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Spreading Hope: The Story of Wakie McBride
By Rowena Alegrķa
Wakie McBride thought she had lost everything when her husband of 30 years died. The self-described artist, businesswoman, art and Sunday school teacher, landlord and new grandmother wasn’t eating or sleeping well and was afraid of being alone. Unable to keep her art gallery and frame shop open, she was “worried to death” about her finances.
Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, McBride had a stroke. Only a month had passed since her husband’s death, and suddenly McBride was unable to take care of herself. For two and a half years, she feared she would wind up like her father, who never recovered from a paralyzing stroke.
But now, eight years later and living in Marietta, Okla., about 200 miles from where she grew up, McBride has a new life. She’s painting and teaching again and has remarried. “I like me a whole lot better now,” she says.
McBride is also on a mission to share her story with other stroke survivors.
“I feel like the Lord didn’t just let me recover from the stroke for no reason,” she says. “He wants other people to have hope, and I think sharing my story is a good way to give them hope.”
McBride wrote up her story and shares it with other stroke survivors in her community, including a member of her church who lost his speech but took McBride’s advice to try singing old hymns along with a tape or CD. A few Sundays later, he and his wife sat next to the McBrides during services.
“I got to hear him sing some of the words. Not all of them, but some,” she says. “It was such a thrill to me.”
In her “memoir,” McBride wrote honestly about the trials of stroke recovery:
“I was almost helpless. I couldn’t sit up without falling to the right. I couldn’t stand alone. And I couldn’t walk without guidance. I dragged one foot. I walked on the side of my foot (because my toes were cramped under). I couldn’t talk. Or even think of the words I wanted to say. When I got up, I wet my pants. I couldn’t feed myself either.”
And it just kept getting worse. As is the case with so many stroke survivors, depression set in.
“I had never been depressed,” McBride says. “I had never been bored. I always had more exciting things to do with my life than I could get done.”
For what seemed like months, McBride cried and slept. Eventually she realized she just couldn’t go on like that.
She wound up in therapy physical, occupational and speech. Although she attended the official sessions only three times a week, McBride did exercises of some kind every hour she was awake, even if it was nothing more than moving her feet in the bed.
Determination teamed up with good friends to get McBride moving again.
A fellow choir member wouldn’t let McBride leave the group after the stroke. “So I kept climbing the stairs to the choir loft and gradually I was singing again.”
A friend asked McBride to paint again, saying she didn’t care if it was perfect. She just wanted the first painting McBride did after her stroke. Having tried before to get brush to canvas post-stroke and being unable to control where the colors landed, McBride resisted. But her friend was persistent. McBride finally put up a canvas and stared at it for a month.
“I was just scared,” she says. Finally, she painted the sky. And when that wasn’t too bad, she painted the distant trees. So she went ahead and painted in her friend’s bird dogs. “Even the eyes,” she says, “which were so hard. It was a big turning point for me. I could see that I could have my own life back.”
She adds, “I learned a lot in having a stroke. I learned to accept my life the way it is, to take everyday as a gift from God, because it is.”
McBride hopes to keep on sharing her story, perhaps in pamphlets that could be handed out to stroke survivors as they leave the hospital for the first time.
“If I had had something like that to encourage me, it would have been so good, but I didn’t. I want to do that (for others).
“I couldn’t have believed that I could have been this happy again. I’m more appreciative, more accepting, more giving, more loving,” she adds. “I’m just a different person.”
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