My loss of sensation was as concerning as my loss of movement. In the hospital, family members would touch my fingers or toes and ask, "Can you feel this?"
Not only did I lose sensation in my lower limbs, I could not place them in space. With my eyes closed, I could not tell if my arm rested by my side or in your hands. My perimeter had become fuzzy.
As feeling began to return in those early weeks, I qualified it: There was vibration and pressure, but not touch – no sense of skin against skin or the texture of bed sheets.
Temperature returned during a rehab shower – strange signals from my left leg. My right leg felt hot water. So, this is what hot feels like, I told myself. To this day my left side feels heat more keenly than my right. Hot is insistent.
A different sensation emerged one day as my occupational therapist worked with my arm. Her hands were cold. And so this is what cold feels like, I instructed myself. Cold is subtle – it reveals itself from a distance.
Without looking, I still cannot tell if my fingers are open or curled – grasping an object or empty. To test my sense of touch, I ask my husband to brush a cotton swab beneath my fingertips. With eyes closed, I try to tell which finger he's touching. For the first time last week, (15 months post-stroke), I was finally able to identify each finger correctly.
Who knew that having my husband tickle me with a Q-Tip could be so exciting?