Recovery from a stroke and paralysis


In the book The Brain That Changes Itself Norman Diodge discusses the story of Pedro a 65 year old man who experienced a serious stroke which paralyzed his face and half his body and left him unable to speak.

Pedros sons, Paul and George were told that Pedro has no chance of recovery and would need to go in to care. Instead of accepting this and more importantly believing this to be true George took cared for his father and look for ways to help him recover. George researched and tried many different rehabilitation methods with very little return.

George chose to try his own method and instead of trying to teach his father to walk he decided to start from the same a process in which a child would learn to walk. George began by supporting Pedro to learn to crawl. Gradually Pedro began to learn to crawl, first by leaning against the wall and eventually over months he began to be able to crawl. Interesting at this point, the story goes on to explain how neighbours complained that it was unfair to make ‘Pedro crawl like a dog’, they of course missing the bigger picture of Pedros recovery.

This unique method of Georges continued to follow the natural method of development for children to learn to walk. The next stage involved George and Pedro playing games:

  • Rolling balls and marbles to each other
  • Pick coins up from the floor with his weaker hand
  • Wash pans holding with his strong hand and scrubbing with his weak (Clockwise and Anti Clockwise)

The idea was to make everyday activities a game and a learning experience Pedro achieve his goal of walking again. This all reminded me of the way Mr Miyagi taught Daniel in the first Karate Kid movie wax on wax off and painting the fence which all came together to have a Karate martial application.

The variation of exercises continued until Pedro was able to crawl, pull himself up to his feet and eventually walk.

Pedro then focused on improving his speech and within a few months great improvement were there for all to hear. He then put his mind to writing and worked on refining his large clunky motor movements into fine motor movements as Children do when they are learning to write.

Three years after his stroke, at the age of 68, Pedro returned to his job full time teaching at City College New York and even remarried lived a very active life until his death from a heart attack whilst climbing high in the mountains of Bogota Columbia.

This story does not end there because Pedros brain was examined and amazingly showed that his brain had never healed from his stroke, yet he had still recovered even though the parts of the brain damaged controlled speech and movement. What this examination of Pedros brains shows is that the brain can rewire itself which is known as brain plasticity.

Interestingly brain plasticity is not a new concept. In a 1915 experiment an American Psychologist Shepard Ivory Franz showed that people who had been paralyzed for 20 years were capable of making late recoveries with brain stimulating exercises.

What brain plasticity indicates to us is that with the power of belief, desire and expectancy we can achieve our goals and our brain will adapt to manifest it.

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