Tal's Mind : What is going on in there ? May 2, 2011
MAY 2 : We have had a really good week of therapy finally! Haley, physical therapy, Malia, speech therapy says: Tal has had multiple sessions where he has made some progress
Let's see if I can describe what I think is Tal IS thinking and how each side of his brain is working at the moment.
First we know generally where Tal had his stroke. A blood clot(smaller than a grain of rice) lodged in the right side of Tal's brain. Tal described himself two weeks ago as having "half a brain". But we can see that he has BOTH parts of his brain working, just not ALL of the right side!
How do we know this?
Well for one by what he talks about! He shows empathy, feels and expresses compassion. Is able to understand something as a "whole" rather than just the sum of its parts. The first evidence of this was back when he wrote Uko his recipe for mashed potatoes!
He can see if you are happy, or sad, or serious , so non verbal communication. All right-brain work. He hears your tone of voice (ooufa! remember trying to get him to take a shower that first week back in April)and can distinguish between "please do this ?" and "please do this!". Right brain work.
Last but not least, his eyes are open while having a conversation. He is able to be in the "here and now". And that is all very right brain.
What is Tal's left side of the brain doing?
Well Tals left likes to hear his "schedule", needs quite a bit more time to sequentially understand what you are asking him to do than his right.
While the right is able to take in lots of information and quickly come to a decision as to what to do, his left needs to go through things one piece at a time.This is a much slower process.
So conversation with Tal goes at a much slower pace. You don't have to speak loudly with him/at him! (he can hear the smallest whisper!) but you must speak slowly and give him an enormous amount of time to respond!
Another thing that his left side has trouble dealing with, are conversations with multiple people in the room. One conversation at a time? He can follow it, albeit slowly! Conversations overlapping, more than one? Ugh! Difficult! Tal will quickly opt out.
So for visitors, probably better to go one at a time, speak to him one at a time and give him ample time to respond.
All that brain chatter that he was listening to with his eyes closed two months ago is a very good description of the left brain working.
Eyes closed, yet "awake", is the left brain working on things in the past or thinking about the future. This was very much the case in the early days following Tals stroke. Yes the pain meds played their part in this too, but alot of this was the left brain not able to process all of this stimuli, all of the chaos around him.
Listing things sequentially for him is incredibly reassuring for him.
A few weeks ago, he asked Jason to tell him what song they were listening to on the CD and Jason read him the entire list before finally coming to "his" song! He followed along, and you would think this was all too much information, right? Nope! For the moment, this seems to be how Pop likes his info served up!
I'm not saying you need to talk to him ONLY in lists but a certain amount of "we do this then this then finally that" is finally the easiest way for him to follow you and what you are asking of him. I really believe he wants to respond positively to whatever is asked of him. But it may take more time and need a much longer explanation and description of the task than most of us are willing to offer!
Time. He is much better able to follow the days/nights/calender these days! He likes to hear/prepare for what he needs to do the next day for instance. He needs time to mull things over! hehe! Showers! Jason tells him the day before that he would like to give him a shower (which has been difficult ) so the next day he is resigned to the idea that he must do it!
Language? No problem. He speaks readily and in complete sentences. Uses some pretty big vocabulary too.
"Storytelling" too is apparently all left brain work. The left brain wants to make sense of the world around us, so it takes what info it has on hand, fills in the blanks of what it doesn't have and shazaam! The "truth" as he sees it! Then it plays these "truth" loops over and over. This was why at one point, it was (still is) incredibly difficult for Pop to get "off" a subject. To change subjects is to stop one story and get on to another.
Thats all left brain stuff.
Where Tal's left brain has difficulty is: in being adventurous (doing therapy), being "social" , dealing with life at it's most chaotic, "noise" of all types, visual as well as sound.
Likewise, he has trouble with depth of field. A square on a diagonal is simply a parallelogram to him. He has trouble telling whether one thing is in front, alonside but smaller (!!!) or behind another! All that stuff we take for granted and read in an instant, he takes alot more time to puzzle out!
Picking something out of the whole. So a picture of many apples all jumbled up together is a very difficult "read". One apple on a neutral background? No problem for him. A table cloth that hangs over the edge of the table obscuring its boundaries? Very difficult to negotiate just where to set that glass down!
Well enough of that for the moment. We are hoping to find out a bit more about this when Tal visits his neurologist again in the near future. We would like to know exactly where in his right side, the blood clot lodged and exactly what part of his brain was affected.
Deborah Jowitt wrote us something very interesting about left side/right side brain stroke: (paraphrasing here) the left will do whatever it can to "repair" the right where as the right side ( if the left had been affected ) would have "disavowed" the lefts injury.
So the upshot of all this is that Tal's left brain is doing all it can to repair itself. He is eating, swallowing, doing his phys therapy exercises with more vigor, and making a real effort to be mobile. This is all conscious effort on his part.
In time, we hope he will feel on his left side again. That said, we have no concrete indication that this has yet happened. There IS a finite window of opportunity here for recovery. Ugh. Reality.
Voila. Everything as i understand it. As things change I will try to keep you up on it all.
Next time, I'll report on what it was like for Tal to visit his show at the Beach the Monday before i left Kansas. Exciting!
Mom will be going back to Verbank for 2 weeks this month. As she left in such a hurry, she left many projects in limbo. Her potter tribe have all offered to help her get this work finished and sent off to Korea which is incredibly generous of them. Caroline has been looking after the mail and the like so the bills are finding their way to Kansas and being paid!
She is incredibly organised! And all told, doing pretty well!
Lissa, in Paris
Posted Aug 1, 2011 10:37am
by Ron Streeter
Hi Tal and everyone !
Got an email from Romig indicating Tal was in an intensive therapy program back at the hospital in Manhattan and would be moving to Santa Fee sometime in the first 2 weeks of August. Good news getting back to a home setting and some beautiful country. Tal commented through Romig that Manhattan was looking good with a lot of the older real estate being renovated to a "tee". That's golf Tal...I'm sure you meant a kite reference like "flying high" ! Love you brother! Ron
Posted Jun 8, 2011 1:22pm
by Ron Streeter
Hi Tal, Romig and Lissa....
Hoping that my older brother is making some progress in grinding away at those pesky therapies and is keeping his wit sharpened in dealing with this aggravation of a kite without a string. I love you Tal.
Posted May 8, 2011 1:16pm
by Ju Tan
Dear Tal and Romig, Siena and I are thrilled that you finally did get our card. Thank you for your note. We continue to think about you and wish you all the best with you therapies.
Ju, Courtney and Siena
Posted May 4, 2011 9:45am
by Francine Harris
Hi Lissa- Again thank you for the spectacular reports... so helpful for Tal, plus an education for us! By separate email to you am sending a "portrait of friends" headshot photo. Hugs to you, Romeg and Tal. Love, Francine
Posted May 2, 2011 10:31am
by Jay Lee
Sounds like our hope is progressing. Thanks Lisa... I am planning to see Tal in Kansas on late June as earliest. Let me back to you in email.