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My Home Coming – A Year Later

4 May

A year ago today, I came home from the hospital 30 days after my brain aneurism happened.  I remember being in the hospital and working so hard with the PT’s and doctors so that I could get cleared to be home by my birthday on May 6th. What an amazing feeling when I was able to slowly and carefully walk on my own out of that door, get in the car and ride home. I remember my eyes filled with tears because I could not believe I had made it out. Wow!  It’s been a long road this year and I am so proud of how much my family and I have grown. I am so grateful for the many lessons I have learned and the life transformations that have occurred over the last year.  Thank you to my husband and my friends who have stuck by my side throughout it all.  I know it was challenging for you too and I am lucky to have such amazing people in my life. The journey is not over but I celebrate how far I have come.  I live each day with a life force that I have never known.  What’s next…continue recovery, starting a new career in life wellness coaching, speaking engagements, a little travel and most importantly maintaining life balance.  All while focusing on time with my kids, my husband and close friends and building a warm and welcoming home. Stay tuned…it just gets better from here!

 

Today, I am going to treat myself and get my nails done or maybe a foot massage.  I don’t know who with or where but I will head out after my Zumba class with Stacy and have a glass of champagne!

 

Love to you all,

Dianne

“Live the life you were meant to. Love from your soul. Laugh while your doing it.”  Dianne Maldonado Hill

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Update: 6 months later! October 2, 2011

2 Oct
Sunday, October 2nd 2011
After a long hiatus, I am back online again!  Wahoo! I am excited to finally have a little time to write again and share my experiences with you all!
It has been a long road of healing for me since my last post but I am getting stronger everyday.  Although filled with many happy times, the summer was tough for me especially after my brother moved out at the end June. Bobby was such a tremendous help to me and I love and miss him so much!  Bobby you are amazing and I am lucky to have you as my brother! In Bobby’s absence, I had the kids by myself for the last 6 weeks of summer while my hubby was back at work. Crazy times but I was so grateful just to spend time with my children. Because I was not able to drive very far, I could not do all the fun things I would have normally done with them so instead we spent lots of quality time together at our pool in the backyard.  The kids really did not care as long as they were with mom.
The kids are back in school now and adjusting to a new schedule away from mom. My 9-year-old, Travis, has struggled with what has happened to mommy and he has been sick one day each week since school started. I think he has just missed mom and did not want to be away from me.  He is doing better now and I am so happy he seems to feel safer.
How am I
If you follow me on Facebook then you know a little of how I have been doing.  I have continued to heal at a miraculous rate and now almost 6 months has passed since my hospitalization. I have been back at the gym and able now to work out on a regular basis about 5 days a week.  I have been focusing on rebuilding my strength with small weight workouts in the gym and regaining my endurance and coordination taking short runs, spin and cardio dance classes at AVAC with group exercise instructor extraordinaire Stacy Dunnett. Stacy is an amazing friend to me and has been both a motivation and an inspiration to me throughout my recovery.  Much love and many thanks to you Stacy!  I LOVE that my dance classes are assigned PT for me.  It’s coming back slowly but surely. Yay!!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I injured my rotator cuff when I passed out during my aneurysm.  My shoulder was injured when I fell unconscious holding the bar bell in my hands. The bar bell weight I was still holding at the time fell overhead while I was lying down on a bench with 2 risers and I rolled my right arm way beyond normal limits. It’s hard to explain. Regardless, I have a severely torn rotator cuff in my supraspinatus tendon which has caused many painful and sleepless nights the last 6 months. The doctor is amazed at my pain tolerance and that I can do so much without feeling pain. I am just happy I have been able to be functional the last few months. I will be in a sling for about 4 weeks and I will not be able to drive for most of it then I am back to PT again another 2 – 3 months after that. I was supposed to get my shoulder fixed in July but the doctors decided it was best to wait 6 months before going under any kind of anesthesia.  SMART move!  My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4th at 11:15am.  It is outpatient surgery so I will be recovering at home.  If anyone wants to help with meals or rides you can sign up as a volunteer at https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/640838/login/.  It’s a bit of a pain so you can also just email me.  No worries, you thoughts and prayers are enough.
Although physically I am doing well, all the emotional and the expected post traumatic symptoms are coming up now.  My family and I are handling it all the best we can and we are doing just fine because of the support and love from our wonderful family, friends and a few therapists.  I will post more on this topic soon.
I will continue to update more regularly now that I am feeling better and the kids are back in school. I am looking forward to the next post after my surgery on Tuesday. Wish me luck!
Love you all,

