Posts Tagged With: stroke

Life’s Agenda and Mine Don’t Sync

Monday at Grand Canyon.

Monday at Grand Canyon.

Three days ago MSH and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon with my Dad and Mom.

After taking a few days to allow the experience some time to settle in and process a bit, I thought that’s what I’d post about today. I figured it’d be a good way to work through my goodbye blues after Dad and Mom left this morning to drive back home.

But, LIFE has its own agenda sometimes. 

Nine hours after pulling out of my driveway this morning, Dad called with news that he’d taken Mom to the hospital in a tiny town just outside of the middle of nowhere. From there they flew her to a bigger hospital in a bigger town.

The doctor’s are saying Ischemic Stroke. That’s what they said in April and it turned out to be seizures in the area around her first stroke. Dad says she’s already doing better than she was this afternoon, so that’s something to hang on to.

Dad sounds optimistic and calm.

I’m just a puddled mess of tears and fears. Praying lots. Staying in touch with the siblings and relatives. Trying to feel some peace. At a complete loss for words now.

The next twenty-four hours will tell us more.

Any prayers you want to add to the mix surely garner my appreciation.

~~~

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” ~Helen Keller

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Cat Tuner Changes his Tune

I didn’t plan this, but a year ago today I wrote this post about my Dad, the cat tuner extraordinaire. Strange, sometimes, how life circles back around.

Dad brought their cat inside the house (it’s definitely an outdoor cat) shortly after I arrived here and told me a story.

A week or two ago Dad says their cat went missing. When Lulu finally showed up her back right leg was dragging behind her and she acted out of sorts. Dad looked for obvious injuries and found none. No bleeding, no cuts, no scrapes, no missing fur. After a bit of thinking it over and talking with Mom, he decided to take the cat to the a local vet. The estimated wait time seemed too long, so Dad headed to another vet in the next town or two over who could see the cat right away.

After an exam and some tests and X-rays the vet determined the cat’s ligaments and tendons in that back leg had torn somehow. He could repair it with some surgery. After talking it over with Mom, (who is not a cat person, nor a pet person of any kind) Dad agreed to the surgery.

What?

Who are you and what did you do with my real Dad? 

So for the past week he’s been giving doses of antibiotic to Lulu and babying her like I’ve never seen before. Even Mom has let the cat sit on her lap and rubs its soft gray head until the purring vibrates some inner chord of contentment. That purr soothes Mom in return. And voila, a calmer Mom makes for a calmer Dad.

The stitches came out yesterday. The vet’s assistant commented that she’d never worked with a calmer, more well-behaved cat. No hissing, no scratching, no meowing, just Dad and Mom holding the trembling mass of fur while the stitches got snipped.

Not enjoying the car ride.

Not happy about the car ride.

The three of them make an interesting group.

  • Long haired Lulu with her back leg shaved, limps along like every movement hurts beyond contemplation, and yet she can carefully jump up on a chair or climb the stairs.
  • Mom who’s got the usual aches and pains of her age along with the effects of her stroke and seizures, sitting on the porch swing with Dad.
  • And Dad who last year didn’t like the porch swing swinging, but now doesn’t seem to mind it, who used to hobble about like an old man just for laughs, now hobbling about like an old man, but taking on some of Mom’s tasks, and keeping up with his own.

It’s almost as if the cat’s injury endeared them to it and made them all feel more connected. They’ve had to slow down and become content to stay put a bit more.

I asked Dad if his cat-tuning ways had changed tune. He denied it. He said something akin to, I’ve still got plenty of other cats to tune, or something like that. He’s just a mischievous twelve-year old at heart. But he’s also become more tender-hearted this past year, more attentive to Mom, more in tune with her and what she needs. It’s as if her injuries, and consequently her dependence on him, have endeared her to him more.

And Dad’s ministrations and attention to Mom have made her more affectionate and appreciative toward him.

Interesting turn of events, wouldn’t you say?

I think so.

None of them are the same as they were a year ago. In big, drastic ways. Mostly for the better in spite of, or maybe because of, the tough road. Who would have thought?

Sounds like a harmonious song to me.

 

