Friday, March 20, 2009

Post Stroke Challenges

I don't know anyone that enjoys going through airport security. I tried to plan ahead and have my boarding pass and ID ready to show. I took off my shoes, put my purse and laptop bag in the square plastic tubs to be scanned.

As I was walking through the metal detector, the screener asked if the black bag passing through the machine was my laptop. Yes. Then he asked about the brown purse. I identified the purse as mine. He opened my purse and pulled out a water bottle (I had forgotten it was in there). He cited the rule of "only 3 ounces of liquid allowed."

The 12 ounce water bottle was probably three quarters full. I apologized and offered to drink it. Nope, not allowed. Can I pour it in the trash? Nope, not on that side of the security belt. At that point, a young TSA agent stepped up and said he would walk me out (the entire 6 feet) to the 'other side' where I could dispose of the water. So I follow the uniformed young man carrying my water- apparently I was not to touch it. Once through the gate, he handed me the bottle. I drink it down to less than an inch. I figured there wasn't even 3 ounces left. Nope, still not good enough, even though it was less than 3 ounces, it was still in a 12 ounce container. Geez. But, the young man cheerily confides, if I empty it, I can keep the bottle and then fill it from the drinking fountain in sight - less than 4 feet away. I drink the rest of the water.

One of the most frustrating and embarrassing residuals of the stroke is the inability to handle a lot of stimulation, frustration, or new information. The airport was crowded, hot, noisy and then 'all this' (in my logical mind it was not a big deal - however, in my post stroke (PS) brain it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, the PS brain was in control of the rest of my body. As I became more frustrated, I got more confused and my brain just shut down - like a computer in hibernation mode. Then, my vision started narrowing -leaving a pin hole of central vision . My wonderful new prism glasses were totally ineffective. All I could think was, if only I had Bailey, my service dog. But I had worked so hard to be more independent. Leaving her this trip was a test to prove I could do it by myself - obviously I was mistaken.

The young TSA agent led me back to the scanner operator, who then decided the same laptop that was successfully scanned through a few minutes prior, was now suspect. My laptop bag had to be taken apart as there were 'extra electronics' discovered.

It was all I could do to hold it together. I was near tears as he removed the GPS and my camera, along with the laptop. He called a supervising agent to inspect the equipment.
I can't blame them -I was dripping sweat like a nervous terrorist.

Finally, my property was given back - not in the bag, just thrown in the plastic container. I was trying to put my shoes on - a comical sight with my poor balance. It seemed like every passenger in the entire airport was behind me in line, staring at me, waiting to get through. I was fumbling trying to put things back in the laptop bag and get my purse. My jacket was missing, but at least I noticed, told the inspector and he found it on the next table before I left the area.

Finally, through security, I started looking for my sister. I waited at the end of the security screening area. Eventually I realized, she must have gone ahead to the boarding gate, which was at the end of a very long concourse.

She wasn't there. By then, my entire body was revolting, I was shaking, I could barely see, my legs were refusing to obey and I hurt everywhere - especially in my head. I sat down and tried to get a grip; medications, deep breaths and calming visualizations helped.

Why does my mind and body continue to betray me like this?

Ten minutes later, I force myself back down the long concourse. I was almost to the security area when my sister spots me.

Once, I was a strong, independent, confident, woman - now, I sometimes feel like a lost two year old.


  1. I can feel how helpless and frustrating this must be. My mother is in the same situation, post stroke and hating to be easily flustered, unable to rebound from a confusing situation. Her confusion either leads to tears or anger. You are not alone.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I pray your mother does not give up and continues to work on her recovery (and believe me, it is work.)

    I write about my PS challenges not only to help me deal with the changes; but hopefully it may help someone have a greater understanding of some of the siily things that can may upset a stroke survior.

  3. Just remember, that even in those days or moments when body segments betray you, that it doesn't change who you are or what you are capable of. And strangers probably judge us less than we think they must be, they lack our internal points of reference. I'm positive that to your family members and friends, you are seen the way you always have been.

    Best of luck on continued independance, even 2 year olds grow up to be not so lost. Or at least I'm hoping mine does. ;)


  4. How wonderful you are sharing your experiences! In August 2005 I had a stroke when I was 49 and just took my first plane trip. What an adventure! I am still relearning to walk and walk. So I am just sending e-mail to communicate ( Even though I'm sure it's painful I did enjoy your missive. Vangi Uribe

  5. Gee Darci I could feel your frustation, very well written. I sometimes feel some frustration when travelling but I now have to imagine how much harder it would be for someone who may have some type disability. Thank you for sharing and opening my mind.

  6. Darcie, you are helping a lot of people with your writing. I'm so sorry that you are dealing with this but you are taking a very positive route forward. I'm glad it is not stopping you from venturing forth. I hope you have better experiences on your vacation. Sher

  7. Darc - sorry about the security upheaval and your personal brand of frustration with the confusion of contemporary air travel, but I am so enjoying reading little stories about your trip. Keep 'em coming. Thanks.