Dianne

Update – Week 14

17 Jul

Saturday, July 17th, 2011

Hi all!  It has been 14 weeks since April 7th, 2011.  I will never forget that date.  My recovery is going well and I received some really fantastic news this week.  I have been officially released from my first session of PT, OT and SP!  This is an amazing milestone for me.  I went into my outpatient therapy testing at 54% functional and was just released because I am now testing at 94% functional compared to “normal” standards.  This does not at all mean that I am fully recovered but just that I am doing well with regard to physical recovery and that I can physically take care of myself. This means that I can walk without falling (which is really good because I could not do that before this all happened), dress myself and take a shower without assistance, go up and down the stairs, shop and drive.  I could NOT do these things when I first started my outpatient therapy.

As I passed these tests easily this week, I realized just how far I have come.  I had tears in my eyes all day.  I so wanted to toast my milestone right then and there!  When you are going through it day by day, you tend to forget where you started and how far you have come because you are still not where you used to be.

I have to mention my phenomenal PT’s Mary and Paul.  Mary worked with me on my big motor skills and really getting me where I am today.  She is amazing and so, so nice.  I always looked forward to my therapy with her and telling her what had happened since the previous visit.  Here’s a huge thanks to you Mary, when you read this. Paul worked on my chronic neck and shoulder pain and will be my PT after my shoulder surgery.

Over the past 2 weeks I have been able to increase my cardio and core work.  I am now doing an alternating jog/skip about 2 miles in my neighborhood and I have been able to go to Zumba a little more.  I still can’t make it through a class without resting intermittently but it is still so fun and it feels so good to be moving and dancing with my friends again.  My PT and brain therapist recommended that I take dance classes to help with my memory recovery by connecting the muscle memory with the cognitive memory.  It seems to be working.  I think I am starting to remember some the routines without help which is very exciting for me too!

What left, what’s next

Although I have been released from therapy for now, unfortunately I still have to take care of my torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder.  I have had chronic shoulder pain from the day I woke up from my coma.  I have gotten an MRI and I am scheduled for surgery next week.  My shoulder was injured when I fell unconscious holding the barbell in my hands.  It’s hard to explain exactly what happened but it HURT!  I will be in a sling and it will be about 4 weeks of recovery from this surgery and then back to PT again.  I also have to continue to manage my energy and take naps everyday.  There is still fluid in my brain that is being absorbed and that process is still happening too probably for another 3 months.  I have to be careful that I don’t over stimulate my brain and I have to continue to rebuild my endurance level and muscle atrophy as well.

My friends have asked me about what good and bad days are like or what it’s been like going through those early days so that is the topic of the day.  I am going to share a couple of things I wrote about my bad days.

 Bad Days (written about 3 weeks ago)

In the beginning, there were definitively more bad days than good days.  The earlier bad days were filled with migraine headaches, nausea and too many drugs. Now my bad days are primarily mental vs. physical. Physically, although better I am still limited and have chronic neck and shoulder pain.  Sometimes, I look in the mirror at this person who does not even look like me.  My hair is short and half shaven ( a certain reminder of what happened), my pants don’t fit (from carb overload and lack of exercise), I am weak and flabby, I can’t do the things I used to do and I can’t remember things. Uggg…sometimes I just get depressed about all that.  I so miss Zumba and dancing, I soooo miss teaching and seeing my friends, my students.  Many times I begin to feel so bad about what I put my kids, husband, family and friends through during those first iffy 10 days.  Particularly with my son who was so affected by my long hospitalization and how awful I looked. He would not come to see me until my breathing tube was out and he wrote me heartbreaking cards.  I also have the typical stresses of life that seem to be particularly downhill right now.  The good news is that my thoughts about these “bad” things are short-lived.  I remember that I am alive and here.  That is a good thing regardless of what kind of day it is.

