Revisiting PT After 15 Years

I had an ischemic stroke on the right side of my brain when I was 38. That was 15 years ago. My left side was paralyzed. Luckily my cognitive abilities did not suffer. My recovery took several months: three weeks in a hospital and many more weeks as an outpatient. I grew to admire the physical therapists in my life. They were men and women who had a singular devotion to helping patients regain motion and rediscover limbs left frozen by brain injury. The small things gained were momentous. I have keen memories of how I felt after moving the pinky of my left hand for the first time in weeks. I did eventually regain full motion on my left side.

Now 15 years later, I’ve returned to the environs of a physical therapy (PT) facility. I had not addressed the hammertoes that developed a few years after my stroke. So I had surgery on three toes of my left foot. The surgeon did not leave behind any permanent small pins to keep my toes straight, but I had large temporary pins sticking out of each toe to fuse the bones that had been twisted and gnarled for years. I stayed at home with my bandaged foot elevated and pondered a return to PT.

My doctor recommended PT because I’d had hammertoes for years. My gait had been hampered by this condition combined with a minor deficit on my left side from the stroke.

So I’ve returned again to the repetitions of PT and I’m reminded of the magic of it years ago. Movement came back to me after months of exercises. But now I’m correcting a foot that still wants to mimic the clawed condition even with surgically straightened and healed toes.

This time, I know that I’ll walk again with a better stride. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know if I’d walk again. I learned to use the left side of my body again with the help of the wonderful professionals who kept at me to repeat and repeat some exercise that I felt at that time would be useless. The exercises did help me move that little pinky of my left hand again and eventually I did leave my cane behind in a closet.

Three sets, 15 times; repeat …

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