An Inconvenient Miracle
The human spirit is capable of so much. Stroke took Jessica's function down to the absolute ground floor of human capability. Despite the hardships and setbacks, she has regained much.
The birth of a child should be one of the most memorable days of life. Unfortunately, not all deliveries go smoothly. Sometimes the day that we have been looking forward to turns out quite differently than we had imagined.
We experienced one of those days on July 10, 2010. I'll always remember our positivity and excitement that Saturday as we prepared to introduce our brand new baby to the world. We were relaxed as we ate breakfast, made final preparations, and drove to the hospital. The anxiety that we experienced while rushing to the hospital with our first two babies was reminiscent of a ride on the biggest, tallest, and fastest roller coaster in the park. With this baby being so late and Jessica being so uncomfortable, it seemed that the climax of this pregnancy was the moment the obstetrician finally told us "we can schedule the delivery in two days." This third delivery drive to the hospital could be likened more to riding the merry go round than to riding even the smallest of coasters.
Knowing what to expect at the hospital took the air out of our imaginary stress balloon. The familiarity with hospital procedure made it feel like having this baby would be as natural for Jess as brushing her teeth or making the morning coffee. Things were running as smoothly and Jess was comfortable and conversing the entire time. Life was going according to plan... Jess would soon feel better and once again have enough energy to stay awake later than the kids. A house managed by a man can be a scary sight, and Jess would soon feel well enough to retake the reins of household management in time to make sure things didn't get really bad around here. Even with a new baby, the two of us would have been able to restore our living space to the lived-in but generally clean feel that it had enjoyed before the pregnancy.
Before we even got to active delivery, all of that changed. A sudden loss of consciousness and corresponding crashes on all the monitors was all the evidence needed to convict this day as the scariest we had ever faced. Every minute seemed like an hour of torture as the slowdown of life magnified the stress ball in my chest and clarified forever the mental pictures of it all. I would never again be free from the exact visual memories that I now wish weren't quite so clear. Hoping for the best but knowing its impossibility is a most humbling experience. The world had never felt so big and I so small. The only positive there was to dwell on was that we had such great interactions that morning and at least there were no worries about our final communications being something we might regret.
Amniotic fluid had leaked into her bloodstream. The result was stroke, heart attack, and DIC. The body slipped into power save mode for the next six weeks. During the seventh week, she came out of the coma and began to reintroduce herself to the world. She learned to observe, smile, and swallow. Months later she relearned how to eat, think, and walk.
Scans showed multiple strokes, which resulted in serious deficits. During the last two years, her life has been defined by successes and setbacks. Hard work resulted in progress, but nothing came as quickly or as easily as we wished. Even today, she is unhappy about her need for a cane and her difficulties with memory and reading.
A casual observer might think the cane and the deliberate nature of walking are clues that her personal recovery journey is just beginning. This is because her movements and interactions now look almost natural. Observant people who notice the tiny tracheostomy scar on her neck and understand what that scar represents know that this woman is a survivor who has worked hard and conquered much.
Despite all the frustrations and limitations caused by the stroke, life is still good. Mom and baby have now bonded. Each day contains some joy to balance out the frustration. As a patient, she has far outdistanced every prognosis. As wife and mother, she has shown that even an imperfect life can be a great life.
Her recovery would not have been possible without all the ideas and information available concerning stroke recovery. Many thanks to medical staff, therapists, and organizations like the National Stroke Association for offering helpful information.
Read more about Jessica and her recovery at her website: www.inspiredrecovery.net