Mum slept deeply last night – which allowed Sheba and I to have our best nights yet. Tonight Mum’s sleep started well, but as of 11 PM, she seems a bit restless again. She just told me “I am trying to get out of this bed, but can’t.” And that she is very thirsty. We found that Mum has a very dry throat as she sleeps with her mouth open and we heat the room with an electric heater. But when Mum drinks water at night there is always a danger of her aspirating. Being tired she drifts into sleep while sipping her water and then wakes up coughing to our distress. Mum’s life is now one where even tasks that seen so easy for many of us can be so complicated for her.
Tonight, for the first time in 8 nights, Mum is sleeping without an oxygen mask. She did not use oxygen for most of the day and has acceptable oxygen saturation values (given the 2 km altitude we are here in Mussoorie). She was also given her last dose of antibiotics today, and took a medication to help replenish her iron stores since Mum lost a lot of blood in her fall(s). These steps show that we are nearing the end of her hospitalisation – and transitioning into a period of rehabilitation.
The big step forward for Mum today was a visit by Mr. Pritam, a young and dynamic physiotherapist. Mr. Pritam is a contract staff at the medical centre of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Administrative Academy. This is where our Indian Administrative Service officers are trained and lies almost as far away from Landour as you can get in Mussoorie. But we were so glad that Mr. Pritam came this evening and spent an hour with Mum.
Mr. Pritam first assessed the extent of Mum’s immobility. He was happy to note that even in her flaccid right side, her limbs are show at least faint responses to brain control. This is really good news and holds a lot of hope for restoration. Mr. Pritam told us that the task is now to help the brain recognise the limbs and their various sub-parts, and work on re-igniting contact between them and the brain. There is actually the possibility of rewiring going on in the brain where new areas take control of the motor movements of the limbs. Amazing stuff to imagine. And the remarkable thing is that the means of teaching the brain to do this rests in the simplicity of repeatedly moving the currently less-responsive parts. Parallel to this, we want to work to try to and help Mum’s brain to move them – first in simple ways, and then with greater coordination and dexterity.
And so Mr. Pritam started to do some basic physiotherapy – rotating the fingers, then the hand, then the arm (similarly with her feet and legs). These movements were being taught to us to be done regularly for Mum - to help Mum’s brain recognise these parts.
After this, Mr. Pritam worked with Mum, asking her to do try and move various parts. Mum responded willingly and was able to do so with various levels of success. You could see how hard she was trying to move her right leg up. Having seen it basically useless for the past week, it was a joy for us to see her being able to bend it to an almost normal level, though she was exhausted with the effort. That particular exercise now needs to be repeated many times so that it becomes second-thought stuff, instead of an act where Mum pours all her will and emotion into moving a limb in a way most of us never think twice about.
On her left side, the ability to do basic tasks with her limbs is better than her right, but there is a lack of coordination and strength. Mum is basically unable to feed herself at this point, but after this session, we encouraged her to use her left hand to put a few morsels of food in her mouth. She did so with some difficulty. We know that there is still a loooooong way to go, but we were glad that Mr. Pritam has helped make a big step forward. He was also happy with Mum, and said that because she had been so, her body did not suffer so much from the stroke – and that her chances of regaining full motor control are so much better than many of his other patients. We are so proud of Mum responding so determinedly to all his instructions. She did not complain or say ‘I cannot do this,’ even in the times when after trying she has not do a task (like moving her thumb on her right hand).
Mum’s first physiotherapy session showed us a whole set of exercises and basic physiotherapy actions. And more exercises will come as she (re)gains some of these basic activities. We now know that Mum has to learn again to hold her head up (to strengthen her neck) and sit up (to strengthen her back). As we hope to move Mum from the hospital bed into the world outside – it is one in which Mum has to re-learn much what we take for granted. Today was the first day into uncharted territory for us, where Mum will have to work hard in body and mind and soul. We are so glad for her determination and have already seen a small improvement in her being able to flex her right leg more than she has before.
Please continue to pray for strength (and rest) for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.
Thanks for your love and prayers.
- Andi and Sheba Eicher (on behalf of the various scattered Eichers)
p.s. If you wish to stop receiving these updates – please just drop me a line – it is no problem to remove your name from our list!
In the meantime – thanks to all who have sent whatsapp messages and mini-recordings which we played to her. Mum has so appreciated hearing from you!