 (For Twitch, who went to kitty heaven yesterday.)

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Categories: Family, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More Vocabulary Lessons for Me

It’s Gratituesday! I’m thankful today for a chance to visit my parents. The need to get here  nagged at me for nearly two months. Now I’m finally standing in their home and seeing their faces, giving hugs, talking, basking. My heart can relax a little.

At last, I can put experience together with all the information I’ve gotten by phone, text and messaging about Mom’s latest medical adventures and get a full picture. Part of me feels relieved and part of me feels more worry.

Mostly, I find I’m becoming better acquainted with another medical phrase I thought I could put behind us.

  • Expressive aphasia – you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean

For a writer that would be called a massive writer’s block.

For someone who’s had a stroke it means not being able to communicate as well as you’d like, if at all. It can lead to frustration and depression and anxiety. But it can also be a source of laughter and bonding. I suppose it depends on the attitude of all involved as well as the medication cocktail the patient taking.

My mother manages to laugh about most of her verbal roadblocks. But frustration and perseverance work themselves into the picture as well. She’s human, after all. (Even though I’ve often thought she was wonder woman.)

A few days ago one of my sisters and I decided that carrying on a conversation with Mom, sometimes, is like playing the game of “Catchphrase” or “Charades.” Lots of gesturing, guessing, backtracking and logic leaps. When communication becomes clear and we all understand what’s been said I feel like cheering, or ringing a bell, or declaring a winner.

Some violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

Violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

But when words won’t materialize in spite of how much her brain knows what it wants to say you can cry or you can laugh or you can hope the words show up eventually. My sister and I still aren’t sure what the flowers in the front yard have to do with the piano in the living room, but in Mom’s mind they are somehow connected.

The thing is, those connections got rerouted, detoured, and dead-ended last summer with her first stroke. Then a couple of months ago, with her seizure that occurred in the same area as the stroke, all those connections experienced even more deconstruction and rerouting. All the repairs and healing that happened over the past nine months took a sideways step or two, if not a step backwards as well.

  • Post-stroke seizures – When stroke injures part of the brain, it leaves a scar, which can then trigger abnormal electrical activity that can start a seizure. Up to twenty-two percent of stroke patients experience these types of seizures.

Reminds me of a pothole repaired over and over again. Extra bumpy and almost as bad as the pothole itself.

Sometimes it’s not merely communication that takes a hit. In Mom’s case there’s also some memory loss.  All sorts of traffic jams happen just within her own brain. Fixing lunch can take a long time because each step of the process requires incredible focus and follow-through. Her mind gets sidetracked between the silverware drawer and the refrigerator two feet away from each other.

Breakfast this morning, cereal and some fruit, ended up involving six or seven spoons of various sizes. I think my presence in the room threw off her routine, or made her nervous.

I suppose it’s like watching a young child learn to walk. Part of you wants to take their hand, catch every fall, help every step, even though you know the process of figuring it out builds neural pathways and muscles that make real walking possible. Letting Mom thrash through some of the mental tangle helps connections reform, gives her a sense of accomplishment and courage to try again, and develops new pathways for logic and sequencing. Eventually the communication will improve more. At least, that’s the hope.

But oh, my heart hurts watching this woman who once took care of me, and all my siblings, struggle so much with basic tasks. Tasks she already relearned last year.

And yet today, between the two of us, she sewed two simple aprons. Mostly I watched, threaded the machine, made a few suggestions, pointed out where the scissors were hiding. It took much longer for her to do it herself. I could have whipped them out in fifteen minutes. But the sense of satisfaction she gained from the effort did us both good.