Written – Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Day and Rough Day

Today, I was officially, unofficially released from PT.  I went from a 54% functionality to 94% today. This is a pretty amazing milestone!  It was a great day.  I still have a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder that has caused pain from the day I woke up from my coma and I have to continue to build up my endurance and strength but I am still on the road to 100% recovery from the hemorrhage of my brain aneurysm,  It is truly a miracle that I am alive today and I will never take today for granted again.  When the possibility of having no tomorrow almost comes true, it changes who you are and how you see life.  Well at least it has for me.  Ok, so I still get frustrated because I am not as strong as I used to be or I can’t do the things that I used to right now.  I can’t remember things like I used to but it will all come back in time and if it doesn’t I will just have to adjust to the new me in all it’s glory.  I am truly grateful for my second chance at life and I am humbled by the opportunity to do something that matters however small or big that is.  I am not sure what that is but it will come in time.  I want to be back to myself now but I realize that today this is me and I will live this day who I am now and not with the frustration of what I am not yet or what I used to be.  It’s difficult and I cry a lot about it but overall I think my attitude about how I will get through this is good.  Today I had a lot of memory loss experiences.  It was a bad brain day.  Maybe not enough sleep or something but I could not remember names, things, choreography…oh it was so, so frustrating.  I cried way too much today.

Bad or good, live today and make the best of it because you just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  More coming soon:)

Love you all,

Dianne

Update: Week 12!

27 Jun

Wow, I can’t believe the last time I posted was almost 2 ½ weeks ago.  It was 12 weeks ago that I was laying in that hospital bed fighting for my life.  I have had so many progressions it’s hard to keep up.  With the kids out of school, it is so much harder to find time to write.  I will be posting a few thoughts I have been tracking over the next week.

I continue to heal quickly and I am still overwhelmed by my miraculous recovery.  Everyday I feel blessed to be alive and I am truly happy.   To keep it real, my energy level is increasing but I am still managing my days carefully so that I don’t overextend myself.  I am still taking daily naps that are part of my schedule and I am very tired by the end of the day. Although I am physically doing better, my brain is still healing from major trama so I get tired.  Keep reading to learn why.

Since my last post, I began to start driving again but I am limited to short distances (see below for why I can’t drive).  I was officially signed off from both my OT and SP (cognitive thinking) therapy.  I am now scheduled to go to PT until the end of July.  My Speech therapist, Kristine, has been wonderful.  She is the one who does all the brain work with me and she has also been a counselor for me.  I have had many bad days when I see her, and she just always knows how help me feel better.  Thank you, Kristine, for all your amazing help during such a traumatic time for me.

Last week was my first day back at the gym!  I completed a spin class 2 times last week and my first Zumba class.  It was exhilarating and I was so happy to be back at gym and on the road to feeling more like myself again.  I am pretty sure I smiled the ENTIRE hour of my spin class. The first day back to Zumba I was getting ready to leave the class because I couldn’t make it through a whole class yet and spontaneously Kami and I went up on stage to dance one of my favorite songs with Stacy.  My legs were shaking but it didn’t matter because I was on top of the world and it was so wonderful being alive dancing on that stage!  Wow!!  Happy, happy times!

There are lots of questions that my friends ask me about so I thought I would take some time to answer some of them over the next few posts.  Today’s topic is about my brain, driving and memory loss.

