Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zombie Love and Saving My Brain

Way back when Troy and I started dating, almost 10 years ago(just, let me pretend it was a long time ago, okay?), we had Shitty Movie Sunday every Sunday!
We would watch two B-rated movies(often featuring zombies) with our friends. We would eat junk food(some definitely was not vegan!), watch and (lovingly) make fun of each film. It was a great time! We watched a lot of shitty movies. A lot! The only problem was, I was starting to have zombie nightmares. Often.
They were terribly frightening!
Lucky for me, The Zombie Survival Guide written by Max Brooks, was released not long after my nightmares started! Troy, my sweet boyfriend, gave me his copy to read.

Boy howdy!

I am super happy this was written! And that I read it! I learned a megaton about how to protect myself from the walking dead, and it was really showing in my nightmares. I actually feel somewhat prepared for the zombie apocalypse! I mean, I still should probably take a martial art. But now I know to avoid places like the hospital, police station, and churches!
It didn't take long for my nightmares to go away, and I read World War Z once that was released in 2006. Which was a great read! I absolutely recommend the book! Excited to see the film! Well, we'll see...maybe.  I'm torn! I'll get to it!

Flash-forward to my time spent at Wascana Rehab, I was trying to navigate with my double vision and my severe brain injury. Troy was encouraged by the medical professionals to leave me at home, by myself, so I could regain some independence. It wasn't that long ago that Troy helped me with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.! 
The problem I was running into, when I was home alone: I was terrified that zombies would bash through the door, and eat my brain! I was 28 at this point! Surely, Alyx, you know that isn't going to happen! Logically? I totally knew it wouldn't happen! But, from what I have since learned from counselling(don't judge me!), is that these anxious fears are not logical, nor rational. 
Thankfully, after a few weeks, my brain had healed more, and it occurred to me that it's February, in Saskatchewan. Any zombie outside would, literally, be frozen solid! And probably til mid-April/early-May! 
I did get over my fear of zombies eating my brain. I realized, not long after my anxiety regarding zombies had dissipated, that what I was really fearful of, was my brain getting further damage! 
What a revelation!
I still don't want to watch zombie movies. Or anything violent, or that has monsters. No ghosts before bed!
I find myself still sensitive to violence, almost 2 years later, which doesn't make sense to me! It isn't like I was robbed at knife-point, or raped!
I guess being inside a car while it's smashed to bits is plenty violent.

I will clarify: I still love the idea of zombies!
My good friend, and fellow belly dancer, gave me my first vegan t-shirt last year! I love it! It is so funny to me! I even bought two more in different colours! Light blue and orange. They are rad!

Speaking of vegan zombies!
Check out The Vegan Zombie! Enjoy!

This is Stephen Torrence signing Jonathan Coulton's Re: Your Brains. I really like it! I hope you appreciate it as well!

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Pit Bull Companions: Mayhem

  This  is Mayhem. We got her from a rescue in Harden,  Montana. We found her on Petfinder.
We had put a deposit down for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, from a breeder in Ontario. We ended up not getting a puppy, so we started to look for another pit bull-type dog because we had fallen in love with these of dogs. And their story! There is so much BSL(breed specific legislation) bullshit out there! Bully breeds, currently, are not banned where we live(Regina, Saskatchewan), but the entire province of Ontario has them banned and there are towns in Saskatchewan that banned them too.

There are over 17,000 'pit bulls' that are looking for homes on Petfinder, right now! Over 17,000! Serious, I just checked! And that's just Petfinder!

Surely, we don't need anymore dogs to be bred!!