There’s a house for sale next door to them. I would buy it up and move in if resources made it possible. But, as usual, real life intervenes with wishes and dreams. They have good neighbors and friends who check in often. And I have a brother and his wife who live in town, thank goodness! But part of my heart will now always hang out here, worrying and wondering.

I’m afraid I’d be a “helicopter daughter,” hovering and not letting her do for herself.

Mostly, I’m simply grateful and I’m enjoying the few days I have to hang out here. It’s a peaceful, calming, mountain view spot. But best of all it’s where Mom and Dad continue learn and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of Those Phone Calls You Don’t Want

When your phone rings at bedtime or after and it’s one of your siblings, a jolt of lightning shoots through your chest. It’s best to sit down before you say hello. Important to remember to keep breathing.

Whatever niceties you normally say, you say them, even though you know that’s not what the phone call is about.

You hear pieces of words, not full sentences. You try to put it together like a puzzle dumped out the box before you’ve seen the picture on the box.

You want time to move backwards to ten minutes ago, ten days ago, ten weeks ago, ten months ago, ten years ago. You want this not to be happening.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not again.

Another stroke.

A different kind this time. Ischemic.

Ischemic, not hemmoragic. What does that mean?

A million questions. Very few answers, mostly uncertainty.

Tests to run.

Prayers to offer up. That’s all I can do from this many miles away.

Calls to make.

Decisions. Patience while hoping and praying, always praying, for the patient to improve.

The patient.

Mom.

That one word sends the tears cascading and threatens to spill what little logic yet remains all over the floor making a huge mess of things.

Grateful for group messaging to communicate with siblings quickly, easily and clearly.

Hours later you read words that calm the pounding in your head and heart.

Resting. Stabilizing. Talking. Leveling. Normal Function. No clots so far.

You write not in first person because you need the distance created by the preposition “you.”

You write because sleep seems incomprehensible.

You write to have something to do about frayed nerves and the ache burning through you.

You write because surely you want to, should be able to, create a happy ending.

You write as a sort of prayer through the fingers. A keyboard rosary. Each keystroke a pleading for intercession.

Hoping for the best.

Hoping for the best.

Still praying.

Still praying.

Still praying.

 

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ~Mother Teresa

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Hope, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Laughing at the Lemons

I’m a proponent of the lemons => lemonade way of thinking. I must have learned it from my Mother. Since her stroke she’s been incredibly optimistic and downright hilarious at times. Now that I’m not hanging out with her on a daily basis, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I know I’m missing out on some great laughs and I-can-do-this kind of thinking. As role models go she’s been the best, but now she’s added new dimensions to what I admire and strive for.

mother quoteOne of the best lemons turned sweet is her sense of humor. Here’s a few humorous things Mom’s said since her stroke:

While still in the hospital, two of my sisters who shall remain nameless, and my Mom in her wheelchair, got into the elevator. The door closed. They waited. And they waited. Finally, Mom, the one who had suffered the stroke a few weeks earlier, and at the time was still struggling with basics like walking and talking and eating, piped up and said, “Shouldn’t we push the button?”

Mom lauded that one for all it was worth. My sisters swore each other to secrecy about the incident. I think Mom was the one who told me about it. For the record, my sister who teaches second grade was NOT involved in that incident.

Always looking out for and concerned about the other person, Mom was talking about how many hours Dad had spent at the hospital, which is an hour and half drive from their home.

“Your poor Dad! While I’ve been in the hospital he’s had to sleep at your Aunt and Uncle’s house, and your brother’s house and at your sister’s house. He’s just been sleeping around.”

Then, a pause, followed by her giggling at how funny her last sentence was.

Sunset

Sunset (Photo credit: armisteadbooker)

Shortly after she got back home we liked to sit out on the front porch at sunset. One evening while sitting on the porch swing, Dad joined us. Not long after sitting down on the swing he started getting a bit irritated at Mom for making the swing rock back and forth. He likes to sit still. Finally he gave up when she couldn’t keep herself from moving the swing. As he got up to walk away Mom thought a minute and then hollered after him, “I guess I’m just a swinger!”

