Feb 262015
 

My neurodoc is used to thinking about something quickly and telling a person to do x, y, z five seconds after you’ve given him feedback, whether you’re research staff or a patient. I’m not used to taking orders sans explanation. But sometimes I’m just too tired to care.

Of course, that only lasts for so long — like one day — before my no-questions-asked obedience turns to forgetfulness or questioning.

After reviewing my reading homework results, my neurodoc asked me exactly when do I develop a headache, by which paragraph? I didn’t have my notes in front of me when he asked, but I guessed the third paragraph. So he told me to read two paragraphs of a similar length, every second day, for two weeks.

I surmised he didn’t want me to develop a headache and just accepted his command. But later, I wanted to know more about what his goal was. He told me that for this exercise, right now, he didn’t want me to read for content, but for physical comfort. Just read two paragraphs of about equal length every second day for two weeks, using the skeleton method, reading out loud, and slowly enough so that I don’t develop a headache. Then we would re-assess.

He then told me to find two paragraphs to read every other day.

I could just see myself in a spasm of indecision for the next two weeks over what to read, so I reminded him for the umpteenth time (well, okay, the third time) that I cannot decide what to read, he has to decide for me. I persevered until he agreed. And then he did something amazing: he called me the next morning with the article I was to read. He explained I’m driven, so what the heck, no reason to wait. It was a short, simple thing for him to do but made me feel like I had a partner in this reading endeavour. I wasn’t totally alone in this tough haul; for some of it, I can lean on someone to be as driven as me. For those of us with a brain injury, who want active treatment, this is huge.

The neat side effect of him choosing my reading material is he’s learning about me in a way he never would in the normal course of treatment, and I’m learning about his reading tastes.

I began my homework and then thought: why not try reading two paragraphs during gamma brainwave biofeedback in the PZ position after doing the three biofeedback screens but before doing SMIRB (10 minutes of Stop My Irritating Ruminations Book)? I asked my trainer, and we did it. Of course, since it was in a different setting, I totally forgot to look at my iPhone for what I was to do and so forgot to do the skeleton. But I did the main thing: read two paragraphs. I loaded the article in Chrome, zoomed in until the text I was to read filled the screen, and read while my trainer ran the biofeedback screen, the same one she runs for SMIRB.

She was impressed with what my neurodoc and I were doing. She said reading as slowly as I am will help me retain much better. Her enthusiasm made the exercise feel less dorky. And we were both chuffed with how my heart rate dropped from 119 to 110, and my gamma/EMG ratio stayed virtually the same despite the higher muscle tension from reading out loud and talking to her a little in between the two paragraphs.

This is awesome!

Positive feedback helps tremendously to keep going when the work makes you feel like a child while exhausting you. It even makes one forget the bitter record-setting cold in Toronto, makes one beam into the teeth of the chilling wind!

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