In October of 2010, my great-grandmother who we called Nan, suffered a severe, devastating stroke. Nan was 94 years young at the time of her stroke in October and had survived a stroke several years earlier. The stroke occured when she was visiting with her neighbor and he was able to call 911 right away. She was rushed to the Emergency Room. My mother, who was in Virginia with Nan, called right away to update me. I packed my bag and my kids and immediately got on the interstate to Virginia from North Carolina.
I arrived at the ER around 10:30 p.m. where my Nan was still awaiting care (she arrived at the ER at roughly 6 p.m). By 1 a.m. she was situated in the ICU and resting comfortably, fully aware of her situation. As the weekend progressed, she did not. I stayed by her side and watched a woman who had been independent for 94 years, lie helpless in a hospital bed knowing, without a doubt, she was not impressed with her circumstances. She was gracious about the care she was receiving although we, her family, were unimpressed. Here speech was completely compromised and very little, if nothing, was being done to reverse the effects of her stroke. By Sunday evening I had to leave her side to return myself and my children to our home. That was the last time I saw my Nan.
She was then transferred to the skilled nursing facility where my mother works where she lived for 2 weeks. There she received physical and speech therapy and was cared for by many wonderful nurses, CNA's, PT's and SLP. In the end, my Nan's body wore down and it was her time to part.
Throughout this experience my family and I experienced many highs and many, many lows. Most of all we were thankful and feel blessed to have encountered those healthcare professionals who were truly there to help. They overshadowed those with less compassion and rose above those with no-beside manner.
As a healthcare professional myself, it provided me with a most valuable lesson - you must always put yourself in your patient's shoes. I often time walk into a room that is filled with family members surrounding their loved one and I am taken back to that weekend in October that I spent with my Nan. Most often I am overcome with emotion and must suppress that until I leave the room. But, at the end of the day, I am so very thankful for those emotions and know, that even though dealing with my Nan's stroke was so very painful at the time, it made me a better person and a better healthcare provider.
In the end, if I could say anything to those who have a family member suffering from a stroke it would be that you MUST be your family member's BIGGEST ADVOCATE!