Below is another part of My AVM Story: the recounting of the discovery, removal, rehabilitation, and survival of an arteriovenus malformation. To read from the beginning of the story, click here.
Physical and occupational therapy were now scheduled twice a day until I leave the hospital. I have now successfully sat up, mostly on my own. Well, I held myself in the sitting up position. I am not able to get myself sitting up by my own strength yet.
Next Step: Walking
The therapist gets me sitting on the side of the bed. The bed is low enough that my feet touch the floor. I’ve got three people around me to help me stand. One on my right with one arm around my back and the other holding my arm, the second on my left side doing a kind of bear hug around my torso with both arms (my left arm is too weak to be used to lift me up), and the third person is behind me on the bed to stabilize.
That’s a lot of people to get one little girl out of the bed!
Much to my surprise, all of those people were needed! I was so weak I couldn’t bear any of my weight on my own. Since this was my first time standing in weeks, I was quite dizzy just from being upright. I could barely keep my head up straight let alone keep the rest of my body standing up.
For a while we just stood there next to the bed letting my body get used to being upright. Looking back, it was probably also to give those poor therapists a breather before trying anything further.
Once I was feeling more balanced, we started to “walk.” Walk is a very generous term. It was more of a shuffle with me leaning heavily on my human crutches. I could mostly move my right leg on my own, but my left leg had to be pushed forward by the therapist on that side. The muscles in my right leg were so weakened they couldn’t lift my foot much off the floor at all. In fact, I’m not sure I could lift it at all. It was quite the sorry looking shuffle, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom so proud. Dan was sleeping during the day so I don’t think he saw my first “walk.”
Mentally, I was still in a little bit of a daze, probably due to the high doses of pain and anti-seizure meds, but I don’t remember being excited about this progress. I was more overwhelmed my how hard everything was. The thought of moving on my own and getting back to normal life seemed impossible. It was exhausting to think about trying to go back to living on my own. I couldn’t sit myself up in bed. I couldn’t walk a single step on my own.
How in the world did I make it on my own before?
I couldn’t remember how I managed before the surgery. It was shocking how much energy it took to just sit up. It looked like it was going to be a long road to recovery.
The Road to Recovery
The therapists left exercises for Dan and my parents to do with me in between my twice daily sessions. All of these were done while I was in bed. For my legs, we began moving my leg out and back from the hip. I could do this on my own for my right leg, but Dan or my parents had to physically lift and move my left leg for me. For my left arm, there were similar range-of-motion exercises.
I could not move my arm or leg on command, but in order to get the brain to start recognizing those body parts again, they needed to be moved. The doctors still aren’t sure if the right side of my brain is just swollen from the surgery or if permanent damage was done.
The good thing is God created an amazing brain in each one of us. The brain is divided into two hemispheres, and each side controls the opposite side of the body’s motor function. In a normal person, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain, the right side of the body. So it makes sense that my left side is affected when the AVM was located in my right frontal lobe. Here’s the amazing part: if one side of the brain is damaged, the other side can take over.
Isn’t that amazing? How did God know to create our brains in that way? Maybe because he is a God of second chances, or maybe it’s because he wanted to show his all-knowing creative powers. I don’t know the reason why he created our brains that way. I’m here to tell you that I’m glad he cared to put that much effort into his creation.
To this day I don’t know if both sides of my brain in the area of physical motor movement are functioning. I could get some tests done to figure that out, but it’s not a good idea to undergo medical tests without a good reason. Curiosity is not a good reason. I’m still not back to 100% coordination on my left side. Does that indicate which side is working? Only God knows.
Dwelling on this would be a waste of energy. I mostly focus on praising my wonderful God for restoring my health and life to me. God has done an amazing work in my life, and I can’t wait to share the rest of my story with you.
Next: My AVM Story – Part 24