Traveling to her new forever home!
We drove down to Harden, Montana and picked up our sweet puppy! She was estimated to be 6 months old. Her name was Bobby Socks. Very cute. But we had to change it. Mayhem fit too well with her crazy demeanor! Plus, it's fun to say "Chaos and Mayhem".
Mayhem has a ton of energy!! 
She is 50 lbs and eats the same amount as Chaos, who is 78 lbs! Her metabolism is ridiculous! She's very bouncy. Her motivation is toys and play. Chaos's motivation is treats.
Unluckily for all of us, Russ Rathy moved to Alberta. She was not lucky enough to get his help with us!
Mayhem all tuckered out!
But, Troy and I  bought a treadmill for winter exercise(remember they are practically naked!) and that's been going really well. In the summer, Troy takes them rollerblading with him. And I walk them.
We just ordered Mayhem a weight-pulling harness, so that should be here for Christmas, and Troy is building them a spring-pole in the garage! (Remember-winter here is bloody cold and freakin' snowy!)

I am really happy that their ears and tail were not mutilated! Their ears are like velvet!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Recovery Timeline

My sad little Echo Hatchback
Saturday, December 5, 2009-car collision

Monday, December 7, 2009
-Mallory and Renee got a guest book for my hospital visitors to sign and write messages to me

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
-Tracheotomy put in

Saturday, December 12, 2009
-waking from the coma, eyes not open yet. Anniversary of my older sister's death! (on December 8th, my mom predicted this is when I would wake! How exciting is that?!?)
No tracheotomy yet

Sunday, December 13, 2009
-opened my eyes!

Monday, December 14, 2009
-sign language to my sister that she has bad coffee breath! I stood in physio.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
-IV is removed, I continue to try to pull the feeding tube from my nose(I hear this was a big problem with all of my tubes, I had to be strapped down)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009-bit my mom's
hand. (She tried to keep me from pulling out    my various tubes) Introduced pureed food!
Trach in throat, feeding tube in nose
                                            Swallowing test to see if I can drink some thick liquid, and no more catheter!

Thursday, December 17, 2009
-no more feeding tube! Just pureed food and thickened liquid!

Friday, December 18, 2009-I started to take out the trach, so they had to remove it :] My first words after the trach was removed was 'butterscotch' and then I said, 'it's gross.'(That was clearly not me! I love butterscotch!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009
-Greeted my mom with, "Good morning, Mom. How are you?"

Sunday, December 20, 2009-Chaos came to see me!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009-another swallowing test! Now I can have minced food. Practiced stairs at physiotherapy in case I  was going home for Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009
-transferred to Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. Unit Two on the 3rd floor 
                                                            Wednesday, December 23, 2009-Going home for Christmas! Troy    and I stayed over at my parents house.
Sitting up, still tired

Monday, January 4, 2010
-off all medications!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
-get eyes checked, new glasses prescription and maybe a prism.

Monday, January 11, 2010
-new glasses and a prism

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
-returned to belly dance rehearsal!(See! A month and a half off dance after a coma is not bad! Not bad at all!)

Thursday, January 24, 2010
-first time left at home alone for 2 hours!

Monday, January 25, 2010-SNOW DAY!!! First one ever! I've never had a snow 
day! It was awesome!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010-tried drawing, takes way longer now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010
-balance test-again!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
-I'm officially an out-patient! Therapies 3 times a week rather than 5.

Monday, February 8, 2010-appt with Opthamologist re:dual vision

Sunday, February 28, 2010-Sewed on my sewing machine! I remembered how to thread the machine!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
-get a prism for my glasses

Saturday, March 20, 2010-My first performance after the crash! It went alright, considering, but I did it!!

Monday, April 19, 2010-no more diplopia!

May 2010-
bought and read Skinny Bitch, start to slowly transition to veganism

Tuesday, June 22 & 23, 2010-My first neuro-psychological assessment! Two days long, that's right! Apparently, they found I wasn't faking the brain injury! People fake this?!

Wednesday, June 29, 2010-last day of therapies at Wascana Rehab!

Saturday, September 12, 2010-I'm officially vegan!

Vegetarian Food For Thought

I started to listen to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegetarian Food For Thought in the late fall of 2010. Not too long after my first official day of being vegan(September 12, 2010). I knew she had a podcast, and it got rave reviews! 

Just so we're clear: I had no idea what a podcast even was! 

