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Stroke Has 19 Definitions Part 2 of 2
by Chuck Hofvander
For nine days I was unaware of my condition, unaware that the world was still out there. Over the next few days I learned the details of what had happen to me. I had suffered a brain attack and my once normal, comfortable world for 52 years, had been changed for ever.
They fed me through a feeding tube in my stomach, no taste of steak, or potatoes or beer for me. I couldn’t walk, move my right arm, talk, read, or write. Slowly I had to relearn the things all of us take for granted. my normal life was suddenly un-normal.
I was an inpatient in a rehab hospital for five weeks and I continued rehab on an off to this day. I still have some trouble walking, reading, speaking, and writing and I still have little movement in my right arm. But I am alive and I am able to function.
During this entire process, my wife and sons did not let me rest when I was not “officially” in therapy. They stretched my arm, and legs. They read my favorite books, and played music. They did all they could do to stimulate me. My wife made the therapists provide a copy all the exercises and lessons they did with me.
Through hard work and determination I have recovered a great deal but I am still not the way I used to be. A friend of mine commented that I was goofy before the stroke and he didn’t notice much difference!
The worst part of my stroke was aphasia. Aphasia is an impairment of the ability to communicate, not an impairment of intellect. Aphasia can range from just missing a word now and then to the inability to communicate at all. Aphasia is not well known, but there are 100,000 new aphasia survivors EACH YEAR in the U.S. alone. Some like Dick Clark are well known but there are many others who are hidden from view because of their inability to communicate.
Through years of hard work and perseverance I improved a great deal. Yet, I’m not nearly back to the way I was. I can “think it” but have difficulty “saying it’ or “writing it”. My voice and writing seem to have wills of their own. A clear thought comes into my mind but when I try to convert it to speech it gets garbled up.
As for reading, challenging is too mild a term. Before the brain Attack I used to read three books at one time, now I can barely read one book a month.
I have problems with reading the written words. I insert words, omit words, read the same line several times, and sometimes words are unintelligible.
My sons are only mildly surprised by my writing, reading, and speaking skills. Repeated MRI’s of the left side of my brain (the side that controls reading and speech) shows that it’s essentially missing. I told this to my sons and they looked surprised. I asked them what’s wrong and they said “We didn’t think you had a brain before your stroke”
As for physical and occupational therapy I have to thank all of my therapists who worked with me. They were all supportive but and at the same time they didn’t take nonsense from me. I apply to this day the exercises I learned from them. They re-taught me the principles of walking, dressing, eating, climbing stairs, all activities of daily living. They are the unknown heroes of the medical world.
It is also important to keep your mind active as well. To that end,
• I joined a library book club
• I write for several stroke related publications
• I do crossword puzzles
• And I write stories about my life
And now partially due to the therapist’s efforts, my family, especially my patient and loving wife, and others, I have finally adjusted to my new life.
I was recently visited by two old friends. They were my colleagues before my stroke. We were discussing our lives, the normality in home life. Both friends were unsatisfied with their job lives, complaining how their work hadn't changed in years and has become unsatisfying. They were complaining about their normal lives and I could only think how fortunate they were to have such normal, complain-able lives.
But their visit made me think of what a normal life really is? After all, what is "Normal?"
Then I got to thinking about my previous "normal" life before the brain attack. For years, when I worked, I got up regularly at five o’clock in the morning to start my day and the day generally ended at seven at night when I sat down and watched TV. When I compared that life to my current one, I realized that in some ways, not much had really changed.
I mean, I still get up early every morning, out of bed by six AM and I spend my day writing, reading, sleeping, talking, biking, exercising, and eating and it’s all therapy... OK, maybe not the eating part, but at least I'm not being fed through a tube in stomach, like when I was to the hospital. And I still watch television at night. So overall, life is still good. Still normal as it was in many ways.
Sure, I regret the fact that I’m partially disabled, that I can’t do all the things that I used to, but I’ve adjusted to my “new normal life”.
Granted, I do have to concentrate on every word that I speak. Watch every step I take. Concentrate every movement that my body makes. In some respects, I had to make similar conscious efforts in my previous normal life. So, I’ve come accept that I have to do more of it in my new normal life.
Yes, I AM different now, but I’m still normal. It’s a just different kind of normal and I’m OK with that. My wife and children have accepted that fact because that’s who I am.I am as normal as I can be, a new kind of normal.
I am adapting to my “new normal life”. I’ve come to realize that after the stroke I wasted time regretting my “old normal life” and feeling sorry for myself. The grieving and letting go of my old life as I knew it, was necessary. With the help of dear friends and especially my loving and caring family, I finally realized it’s not a one time process. It’s a normal ongoing process that never ends. The same as it in everyone's normal life.
And as life has its way of challenging us over and over again, well.... Nine months after the stroke I had a seizure. It was late in the day, around five o’clock, and I lost control of my body. My wife called the ambulance and I was taken to the Emergency Room at Northwest Community Hospital. Again. By then the seizure had already begun to subside and I had my wits about me again.
The ER doctor came into and looked my admittance information, there was look of disbelieve shrouding his face.
"Haven't I treated you before," the doctor asked.
My wife said that he had.
He was the ER doctor that had been the first one to see me when I had the brain attack. He was the one who gave my wife no hope.
I will not deny that I miss my old normal life, but I’m determined to live my “new normal life” to its fullest. You never can recover fully from brain attack, but you can adjust to life to a new normality that makes your life still worth living.
As a famous author once said; "The abundant life does not come to those who have had a lot of obstacles removed from their path by others. It develops from within and is rooted in strong mental and moral fiber."
That author gave us some some very good advice. Advice to truly live by.