Sunday, April 9, 2017

Life happens, then we move on

The following was previously posted on the Support network website:
supportnetwork.heart.org
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blog editor note: 
"To the world you may not be much, but to one person you may be the world." - origin unknown
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My name is Dottie and I wanted to share my story with everyone. It is not just my story, but it begins with my boyfriend Joey's story first. I met Joey on July 1, 2013. Joey is a musician and plays keyboards and guitar in a band. Joey had just lost his wife from a long term, rare illenss and as a consequense of her illness, he also lost his home, his dogs, and everything he owned. He was working as a chef in an Assisted Living facility, and evrything looked so gloomy for him. He was going to have to move in with his sister which would have created a hardship for her as she has three kids living at home and going to college. We spent night and day with each other getting his home cleaned out and ready to turn over and he was so depressed. Joey had a lot of things going on in his life and we decided that we would have him move in with me so that a young man living with him could go to high school and graduate. We got Joey moved in with me and began a life together.

On November 10, 2013 at 1:30 a.m., I was awoken from the bed moving. I asked Joey what he was doing and as soon as he began to answer me, I knew he was having a stroke! I jumped out of bed, called to our son and told him we had to take Joey to the hospital. He was right there, picking Joey up off the floor and putting him in the car and off we went to the hospital. We literally live 4 blocks from the nearest hospital and it took me less time to get him to the ER than it would have took the Aid car to get to our home. If it happens again, I will call 911 first as it is best to do in case anything happens I could not care for him. Joey got to the hospital within the 3 hour window to have the TPA shot and after some blood work to see if he could have the TPA shot, it was given to him. Within minutes, all of the stroke symptoms had gone away. He was fine, walked fine, talked fine, he brushed his teeth, combed his long hair, and went to bed at the hospital. When he woke up the next morning, he could not move his entire right side. His face was slightly drooping and his speech was a little slurred. He had suffered a second stroke sometime that morning and now, a second TPA shot was not given.

The doctors set everything up for Joey to go to rehab as soon as they felt he was stable. Joey went to rehab at a different hospital where they had the correct facilities to help him in his long journey to recovery. Once Joey was in rehab, he bagan his journey to recovery. He was very stubborn and resistant to therapy; however, he did choose me to be his girlfriend and I, knowing what stroke can be like and that you can recover as much as is possible, convinced him that he was going to try and never give up because I was going to be right there beside him, helping him get back to doing what he loved most, playing music.

Joey was in a wheel chair for about 2 months and then he had to have a cane to help him stand and try walking. Joey being the comedian that he is, named his cane, Erica, after Erica Cane on ALL MY Children! This is where the recovery began physically for Joey. He was depressed and I was at the Rehab center everyday as long as they allowed me to be there to try to help Joey keep up his mental health. I told him everyday, he can only recover as far as he allows himself to recover and only HE can do the work to get his brain to reconnect with everything it once knew. It was so hard in the beginning to help him be happy or see there was anything to be happy about. God in His infinate mercy and grace, showed me there was something I could do to help him remember how life should be for him.

I had planned to have a surprise birthday party for Joey as his birthday was November 17 and the stroke was November 10. I asked the hospital if it would be alright to have his birthday party at the hospital and the doctors all said they believed it would be beneficial to Joey if we had the party at the hospital. I called everyone and gave them the new address and even his friends from out of state came to his birthday party at the hospital. I had taken Joey down to his Physical Therapy and afterwards, I suggested we go to the Lunch room on the floor to see if anything was going on. Joey knew his sister was coming to have dinner with us at the hospital as she was going to bring the food. We were sitting in the lunch room when his sister and her daughter walked in carring huge bowls of food. Joey was wondering and asking why she had so much food with her when his long time friend from Oregon walked in the room with many more friends right behind him. Joey was so surprised and he was very emotional at the site of all his family and friends being there. I beleive it was at that time he determined in his mind that he did have so much to be thnkful for and he had things to do; such as, playing music again as many of his music friends and the members of the band he was in came to see him.

Joey has been working very hard at recovery. He now walks and he plays in the band. Joey has begun getting his arm to raise almost above his head and his fingers have begun working again. He can get away with playing the keyboards and he can hold a pick in his hand now to play his guitar. It isn't perfect, but it is there and he is so grateful that he can do the things he does today. He goes to Occupational Therapy once a week and Physical Therapy once a week and works hard to get as much function back in his body, mainly his arm and fingers now, to be back to full recovery as much as is possible. It has been nearly three years now and Joey looks normal, it is very hard to tell that he had a stroke unless you know him and know what and where to look. He will continue to work with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy as long as it is provided to him.

Joey has been an inspirational person to everyone who knows him, all the musicians who play with him, and to all his family and friends, both in life and on the Internet! People hear his story and see him and believe they can do what he is doing. I will be right here, by his side, helping him recover as much as is possible.

Ironically, on November 10, 2014, I had to suddenly have open heart surgery and have a three way bi-pass which became a 2 way bi-pass. I was able to return to helping Joey within one month of my surgery. Joey was right there helping me and doing things for me that I was not able to do or allowed to do for myself. Both of us are happy and our relationship has become stronger because of the challenges we have faced together over the past 3 years. Even though we went from just meeting each other before the first tragedy happened, his stroke, to me having open heart surgery, we have learned so much about each other and about ourselves. We are stronger today and we know there isn't anything that the 2 of us cannot handle as long as we believe in each other, believe in ourselves, and remember it has all been possible because of the grace of God.

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