Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Plateau or Summit?

When I was in rehabilitation, “plateau” became a dirty word to me. I know that others undergoing rehabilitation share this sentiment. The word is code for “you’re not going to get any better” or “don’t expect to see any more improvement.” All you do is strive to get back to normal; all they tell you is be happy with what you’ve achieved. The conspiratorial wheels start to spin when the insurance company terminates your therapies because you’ve “plateaued.”

This July marks the tenth anniversary of my stroke and thus the tenth opportunity to pay “homage to my hemorrhage,” as I like to call it. Ten years out, yet my symptoms persist: hemiparesis, left-side neglect, neuropathy, proprioception problems, spasticity. Yes, to experience the condition is to know the term to describe it, though I can think of better ways to expand my vocabulary. So, sure, I still have a lot of deficits, but do I think I’ve plateaued? No way. I’m going roller blade and I’m going to run again. In a recent radio interview, I was asked, “Are you 100 percent now?” I answered, “Are you? I’ll be 100 percent when I get to heaven.”

In my ongoing recovery, I picture myself as any professional - an athlete, an actor, a musician - who strives to achieve by practice, hard work, and determination. Like a tennis player working on her backhand, I am constantly working on my gait or on trying to control my spastic left arm. So it really raises the hair on my neck when I hear a patient described as having plateaued. I was speaking to a brain injury group the other day, where a woman told of her husband who, eight weeks after suffering an aneurysm, was described as having plateaued. Eight weeks. That hardly seems like enough time to come back from the trauma to the brain, let alone to show any signs of what degree of recovery might be expected. How can they be so quick to quit on a person?

The word “plateaued” should be expunged from the medical lexicon. I’m not advocating false hope, just to keep hope alive. Never underestimate the human spirit and the will to get better.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I attended a Library Friends luncheon where you were the keynote speaker 2 years ago. I loved your lecture. 1 month later, I attended a bridal shower where I sat with a young mother and neighbor in a Northern MA town expecting her second child. Shortly after having her second child, not more than a few weeks after I saw her, she apparently had a stroke, which I didn't hear about until today.

When her husband was going home, I asked if he or his wife had ever read the book by Julia Fox Garrison. He said he hadn't. I sent him home with my signed copy, and apologized for it being chewed at the edges by my puppies, as I kept leaving it out all the time because I was always reading it.

I said "this author is in our area. She is wonderful. Your wife should have this book."

Julia, great to know you are well, I think you give everyone lessons on what life means. It's never what you think it should be, it's always to appreciate and experience what you have.


3/22/2008 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 56 year old mom of 3 grown daughters and grandmom of 7 . I had my stroke at age 15, after open-heart surgery. It completely paralyzed me on the left side. Learning how to talk and especially to walk again was difficult.
But, I agree with you, don't let any one get you down. I was, and still am surrounded by loving people who encourage me. God has provided more than the doctors every expected for me.
I strive for more, I found your site while investigating "walkaid". Iam hoping it will give me the ability to be even more active than I am now. After 50 I find I'm slowing down some ...hopefully not for long.
I plan to go to the book store this weekend and buy your book.Keep up the good work!
I would love to actually communicate with you.
Are you ever in the south jersey area?
with much joy

4/11/2008 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Julia:

a friend at recommended your book and I just finished reading your book. I was actually laughing so hard that I was drooling on the book. I too stroked at 34 4 years ago. Even though I feel I am well into my acceptance journey. It still took me solid 3 years before celebrating my stroke of luck date. I also believe only choice we have in life is how we react to it. I hope to be able to communicate with you some day. will like to compare notes on raising my son. My son thinks my stroke was best thing that happened to the family. It got his mom as stay at home mom.

8/09/2008 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.

11/11/2008 6:22 PM  
Blogger Penelope said...

Hi everyone posting, especially Julia/

I had my stroke at 46, Oct.2008.

What a wake-up call to life. Like annonymous, my son also thinks it is the best thing that happend to our family, he got his mommy home also.

I am just starting to really come around with that this is my new life, so work with it. Julia, hearring your story and all the bloggers has helped me soooooo much, Thank you.

De Vonne in Southern California

6/16/2009 2:11 PM  

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