My Stormy Summer of 2011
I had a right hemispheric stroke on June 20, 2011. I am a 51-year-old, active wife and mother. I am also a survivor of two strokes. My first was a lot easier to recover from. I had it on August 15, 2005 and in 6-7 months I was nearly back to normal. This one however has not been as easy or quick to recover from.
The weeks leading up to this one had to be the most stressful I’d ever experienced. My mother, who was like my best friend, was in a car accident on May 10, 2011. Her second and third vertebrae were fractured, and she was left completely paralyzed. I was blessed to be able to stay by her side day and night for weeks. My first break was on the 17th of June. I got my brother to stay with mom, and I left to do a karate demo and have a night of relaxing and blowing off some stress. Sunday morning I was back at the hospital. I remember I felt more tired than I should have been after a night away, but my mom was taking another turn for the worst so there was no rest for the weary. And at this time, I was being told that I needed to make life or death decisions about her, and I wasn’t ready to lose my mom. Very early Monday morning I was feeling much worse. I remember having problems with vertigo and nausea. My mother’s nurse was very concerned and brought me medicine for the nausea. By this time, she had taken the blood pressure cuff off mom and had me sitting in a chair so she could monitor MY blood pressure. Also, by this time all the nursing staff and even my mother’s doctor were urging me to go down to the E.R. My blood pressure was extremely high, but it wasn’t until a P.T. came into mom’s room with a mirror and told me to look at myself did I agree to go. The left side of my face had drooped. The P.T. thought I said, “Ok, now I’ll go,” but when I stood, I passed out right at the foot of my mother’s hospital bed. Everything was so fuzzy. I remember the frustration I felt when no one could understand what I was trying to say. My left side seemed not to exist anymore. I couldn’t feel or move it. Because of the quick actions of my mother’s nurses an I.V. was placed in my neck and meds were being pushed within minutes. My doctor told me later that I probably would not have survived if I had not been at the hospital when this stroke happened. Late that night (my world still seemed foggy) my nurse in the ICU rolled me up to my mom’s room to reassure her that I was OK. Everyday, somebody would roll me to mom’s room to visit. At this time, mom and I were encouraging each other just to survive. I remember one night when I got back into my room, my nurse coming in and telling me not to be alarmed, but something was wrong with my heart. It ends up that my stroke was caused by A-fib and before I could move to the rehab floor (the same floor but a different wing as my mom), I would need an ablation procedure to try to correct it.
Eight days in the unit and a day after the heart procedure, I was moved to the rehab floor. Then I began rehab life. By this time I was able to roll myself to see my mom. On June 30th my precious mother decided to give up her courageous battle, and on July 1st she passed away. I was blessed to spend her last hours with her. My doctor (who ironically had been my mother’s rehab doctor) gave me a pass to leave the hospital to attend her funeral. I would spend the next 16 days in the hospital rehab program. All that time is still kind of a blur, but I remember clearly the 15th of July. I received a phone call telling me that my sweet mother-in-law suddenly passed away. I checked out of the hospital on July 16th and headed out of town to now bury my mother in law. Within 26 days, I had a major stroke and lost not only my left side, but my mother and mother-in-law.
Since then, I am going to outpatient rehab three times a week. Recovery is going slow, but at least I seem to be heading in the right direction. I am back at my martial arts class twice a week. I’ve already sung in front of 300 plus people a few times and “wheeled” not just one, but three 5Ks. Nine months post stroke and I tested for my second degree black belt in Tae-kwon-do and passed with flying colors. I am now demonstrating my “one arm, one leg from a wheelchair” self-defense at other schools. I recently began having trace movement in my hip and leg, but continue to have no movement in my arm with very little movement in my shoulder. My face looks normal most of the time. My double vision is nearly gone, and I’m only left with the peripheral vision loss. I can speak clearly even if I can’t find all the words I want to say. Best of all, I can swallow normally so my food no longer has to be ground. My greatest frustration is being dependent on others and not being able to drive. I also find it exhausting trying to be “up” for everyone else when I feel so extremely tired. My advice to anyone going through the same thing (I still say it to myself every morning) would be not to dwell on the things you can no longer do. Don’t spend your time worrying about when or if you’ll be able to do the things you want to do. Just take it a day at a time and work on making this day the best it can be. Let God take care of all those other things. He’s got our yesterday, today and tomorrow.