My brain injury

Without going into deep detail, technically what I had was a sub-arachnoid brain hemorrhage.  Yes, I had a brain aneurysm which is an area of my vein that was weakened and had bulged out.  Many people have aneurysms without ever even knowing it unless they start causing symptoms like migraines, etc.  This did not happen to me.  I did not have any significant symptoms prior to my hospitalization.  The hemorrhage is a bursting of the aneurysm which then bled out into my brain.  I had a level five hemorrhage which is the worst possible condition.  I was not supposed to make it.  The doctors fixed this with a coil system but I still have fluid in my brain even now.   Initially, I had a lot of fluid in my brain that needed to be absorbed. As my body has now begun to absorb the fluid, I have begun to feel better and the headaches and dizziness are subsiding.  My brain is still on the mend and I can’t over stimulate it.  If I do, I get a headache and sometimes nausea.

Early on, I was not able to drive because I was dizzy and lightheaded from the surgery.  The migraines were too debilitating as well.  Now that my body has started absorbing the excess fluid, I am no longer dizzy and I can drive again. Driving is actually quite taxing on your brain.  There is a lot of stimulation thus the limitation to 10 – 15 minute distances right now.  Just last week I was too tired to drive home after my PT appt. so my brother drove me home.  I was worried I would not remember how to drive but I do so I am happy about that.   I still need to have some else drive with me for longer distances just in case I am too tired to return.

My memory loss

As a result of my hemorrhage, I had memory loss and early on I had to relearn some basic things. I could describe what an item looked like or what it did but I could not remember what it was called Eg. Shirt, chair, coffee table.  I also could not remember a single dance routine that I had learned.  It was so frustrating! I have most of that back but on occasion I still can’t remember what something is.  Not too long ago I was at lunch with my friends and they asked me if I wanted a scallop roll.  I could not remember what a scallop was and they had to describe it to me.  I then remembered and said “Oh yeah, I love scallops!” Kristine explained that when I had my hemorrhage, the brain trauma affected my memory.  She used the analogy of a filing system.  My brain is like a file system and some of the files fell on the ground and got all mixed up.  We were working on finding where the lost items were and filing them in the correct places. Now I have to continue doing my brain exercises at home but it’s fun and I will have a healthier brain going forward.  I am doing some online games using Luminosity and I learned how to use the Wii Fit Plus for therapy as well.  Very cool stuff!

More to come tomorrow…

Love you all,

Dianne

Dianne’s Update – Week 4+ at home

7 Jun

Dear Family and Friends,

I have had an extraordinary couple of weeks. Now that my headaches have started to subside, I am feeling better and I am able to do a little more now. I am working hard on my all my therapy exercises and it’s paying off. Although my energy continues to be limited, I am getting stronger everyday. I am forced to get used to not being able to do what I did before until I am better. I still have to take naps to re-energize and make it to the evening. Laundry, vacuuming, keeping up with the housekeeping and cooking dinner are the most difficult tasks for me. Family and friends are helping when they can but for now I just have to let some things be. It’s frustrating and sometimes difficult but I just remember lying in that hospital bed and seeing my kids so worried about their mama and I stop and rest or nap.

My extraordinary week started just before Memorial Day when my friend and instructor extrodinare, Stacy, kindly allowed me to visit my favorite Zumba class at AVAC and thank everyone for their support and love. We tried keeping it a surprise, so with Kami’s help, I walked in from the side door near the stage so no one would see me. My stomach had butterflies as soon as I walked in the door, perhaps from the excitement of seeing my Zumba family and these truly amazing people for the first time since my hospitalization 8 weeks ago. As I walked in, everyone began to clap and I was overwhelmed with emotion. The tears flowed down my face as I put my hands on my mouth and began to shake as I walked toward the stage. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced. These friends and some people who didn’t really know me had prayed for me and now they were standing there and clapping for me. I should have been clapping for them! I was truly humbled in their presence and honored to be there. As I thanked them and told them I was going to be OK, I had the most incredible feeling of true gratitude and I was feeling truly blessed for my life.