I loved her writing in the The Joy of Vegan Baking and The Vegan Table, and I wanted compassionate responses to some common questions regarding veganism. The reason I waited so long to start listening, was because I couldn't just listen, I felt like I needed to be doing something else. I started to listen to the podcast on walks. 
Which was tricky to start. My balance was not stellar at that point, and even my walking was a bit clumsy. 
But, if I've learned anything from having a brain injury, it's that practice makes everything easier! I practiced just holding up my torso, and that's gotten much easier. I've practiced printing and math, and those have gotten better. I've practiced speaking, and that's almost 100% now(I still miss words, and forget how to pronounce them, or use the wrong word, but it's better! I swear!). 
So I listened to her podcast over and over, trying to memorize her words. That was also tricky because my brain still wasn't remembering. I had many lists and notes! It was rather ridiculous actually. Now, I'm able to recall much more! Not near the number of notes required for me to function!
She's taught me to be a joyful vegan. Truly. I don't know if I would've been so steadfast in my veganism without her leadership and encouragement! 
She has a masters in English, so she really gets our language, and talks about it a lot. The way violence towards non-human animals in our language perpetuates violence in action. She encourages everyone to think of compassionate alternatives to our usual violent non-human animal idioms. 
I've recently started using 'put all of my apples in a row', rather than ducks. She has lots of examples in Vegan's Daily Companion. I've started using 'non-human animals' when talking about other species. This way of talking throws people off a bit. I appreciate how it can get people thinking.
I also started using her, 'I can eat it, if I want it, but I don't' mentality. It's helped in many a situation, and again, encourages people to think that they do have choices, whether they know it or not!
Troy will listen to her podcast on drives out to the farm, or when we're driving anywhere out of the city. He really likes her stuff.
I subscribe to her free podcast on iTunes and even got her Vegetarian Food For Thought app for my iPhone!
I know she's been crazy busy this past year and a half, but I am itchy for more podcasts!
Don't get me wrong! I love and adore all of her books!  Her books taught me to bake and cook! That's huge! Teaching people how to nurture their bodies is vital! The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, Vegan's Daily Companion and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge were all fantastic, the BEST, in fact! But it isn't quite the same as a soundbite.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Journal Entries After

In January 2010, while at the Wascana Rehabilitation Cenre, I was encouraged by one of my occupational therapists to keep a journal. My printing had improved a great deal! I was no longer writing each letter on top of the last one, which, I hear was a problem. I have some of the papers I wrote on at that time-it's rather funny!
But reading through my old entries, I can see my brain healing. At first it was very, this happened, then that happened. It was very...almost clinical. I would describe events as good, or went well. I couldn't even articulate that I was seeing double till that first week of January. Maybe I wasn't seeing double before then, I don't know, can't recall.
My printing was also improving, but I can really see when I was tired! The print is much worse on those days!
This is the way I wrote it, so if the English and grammar are off, it's because I have a severe brain injury.
My first entry:

Monday January 11, 2010

I had occupational therapy @ 9:45am. Went with Troy & my mom. I finished the test. It doesn't surprise me that I remember visual things. I'm a very visual person. 
I did more stuff on the light thing, so that was good. We did more complicated with double digit numbers. It was hard because my vision won't always let me see the lights, so I was looking for them & missed the numbers.
I also read which was also challenging, in that I got a slightly different meaning from the paragraph.
Then Troy and I had a nap. Well, I closed my eyes. It's too loud at the hospital to sleep. Then we went to the cafeteria and had poutine & pudding for lunch.
After lunch was the meeting @1pm. Troy, my parents & Troy's dad was there. That went well. After the meeting we met with Richelle from ABI. That was good. Talked a little bit about Troy's brain injury.
Then we had a short nap(eyes closed), then exercise therapy@2:30. We sat there for 15 minutes & finally asked about Betty. She wasn't in. Doesn't seem to be good communication between the therapists & the ward. A bit of a gongshow. But we got a therapist. I taught her how to shimmy.
Then we went and got our new glasses. Mine are real clear but man I see double now!
We went home, let our dogs out, cleaned the kitchen, took out the garbage &the paper recycling, & went to my parents for supper, & visited with my grandparents that just happened to visit my parents as well. My grandpa is having a lot of health problems, so he had something to complain about! This time. He's a bit of a pessemist. 
Then went home, fed the cat, & let the dogs out again. Then homework, & tv. And bed.

