Friday, August 13, 2010

Two steps forward and one step backward

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CIDP recovery isn't always in a straight line.

Forward, sometimes it happens just this fast:

I woke up a few nights ago because my right foot was moving. Up until that moment, I hadn't seen any recovery below my knees. Suddenly I can wiggle my toes again and push my foot up and down, like using a gas pedal.

I think it’s interesting that I found this out while I was asleep. Somehow my subconscious sent a letter to the conscious through the dream world. I was getting my feet back.

Along with the return of movement came sensation. For the first time since the onset of symptoms in March, I am in pain. My feet, ankles and calves buzz and tingle throughout the day and night. Every so often I get a jolt like an EMG shock. That hurts.

The other step forward has been the return of my hands. When I went back to the Drake Center for my follow-up visit, my grip strength was measured at less than one pound. The average TAB person's grip is around 80 pounds. Less than a week later my grip strength was nearly 10 pounds!

Zippers, button, and reclosable plastic bags were once again objects I could manipulate. I could also push the keys on my laptop's keyboard again, put things in my pockets, hold a wash cloth and soap, etc.

Backward, sometimes it takes a while:

My occupational therapist suggested that typing more would be an excellent way to improve my fine motor skills.

Although my hands have improved dramatically since June, typing is still a chore. In addition to the muscle loss, my hands and arms shake violently from the medications. Most of my July posts have been almost entirely picture or video content.

I thought I would be able to type full-time, but the constant stream of typos makes it hard for me to concentrate. And my hands get tired quickly. I found myself missing the voice recognition software that came with Windows Vista. It had been a great help to me.

I’m going geek out here for a few moments. The biggest problem with the voice recognition software is it requires the Windows Vista partition on my laptop. There’s no need go over the reasons why Vista was an unsuccessful operating system; most people have their own list anyway. Before I got sick I was learning to use an alternative to Windows, but had to stop for one important reason.

Whenever possible, I used the Ubuntu Linux partition on my laptop. Linux is an alternate operating system that is quite powerful, yet also light weight on the computer’s resources. What this means is that anything I want to do on Windows, I can do in Linux faster, more efficiently, and for free.

And it is also fun. There are some challenges, but I love problem solving and figuring out how to make things work. All the software is developed and given away by users, not for profit companies. So the programs can be a little quirky and help is a little more challenging to find. But since there is a community that works on the software, fixes and work arounds come fairly quickly.

But there is no voice recognition software for Ubuntu. I know a couple of projects being developed, but I didn’t find anything that I was smart enough to use successfully. Whenever I wanted to write, I had to go back to slow, buggy, forever updating itself Vista.

But I am able to compromise; I wrote most of this in Windows using the voice recognition software, then edited it by hand in Ubuntu, using the excellent (and free!) Writer program.

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