Her giggle turned into a laugh this time. Dad just shook his head and grinned as he stepped inside the house.

Lest you think my Mom has all the wit and wisdom in that duo, here’s an interesting bit about my Dad.

I had plugged my iPhone into Mom’s charger since her iPhone and mine are nearly identical and my charger was upstairs. When I went to unplug it I couldn’t get the plug out. I pulled and tugged and tweaked and got aggravated. Then I gave up for a while. When Dad came in the room I told him my dilemma. He said, “Here, let me see it.” He’s not much into technology, so I thought, fine, he’ll get out some tool and pry it out of there and then we’ll have to buy something to replace what’s broken. He took the phone from me and said, “Have you tried this?” He squeezed the outside edges of the plug and gently pulled the charger out of my phone.

Apparently, Mom’s charger has a couple of release buttons on the side, which mine does not. Outsmarted by the older not-so-tech-savvy-guy again! Dang it. He always had the answers when I was growing up, too.

You can see I’m a lucky girl, raised by such smart, witty, optimistic and persevering parents.

I hope they know how wonderful they are!

Categories: Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Can See Clearly

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for my eyesight.

Colors blaze in every hue and tone, distinct, vibrant and clear. I can’t imagine life with color blindness. (Also known more accurately as deficiency of color vision.) A world of gray and white and black would lack vitality. What joy colors bring into the world.

My eye

(Photo credit: orangeacid)

Blessed with a full range of vision, my eyes and brain are aware and make sense of things on either side of me. I can successfully navigate  the cluttered aisles of a store, a plate of food and the minefield that can be had in getting in and out of a car.

My eyes and mind communicate important information such as a fork in my hand or a doorway on my right or left.

Slight variations in what my right eye perceives and my left eye looks at gives me depth perception and lets me gauge the distance of my hands to the keyboard or the width and height of a step I might need to negotiate.

What a wonder to see clearly with the simple assistance of a pair of eyeglasses. Without these specifically curved and polished pieces of glass or plastic my world appears blurry and vague. With such simple tools I recognize faces, read signs, and enjoy a view in the distance.

Since my mother’s stroke her eyes work in a new way. As far as I’ve been able to decipher all the information I’ve just barely begun to study, the closest definition of what her eyes do is called homonymous hemianopsia. Basically it means that the right half of her vision in BOTH eyes is missing. There is nothing wrong with her eyes, but rather the error occurs in the brain. It would look something like this:

Now transfer that to every single thing you look at every day. A plate of food, doing your hair, reading a newspaper, checking your Facebook page, riding in a car, walking. Seeing only half of everything from both eyes!

The thought of it makes my heart hurt and my brain throb and my entire self want to drop to my knees. Exhausting. Learning to see becomes a whole new task, actually I suppose it’s learning to interpret what you see.

Mom usually just laughs when she can’t find her fork that she’s already holding in her right hand. Today she tried to get some jam from her glass of milk because her eyes told her she had picked up the jam jar. She just started giggling at the absurdity of it all.

If it were me I’d throw the glass of milk and the jam jar across the room and scream in total and complete frustration. But Mom, she simply laughs. Amazing woman!

English: Photo I took of one of my own pairs o...

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With time and healing and prayer her vision could improve and with it her ability to navigate her new world. That is our hope for her.

After breakfast we went on a drive out among the beauty of the rural countryside. I soaked it all in with my eyes like a water starved desert stranded person. Every wheat field, red barn, hillside, body of water, and silo filled me with wonder and gratitude. How blessed I am that I can SEE it all. To see it ALL!

I wanted to take photographs of every single thing I saw. I wanted to remember every detail, every color, every panoramic scene.

