At this hour nine years ago, I was unresponsive and had just been rushed to the hospital via ambulance. As my family tearfully gathered and started absorbing the news, doctors confirmed that I was still alive, but questioned if I could even survive until the next morning.
My husband and 11-year-old clung to one another. Our eight-year-old understood that something serious had happened to her Mom, but failed to grasp the gravity, knowing hospitals help people, so surely everything would be fine in a few days. Our five-year-old was upset that nobody would let him see Mommy.
Six hours in, after I repeatedly vomited on my husband and was intubated to keep from drowning in my own fluids, a nurse gave Rick his first glimmer of hope. "Her coloring is looking much better," she informed him. I was still unconscious, but finally able to give my first weak hand squeeze in response to verbal command.
I was awake for hours last night, crying and praying for each family member. They all lost so much that day! Three children brutally lost the innocence of childhood. In a moment, my husband plunged into the fire of years of grief as single father of four (one child with severe special needs, physically and emotionally), rather than a happily married father of three.
Last night, when my mind started wandering into ICU and rehab nightmare memories, I made the conscious choice to adopt a "whatever" attitude, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" Philippians 4:8.
It has been tough, but God has carried us through. Today, I'm choosing to keep my eyes on Jesus, thanking Him for the blessings along the way. I'm thankful Rick stood by me! (I have many stroke friends, and non-stroke friends, whose spouses called it quits when the years got painful.) I'm thankful for our kids. I'm thankful that we are all together.
I'm thankful for all four of our parents who pitched in and prayed us through those early years with everything from moving kids into their homes for months (and carrying on schooling), to years of countless medical rides (I averaged about three appointments per day for many months after I was released from the hospital and became mobile enough to no longer have home visit care). Mom also became Nana's Taxi Service (rather than me being Mom's Taxi) for school, and church, and extra-curricular, and LOTS of medical for the kids.
I'm thankful to several different church families for loving on us through those early months with meals, gifts, house cleaning, a manicure and pedicure, and sending folks (some I had never even met) to babysit me when I couldn't even toilet on my own.
I am thankful for Ms. Kathy, her faithful friendship and YEARS of weekly home cleaning blessings to keep our family functional. I'm thankful for Shelly for her listening ears and being my on-call ride back up.
I'm thankful for our new neighborhood in Arizona and the amazing neighbors God has surrounded us with on this little "cove" at the end of our street this past year. I'm especially thankful for our next door neighbors, Terry for help whenever Rick isn't home, and Carolyn for helping with my lack of organizational skills, so that book writing seems like a feasible dream again. (Find our book progress announcements at fb.com/DeceptionUnmasked.)
In one of the stroke groups I participate on in Facebook, a young man who is about 16 months out from his strokes was bemoaning the (commonly-held belief) news his doctor had given him, that the progress he reached by two-years would likely be all the recovery he would ever see. I am SO THANKFUL I'm not forever stuck at where I was at two years! My reply included:
That's a TOTAL LIE! Never give up! I'm 9 years out and still progressing.
The first two years do bring the fastest improvements, that's why it is important to take advantage of therapy as early and often as you can. But, long after insurance stops paying, push yourself however you can... [I listed specific ideas for pushing, here.]
I can no longer measure in day-over-day or week-over-week units. The scale is now month-over-month or year-over-year, but I do plenty of things today that still didn't seem possible at this time last year!
Parts of my brain are 48 years old. I remember several details of childhood. I remember meeting Rick and our courtship. I remember our wedding, our infertility journey, the births of each of our living miracles. Some of the research world for ME/CFS. What it was like to have the freedom of driving a car. The joy of homeschooling our kids. Much of the process of publishing my first book.
Parts of my brain are rewiring and relearning, now at the skill level of a nine-year old child. A year ago my left arm was still incapable of swimming in a fully extended stroke. Now I can manage several fairly normal-looking, short (backyard pool) laps. I still don't have great geographical skills, but I've become fairly competent at basic map-reading. I can add two plus two and know they equal four now, but it take 3-10 times longer to do basic household paperwork (filling out medical forms, filing papers in a filing cabinet) than it used to (and I was already slow due to ME/CFS). I'm sill unhealthfully naive, much too-easily influenced, but not quite as gullible as I was in the early years. I walk with a cane or walker, but I am thankful that I now do walk!
Some memories (even of people) and bodily functions are forever missing. I have various muscle groups still partially or fully paralyzed, especially invisible/internal ones like those related to proper digestion. I still have nerve pain and weakened muscles (like entire left side of back) prone to regular muscle spasms. I have neurological conditions that cause me to clench my teeth so hard I have worn away the enamel off several biting surfaces.
I remember riding in a car three or four months after the stroke and passing a favorite restaurant. I started crying (I cried, hysterically, about EVERYTHING at that point) because I saw that it had closed sometime during my hospital months. Rick was startled and shaken to discover that I had absolutely no idea that it had been gone for a good six months before I ever stroked.Though it becomes less common with each passing year, we still stumble across areas of my history and knowledge-base that were erased that day. Events in the weeks, months, even up to two years prior to the strokes are especially hit and miss.
Short term memory is so much better today than it was at first, but almost daily I have to ask clarification about facts that I know I should know, but simply can't remember what I've been told. The "note" feature on my phone is a hugely important tool. My family laughs at the number of daily alarms I set for myself, but when they ask what each alarm is for, I tell them to read the attached label, because I don't remember either.
I do clearly remember walking into the chiropractor's office that October 25 morning in 2011. I remember random conversation with the doctor, jokes we casually chatted as we prepared for my neck adjustment. I remember his words to "Just relax, Trust me." as he coaxed me to lay the full weight of my head into his hands.
My "go-to" verses this year are "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil" Proverbs 3:5-7. It is 2020 afterall (my poor brother is digging up his septic tank today, fairly fittig for the crazy year we are all living!), so maybe this would be a great verse for you to memorize too. Another passage of deep conviction is the "whatever" passage in Philippians 4: