A glimpse of a better future

My dear fellow friends,

Please allow me to share yet another “Eureka” moment which happened to me last night. I’m off to Italy for a week on Wednesday, but before I go, I’ll recount this small but important step I made towards a brighter future. I tell it in case anyone else is in a similar phase of recovery…

On Sunday 7th April, 2024 I had a breakthrough, or at least the glimpse of a breakthrough. My hand and arm had been remapped 10 days after my stroke, but I had spent 1½ years waiting for my hand to feel anything of significance. Up until now it had been a fuzzy, non-specific, and approximate ability that told me that an object and my hand had (possibly) met. The pinpoint location of touch was out of the question. Firstly, it is important that I list the many things that were stimulating my affected hand the last few days. I was

• writing out the alphabet
• touch-typing tests against time
• picking up 3-5 kg dumbbell weights
• using elastic finger bands
• doing my rowing and triceps exercises
• playing catch with a tennis-ball
• eating breakfast with a spoon
• flight simulator with handheld controller

Anyway, it was getting near bedtime, and I was fidgeting with my small blue spiky ball while watching television, when I felt something touch me… on my affected hand! There were two places I could feel a window of touch directly onto my bare bone; it felt like a hard object contacting a hard object. These locations were at the base of my thumb, followed, after a while, by the base of my first finger. Yet, the feeling was intermittent. I had to keep on stimulating that sensation, and when my wife came down after her shower, I hurriedly explained about neurons and synaptic pathways, and inquisitive dendritic arms coming together and meeting almost randomly. In my case, a dendrite may have already completed a missing connection to my outer somatosensory cortex, but now it was repeatedly reinforcing and stimulating the established connection. The next thing I showed was a picture of a homunculus, to show how sensation, and very similarly, movement were mapped out next to each other on the cortex of the human brain. It showed how much area was given to our lips; about as much as our entire upper and lower arm combined! Thumb, first finger and middle finger also take up a large space, both for sensation and movement. I then showed some clips from the internet of electron microscope videos of the moment where a dendrite reaches out and connects with another neuron, establishing a new pathway. This can result in an improved capability with movement, or the registration of a new sensation. This was going on in real time, and each time I felt a spike from the ball rub up against my thumb, I was confirming a new pathway to my somatosensory cortex. What shocked me was the marked increase in the clarity of sensation I was having; in the order of 1000s of times more detailed and clearer than anything I had experienced. Now I knew how wrong I was to assume that I would always experience a linear and steady increase in feeling. I stayed up an extra half an hour to stimulate the new intermittent sensations, and went to bed very excited about the possibilities and hopes that were stirring up inside me.

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@pando Wow!! How exciting is that! What you’re describing is how I imagine things happening inside my own body (without using the technical terms):grin:. So happy to see positive news again for you (first your tight glute breakthrough and now this). Life must be looking and feeling better and long may the improvements continue.

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That’s great news. The result of much hard work, I am sure! But it must feel like a gift, nevertheless. Italian skies will be even bluer now.

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Thank you, Trace,

I was literally in tears when it happened. I talk about the dendrites, synaptic pathways, neurons etc, because I believe imagination and visualization are crucial techniques to spur us on. Also, I believe that the run up to Italy has been fantastic for me; the push, the prep., the rest (to be fresh for the trip) have given me a real goal to work towards. What I’ll come back with will hopefully fill a whole book!!

What puzzles me, is that ever since my 3 week (then 4 in rehab) stay in hospital, when I started my book, I called it “Neuroplasticity”, a working title, to be sure. I had not looked it up on the net (because I had no net) and I knew very little about biology. Yet, somehow, I knew at that early stage (before I was even allowed to stand up) that everything to do with my recovery would be thanks to neuroplasticity!!

Ciao, Roland

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@pando

All I can say is

keep on keepin’ on
:writing_hand: :smile: :+1:

so pleased to hear your good news

have a great holiday!!

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Yes, absolute miracle, JPS

To have capabilities return (mind you, we quickly take them for granted) is a real gift. There are several clips of neurons reconnecting; here’s the first one I came across.
Ciao, Roland

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A very good start to your trip. I hope you have a feast of a holiday. :smiley:

Oh, and I hope you like Italian food.