Look around you today. What do you see. Really look. Close one eye and look. Look out one eye and then the other, switching back and forth between the slight differences in perspective. Glance to your right and to your left without turning your head. What’s over there? Stare at your hand. See the freckles and the way the half-moon on your fingernails is lighter than the rest of the nail. Is the ceiling above you textured or smooth? Is there a reflection on the window? What color is the sky now, what color is it at seven?

Yes, I’m feeling immense gratitude today for what I can see.

What wonders there are around us.

What wonders there are in us.

Here’s a cover of a Johnny Nash Song “I Can See Clearly Now” that reminds me of my Mother’s optimistic attitude about the challenges she’s facing one month after her stroke. Thanks to the beautiful voices of Kristin Errett and Caleb McGinn.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Brain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have amazing implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m amazed, astounded and thankful for the human brain. As I watch my mother heal from her stroke I find it fascinating to see abilities and skills re-engage, words circle around and connect, ideas form and fill in. Skills that were nearly impossible two weeks ago now seem almost easy. Strength returns in surprising ways.

It’s equally surprising to see the areas that haven’t yet recovered. Similar abilities often use vastly different aspects of the brain. I never would have thought it worked that way.

For instance she can sit at the piano and play a simple song with both hands but finding her spoon on the tray and getting it into her right hand challenges her. Or she can carry on a perfectly normal conversation about almost any topic, until she’s asked about one of her children and the names elude her. And this one surprises me: she can tell a joke, but math baffles her.

I wonder as I hear her laugh, why her sense of humor has come back better refined, more active, mischievous and funnier. You’d think after going through what she’s been through she’d be upset, or feel sorry for herself, or aggravated at the losses and the challenges. But no, she’s optimistic, grateful and laughs at herself easily.

I think about the things an infant learns in just a few short months. Crying, eating, tracking objects with their eyes, reaching for toys, controlling head movements, sitting up, rolling over. All those synapses and nerves and neurons and signals and messages sent and received. What a wonder! Is there anything we’ve been able to create that duplicates that?

Seeing my own hands moving across the keyboard, typing, turning thoughts into words on a page seems miraculous and beyond belief. How does the brain do that? What electrical impulse does what where and how to make all that happen? I am in awe.

Before I get too serious I want to sidetrack here and say how giddy I feel, full up to overflowing with gratitude that Mom’s brain is healing and healthier every day. I also want to laugh out loud with gratitude. I think that feels incredibly appropriate.

So, In honor of my mother’s refined sense of humor and Dad’s new learning curve of care taking I’m including a couple of jokes that they will appreciate. You can laugh along if you want to. (Thank you Reader’s Digest for the great laughs!)

One hectic day at the hospital where I work, I was trying to take the medical history of a woman while being constantly interrupted. Flustered, instead of asking, “Are your parents alive or deceased?” I asked, “Are you alive or deceased?” She smiled and remarked, “I have got to start wearing more makeup! (–Vera Krause)

This next one actually reminds me of my parents:

Two elderly couples were walking down the street, the women a couple of metres ahead of the men. One man told the other that they’d had a wonderful meal the night before-great food, reasonably priced.

His friend asked for the name of the restaurant. “Well, I’ll need your help on this. Let’s see, there’s a flower that smells great and has thorns on the stem?”

“That would be a rose,” his friend responded.

“That’s it!” the man replied. Then he shouted to his wife: “Hey, Rose! What’s the name of the restaurant we ate at last night?” (– by Kerry Barnum)

A Dry Cleaning Joke

A man came into the dry cleaner’s where I work to pick up a pair of pants that he’d left two weeks before. He didn’t have his ticket, and I couldn’t find them. “Maybe you picked them up already,” I suggested. “I hope my memory isn’t that bad!” he replied, but said he’d go home and check. A minute later he was back, carrying the pants he had wanted cleaned. “I’ve been driving around with them in the car for two weeks!” he laughed. (–by Carolyn Brennan)

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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