The test I finished, was one of the many different assessments for my progress. I was tested every week. For something. Sometimes it was balance, sometimes it was comprehension, sometimes it was following instructions, sometimes it was problem solving. Different every week.
Wow, I was messed up!

"The light thing" is called a Dynavision. It is for facilitating training of looking and scanning throughout the whole visual field. (I had emailed Dixon, and he told me! See, he's got my back! I wanted to call it a 'draise machine', but that's not right!!) I was having an especially hard time with this because of my double vision. My therapists say I did well, despite the dual vision.

It's interesting that I couldn't sleep while at Wascana Rehab. I was too distracted by all the monitors and beeps and the intercom, to sleep. It's interesting, because before the brain injury, I could sleep through anything! Seriously. Back when Troy and I were just dating, him and 6 of his friends decided to play Halo. It got quite animated and loud, but I still fell asleep on the coach behind them. I guess my brain had a hard time blocking out those sounds now.
Poutine and pudding for lunch? Yup, definitely not vegan yet. I had animal pieces and/or their secretions at every meal. Every meal! And I went vegan!

At first I saw Richelle Love from the Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Team. She was filling in  for Dixon, and Dixon was filling in for someone on maternity leave at the General Hospital. Richelle was my rep for the first year of my recovery. Then Dixon returned, and she went back to being an Occupational Therapist in the Adult Rehabilitative Program at Wascana. So, either way, I would've seen her! She was is very nice, and friendly, and helpful!
Troy also had a brain injury in the collision. His is considered minor because he has no recollection of losing consciousness. Apparently, the severity is based on how long you're unconscious. Just learned that!
My grandpa had colon cancer. He doesn't anymore, now. He lived, just no more cancer! Back when I wrote that entry, he did. I just wasn't putting it all together!
My grandpa is absolutely a pessimist! My sister, Mallory, and I always say, "There could be not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, but he'll still say 'it's gonna rain and the crops don't need it!'" That's my grandpa. I love him! He's taught me how not to be! I try to stay positive through everything. I'm a lot like my mom(his daughter) that way.
My 'homework' was to play solitaire for cognitive therapy, or to practice drawing-again. <sigh> How much did I spend on a Visual Arts degree?? Sheesh!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Pit Bull Companions! Chaos:

Chaos looking regal
We adopted our big guy from the local shelter, The Regina Humane Society, over 6 years ago, on August 22, 2005. They predicted his age to be a year or two. But both our vet, and our dog trainer say it was more likely that he was about 8 months. He had way more black on his muzzle!
He's an American Staffordshire Terrier Cross.
His name is Chaos. Not because he is or was, chaotic, but because when we adopted him, our lives were chaotic! We had just gotten married(August 5, 2005), moved into our house(August 11), I had quit my job so I could start interning to finish my degree to be a teacher, and we were renovating.
While we're at it! 
My good friend, Renee, was working at the shelter and she said we just had to meet him! So we went on Troy's motorcycle with the idea that we couldn't bring anybody home on the bike.
So much for that strategy!
We fell in love the instant we met him! He was so sweet and friendly! Troy was working nights that week, so he went to work, and I arranged with my dad, to take Copper, my childhood Springer Spaniel, and I to meet and potentially adopt him!
The meeting went well, and I signed the papers!
We worked with him and Russ Rathy, training for obedience, protection and scent-work! Russ encouraged us to work with Chaos all the time, so we did. I would spend 15 minutes practicing heel, come, sit, and stay every morning and for 15 minutes every evening. Troy did training with him too. Plus, we just worked it into our lifestyle. Training during walks, and play was mandatory after every session of training. Russ was awesome! Chaos is an amazingly chill dog! I don't know if he would be so chill without Russ Rathy's help. Actually, if Mayhem, our other rescued pit bull is any indication...I'll leave that for another post.
We also did some group classes, played with agility equipment and took a cart-pulling class together, which was really fun!
I like to call Chaos 'Smoochie-face' and our friends call him 'Bison-head'. Cause his head seems ginormous!
We've recently started calling him 'Dr. Carlyle'. (He runs a successful family practice in the country.)
I wouldn't put it past him. He seems like he would.
He's fantastic with puppies! He's helped socialize many of our friends puppies! He'll let a puppy grab his face and pull! He'll lay on the floor to play because they're so little. It's ridiculous how cute he is!
He also came to the General Hospital to see me on December 20th! We hadn't seen one another since December 5th! Course, I don't remember, but I'm told I was excited and so was he!
I'm in the one in the wheelchair, with my beautiful, warm quilt that my belly dance group members made for me out of everyone's scrap fabric(much of it leftover from performance costume construction)!
Troy has Chaos's leash, my dad is bent over me and my grandmother is the one in the white jacket. I hear it was super cold when I was in the hospital(-45/-50 degrees Celsius). One thing I am glad to not remember!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Team ABI