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I do, Rups,

& It helps that I have an Italian wife, and lived there for 15 years, so I’m fluent in Italiano. Thanks for reading,

ciao, Roland

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@pando that’s exciting news & am so pleased for you. The start of much better things to come.

Have a great trip to Italy.

Ann

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Did you get any indication beforehand (not a joke :grin: ) that the full connection was re-establishing itself ?
Little itch may be ? Any tingling ?
Cheers
Nige

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Hi Nigel, @Nigelglos

those windows have since closed, except for one brief moment last night. However, I am confident that the dendritic connections have pruned, since it was bedtime, and I eventually had to stop stimulating and get some sleep. But I will certainly retry again and again.

There was no run up to the windows. They came out of the blue, took me by surprise, and shocked me. Remember I had been stimulating my hand black and blue all day. Was it some kind of neurological mis-wiring? Possibly, but I would welcome it, since it really felt like a window opening, and reaching out and connecting, or holding hands with someone the other side. So if it’s a neurological anomaly, I welcome it, and if it is an established pathway to my somatosensory area (now relocated, possibly) it will strike again very soon !!

Hope you’re doing okay, ciao, Roland

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:partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face: What a gift, so pleased for you :clap: :clap: :clap:

Coincidentally I posted the same video on this about a month before you joined so you probably missed it :smile:

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Yes, Emerald,

…and you rightly point out why babies, therefore, sleep so much. I have never slept so much in all my life, so I am confident my calm, gently motivated, and constructive approach is an ideal environment for my brain to repair and thrive in.

ciao, ciao, Roland

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One of the many reasons babies can get tired, cranky, agitated and cry is because when they’re around too much noise and activity they become from over stimulated; too much data input for the brain to cope with basically. Same can be said for stroke survivors.

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I slept loads on Sunday. Seemed a struggle to stay awake until very late afternoon

If I haven’t developed super human powers as a result and inevitably a role in a Hollywood blockbuster, I will be very disappointed.

Or it might be the apnea. :grin:

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Hi, your words were both enlightening and inspiring. I’m over the moon for you. Enjoy your trip…you deserve it!

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Wow! Fantastic news!! This shows that practice, practice, practice, then more practice is the key.
Hope you are enjoying Italy, my favorite holiday destination.

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A little update from Montegrotto, 45 min from Venice

Easyjet Assistance a dream. Having a fab time. Forgot what blue sky looks like many moons ago.
The area around my thumb continues to expand. My favourite toy is the blue spiky ball.
Have been in the pool for hours. Amazing for proprioception… but, Have you ever seen a brick swimming? that’s me. Ronald sank like a brick but Roland has taught him how to swim. Spasms / spasticity in leg is the same in water. Yin/Yang identical to Bristol. Joined in aqua zumba yesterday. Today at breakfast a waitress said to my wife “I woke up in the middle of the night, and thought to myself that husband of hers has “dos grandes cojones”” so my wife thanked her for the compliment, and eventually the waitress gave me a pat on the back. Now my readers know a bit more about Venetian women !! My walking is laborious, but I plod on. 150 metres to reach pool x4 a day. Read 2 books “Stroke Rebel” and “Stroke of insight”. Decided to put together a stroke recovery whatsapp group when I return to UK , because I am thinking so clearly and have developed another breakthrough routine that I call “X Frame” todo with CORE work, but amazing for my locked glute. Would love a tight group for rehab ; muscular and somatosensory tips. Also decided to find a good osteopath (check spinal alignment) and physiatrist or functional neurologist if such people exist in Bristol. Exactly half way through holiday. Very stimulating, ciao, best wishes to all on Forum, Roland

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Lots of good stuff above and I’ll comment perhaps later

But just to make you aware I’ve started a COMMUNITY on WhatsApp I’m the only member currently with a group called introductions let’s explore if you create a group for your therapy x if it can be a part of the community?

Community and group are the two names WhatsApp uses
I searched both areas for “stroke” and found nothing that’s why I created a ‘community’ - this seems to be way to aggregate groups - I’m not a sophisticated WhatsApp user so I may have got things completely tangled

Of course feel free to set something up separately but maybe banding together gives advantages

:slight_smile:

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Looks stunning, courtesy of Gloogle pictures, you must be very wrinkly by now after such a long dip. Glad progress is tipping in your favour and your encounter with the waitress anecdote has left me flummoxed. :sweat_smile:

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