The positivity trend continued through the weekend and when I did my first hike. I was able to complete about an hour hike. I was amazed that I was able to do it but more amazed at my friend’s brother who had been in an almost fatal motorcycle accident about a year ago and survived. He also had to learn to walk again and I was inspired as I watched him limping his way up. Now we were both walking what we were told was a “kids” hike and made it to the top!

That next week I was again reminded about how precious life really is and how lucky I am to have survived my battle. It was the last week of school for my kids and a very busy week. Emerson had lost her second tooth on Wed, graduated from kindergarten on Thursday, we a fun girl’s day pedicure on Friday and then her first dance recital on Saturday.  Travis was also promoted to the 4th grade and I was one proud mom. The day of my daughter’s graduation from Kindergarten came quickly. As I sat in the front row watching my beautiful baby girl singing and smiling with that missing tooth, my eyes filled with tears and all I could think about was what would have happened if I not to have been there to share that moment with her. What if her mom was not there?? My heart was breaking but with mixed feelings of the joy of being alive and the sadness of the close call of my death. At that moment, I stopped thinking about what had happened to me and just absorbed the feeling of being there with her, I listened and I was truly present with her then and throughout the remaining special times we spent together the rest of the weekend.

I leave you with this thought. Don’t waste time regretting yesterday or stressing about tomorrow, just be present today and take it all in. The first item in my gratefulness journal is “Be happy I am alive today.”. It’s interesting how just that one thing can change how you see the rest of what happens that day. I found a great piece of prose that I wanted to share with you all. Enjoy!

Much love and many hugs to all of you,

Dianne

For Today Only

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days, which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.

The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow with its possible adversaries, it burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow’s sun will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.

This leaves only one day…TODAY. Any person can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities—yesterday and tomorrow—that we break down.

It is not the experience of today that drives men mad, it is remorse or bitterness for something, which happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time.

Author Unknown

Update – Week 3 @ home

24 May
Hi Family and Friends,
Thank you all for your continued support while I heal and continue to beat the odds.  You are amazing people and I am so grateful to have you in my life.   I am feeling better everyday and I am working with my many therapists on balance and coordination, memory recall and strengthening my weakened body after being sedentary for so long.  My major milestone over the last week was the  improvement of my headache pain.  I am no longer suffering from the consistent migraines and I am off my prescription pain medicine.   Yeah!!!  I now have intermitant minimal head pain that is controllable by Tylenol.  Occasionally, I feel more like a normal person for the first time since April 7th…I am treasuring those moments:)
Although physically I may look more capable, my brain is insisting that I get plenty of naptime.  Rest and no stress are my doctors orders!  If you know me, then you know how hard it is for me to slow down.  It took a freakin brain aneurysm to get me to slow down and I am dedicated to make a change:)  Doctors, nurses and therapists continue to remind me how important it is for me to rest and manage my energy.   Therapists have trained me on energy conservation techniques e.g. The Energy Envelope, Money in the Bank, but my favorite is The Spoon Theory.  My friend Laura, who also is concerned about my ability to manage my exertion, sent me this great story called The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino.   Her description of what is it like to manage MS is exactly what it is like for me right now in healing my brain.  I wanted to share the URL so you can read it and perhaps have a better understanding of what it is like for me to manage my energy and my days.
You have all eased this very challenging time for my family.  We are so grateful for your time and effort to make meals, send cards, gifts, flowers, prayers, and well wishes!
Love,
Dianne Hill

Today is Dianne’s birthday!

6 May

When Dianne was transferred out of the ICU and into regular hospital care, she told the doctors “it’s good to have a goal” and her goal was “to be home in time for my birthday”. I am so excited (and not very surprised) that she met her goal! 🙂

Feel free to post a message for Dianne on her extra special birthday today!