approve of my mother because she was divorced. You kicked her out with four boys. Now, because of the Federal Fair Housing Law, I make speeches about housing discrimination using you as an example. My goal is to make sure that you will never hurt another person like my mother and me. You should still be ashamed."

He was very embarrassed. 

Discrimination is very personal for me, in housing and otherwise.  I do not respect bigots.

Protecting LGBT friends is just the next step.

I am hopeful that Idaho will step up and add civil rights for everyone like LGBT.  We will get there.

I am reminded of this poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out...

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out...

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out...

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

For Idahoans who do not support equal rights for all, I think of the poem. Someday, it might be them suffering discrimination.