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Debbie W

December 17, 2014

I am ... A Caregiver or Family Member

Oct, 31st 2010  my husband was not supposed to survive his Brain Stem Stroke

The morning of our son’s confirmation, our lives changed forever. Warren was taking a shower when he became dizzy, unable to barely stand, with help from our boys we got him sitting on the couch, and threw some pants on him. He insisted he had vertigo, felt like he was going to be sick and said to go ahead without him to the confirmation. We went! Other family members were coming soon, he verbally told them what was where to help get ready to celebrate. Couple of hours later we came home, no change in him. Still not wanting to move around much for the thought of vomiting, communicating fine and insisting that he was just dizzy; I looked carefully at his face, no droopy, no slur in speech, joking around with whomever stopped by to visit and watching some of the kids play on the Wii. By 3:00 I did notice a bit of paleness to his skin and he was becoming sleepy, still unaware of what was really happening. After saying goodbyes to his sister I decided to access him again in case I needed assistance getting him to a vehicle before everyone left. I returned to check on him to find him non-responsive, eyes closed, chin dropped to his chest, and drooling.  I couldn’t wake him! We called 911, and unresponsive yet, they transferred him to the nearest hospital, with me riding along. We are small town and within minutes they had called for a helicopter to take him the 100 miles to North Memorial in Robinsdale, MN. I was astounded when they said he had suffered a stroke and he was in very severe condition. They took information from me to try and figure out the cause of the stroke, which later I found the words were totally distorted and anyone using that information would have been lead the wrong way and not been any help at all. He had been having a migraine over his eyes for the past week, and a really bad headache during a college visit only two days before his stroke; those were the stroke signs we missed. (He had plans on going in on Monday to check out those headaches)! Our 18 year old went with me to drive the 100 miles to join Warren by car, while our 16 year old stayed with my folks to wait for news. By the time we had arrived he was hooked up to tubes, wires, and already had some tests done. They didn’t know if he was going to live or die at that point, or for the next 48 hours. He had suffered extensive damage to his brain and was in a coma.  He finally woke up nearly 48 hours later, for short periods at a time and was able to move showing no paralysis, he began talking a day or two later in what seemed normal speech.  The speech became really random and nonsense a week later. We discovered his balance was extremely off making it impossible for him to sit, stand or walk. This is when things became a bit more surreal for me, two doctors were straight forward but remained optimistic saying “we do not know, how far he will come; it depends on many factors”. Another doctor out right told me that he would never walk, talk, feed himself again so I might as well get the thought of him returning home right out of my head, (I didn’t believe her, my husband was showing too many signs of improvement- even if they were little). He remained in ICU for a week, moved to regular care for another week before moving to a rehab facility where he worked on therapy for another month. Now December 15, 2010; Still unable to do much on his own and a feeding tube still attached but eating regular foods he was transferred yet again, to a short term living facility that had speech, OT, and PT twice a day; six days a week on site. He was also closer to home by an hour so I finally got to at least sleep at home and visited most of his waking minutes; up to this point our boys were at home alone- going to school, visiting their dad on weekends and I came home only a few times to play catch up. Still very much aware of what was going on he came home in the middle of March; nearly 5 months in hospitals and rehab centers. He had the feeding tube removed and feeding himself, began reading simple words again, and was able to walk with assistance as well as using a wheelchair. Using the bathroom and wearing underwear again (which was a big moment believe me), his short term memory was hard to deal with as was his inability to move his eyes downward. He has doll eyes in which when he tips his head forward, his eyes roll up into his head. These two deficiencies have held him back, making his progress slower and harder.

Now just over four years since his stroke, all in all I figure we are pretty lucky, he can walk, eat, talk and read. Take care of his personal needs although needs verbal assistance most of his day. He takes only a couple of medications and is able to move without assistance. He is able to be alone for short periods of time. He has his good and bad days of course but his memory has improved greatly in allowing him to remember significant events and happenings up to a week later (if he was not tired or upset during the event), his emotions are a wreck- especially when thinking about his kids. He still has trouble with his eyes, but that to has come a long way and he is able to see down at a 30* degree angle (although when it comes to deer tracks on the ground, he’s on it). He has long since refused his wheelchair, and the walker and uses a walking stick only when walking on uneven paths but otherwise walks great and straight, even can ride a two wheeled bicycle, drives the 4-wheeler and plows the snow with the tractor (when and only if he is in the right mode of awareness). He is bound and determined he is going to keep getting better; who am I to stand in the way! There is so much more to our story, but that is a look at where we have been and where we hope to be. We struggle with depression, confusion among other things but we try to stay positive and keep looking at what comes next. Keep up the Faith, hard work and believe!

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