I get brain support from a medical professional. His name is Dixon and he's an occupational therapist. He works for the Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Team. He's one of many different medical professionals that give support to people with acquired/traumatic brain injuries.
I know he's got my back! If anything comes up, or if I'm having trouble with anything, I call or email him, and he helps however he can, or gets me in touch with people that can help.
He also reports back to SGI(Saskatchewan Government Insurance-vehicle insurance) on my progress. SGI is currently replacing my wage, since I am, by definition, now disabled. (sounds like I should just be drooling)
They're also paying a small amount for my 'care'. They paid more when I couldn't walk, or shower, or go to the bathroom, or eat without help. Now, it's just the driving that I cannot do.
I will say: I am super happy I don't remember any of that!! How mortifying! 

Sorry-got distracted!

I used to work on the driving simulator with Dixon at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. It was pretty cool. The other drivers on the simulator are pretty realistic. They cut you off all the damn time! It gets really frustrating.
I did see my rep every two weeks. Then it was every month, and most recently, every two months! Dixon was complaining that he has very little work to do with me. I'm pretty independent and I am fairly able.
Now, I'm not sure what ABI's official stance is on veganism. But Dixon is a vegetarian!
I've seen numerous doctors(& nurses & dietitians), and they are all well-aware that I am vegan. (I am plenty-proud of my veganism, and I tell everyone!)
Plus, I like to think that Dixon is pretty convinced that my brain function is stellar, considering! And I like to say it's because I'm vegan! Whether Dixon truly believes that . . . is something else. I'll ask him.

Friends Not Food! Cake

Gene Baur at Farm Sanctuary!
ZuZu, my adopted goat!
Created by my good friends, Katie and Riley!
Inspired by Farm Sanctuary!
Friends, Not Food!

It's vegan.
Two chocolate cakes, with peanut butter chips, and peanut butter icing(the grass). Katie had to do some shopping for peanut butter chips that didn't have milk, but she found them!
At Old Fashion Foods. They carry a lot of 'vegan food'. 'Vegan food' being non-dairy items like Tofutti Cream Cheese, and Earth Balance. They are a tad more expensive(couple dollars) than regular grocery stores, but Superstore(where Troy and I always shop-he was a price-checker when they could rollerblade around the store) recently renovated and has an entire section for natural, organic(and often vegan) foods. It was only a year ago that we had to go to 3 different stores to get our groceries. I like to show the big box stores that there is a demand for these products, but I also like to support our little, locally-owned stores. My solution has been to alternate between the two, and there usually isn't a big difference in price. Usually a ten cent difference. 
The cake was amazing! I am a huge fan of both peanut butter and chocolate! Especially together! (I was super happy when I first became vegan that peanut butter is vegan!)
The fence pieces would pop out from the cake without being bent. Katie and Riley boiled the plastic fence pieces to curve them. They curved them over aluminum cans. Soo cool!It looks like a child's cake with the 'Little People' animals and my 3 candles(worth 10 years each!), but I really don't mind looking young!
This cake was delicious, and adorable!