When phobias are good & reading with your ears.

It’s now 20 months since Amanda’s stroke, and way past the point where the so-called ‘Plateau’ effect means she should have stopped improving or at least slowed down significantly.

But with the benefit of two daily Voluntastrols capsules, as the only thing consumed in addition to a normal healthy diet and the regular challenging tasks set by the Constant Therapy app, even now, I’m still noticing her brain slowly, but persistently pushing onward, sometimes in unexpected, but welcome ways.

Amanda has always had a shuddering fear of snakes and scorpions, instantly changing channel if they appeared in any way on TV.

In the months immediately following her stroke I noted her apparent fear had disappeared.  But this wasn’t strictly correct, and wasn’t some kind of positive evolution. In retrospect, just as the stroke has caused what a psychologist had called ‘emotional blunting’ I think it also masked her phobia,

In the last week, as snake-related news stories seem to have randomly increased on TV, she is back to shuddering and reacting to them (and scorpions) as she did before.

Perversely I see the return of her inherent phobias a positive step forwards and a further sign of healing.

I’ve read that stroke survivors are often able to think more clearly in calm, quiet and dark conditions. One night last week, just as I was going to sleep, Amanda said.

“I used to read a lot didn’t I?”

In fact she used to read at least 15 minutes at that very time of day, just before turning off her bedside lamp.

“Can you still get audio books from the library?”

The next day we went to the local library and found out how to access online audio books using a platform called ‘Overdrive’. I set it up for her and we downloaded the first of no doubt many cheesy romantic fiction novels. Meanwhile our daughter who works in a large bookshop is going to make a list of the books mum has missed in the last 18 months.

So now she has the choice and can sit and listen to a story instead of watching TV. She has also learned to navigate yet another app. The worst part is I have to listen to the lurid prose while I’m trying to write this!

I may have to persuade her to wear earphones from now on.

Finally this week, possibly the most impressive progress has been made using her Constant Therapy App.

Over the months the complexity level has slowly increased and the tasks have become more complicated. These include some even I struggle with. For example – remembering and reciting six sets of 9 digit numbers one after the other (it takes her a few goes to remember the whole set), or pointing to 10 words, in aphabetical order, alternating between upper and lower case.

When she first started she struggled with 3 simple tasks in 20 minutes. This week she completed 96 tasks in 90 minutes in one sitting, with an 87% success rate…

… and didn’t even yawn at the end!

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