Friends, I’d like to give you an update on what is happening in my life and why I haven’t been around.
On the morning of January 14th, my husband set off for work as usual, but came home quickly, complaining of visual distortion in his left eye. After the kids were off to school, I took Rich to a clinic where he was told it was probably an ocular migraine. He rested comfortably throughout the day, getting up now and then, looking and talking normally. Then at around 9 o’clock, as he was lying in bed waiting to say goodnight to our kids, he suddenly groaned and started rocking as if he’d lost control of half his body. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong but I knew it was a stroke. I allowed myself about 30 seconds of denial and called 911.
Though he was quickly rushed to the hospital, the period for early intervention (many strokes are reversible within the first four hours) had already passed. The damage to the left hemisphere of his brain was serious, resulting in paralysis of his right side, speech aphasia and general disorientation. When asked the year, he answered “1942”. He couldn’t say my name, though he correctly identified through yes-or-no questions that I was his wife and not his sister. When I said “I love you”, he did manage to say “love too.”
After a barrage of tests, the cause of his stroke was identified as a tear in the left carotid artery. Carotid dissection can occur with a neck injury but sometimes, as in my husband’s case, the cause is unknown. It is responsible for less than 5% of all strokes but causes about 25% of strokes in younger patients. It explains how a 48 year old man who doesn’t smoke, exercises regularly and whose cholesterol and blood pressure are all within healthy limits could suffer a stroke. The good news is that the risk of further complications is low and that Rich’s age and general good health add up to a better than average prognosis for recovery.
Once he was stable, Rich was moved to an acute rehab unit and a few weeks later to a sub-acute rehab center, where he is continuing to receive physical, occupational and speech therapy. He doesn’t feel much below the knee yet, but he can walk with a cane, with slight assistance from a physical therapist. He has been gradually regaining feeling in his arm, though he has little control yet. His mind gets clearer all the time. He understands most of what is said to him and can express his needs with a combination of words and gestures. He’s starting to try to converse, though sometimes his attempts leave us both frustrated and caught between laughter and tears. But we persevere.
It’s been a harrowing time, but several books have helped me and I’d recommend them to anyone, whether or not your own life has been affected by stroke.
The other book was given to me by my cousin soon after she learned about Rich’s stroke. It’s MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist who suffered a massive stroke at 37 and recovered to write about the experience. It is a quick read, engrossing and very hopeful. Taylor was able to do some work within the year after her stroke but also continued to improve for eight years, by which time she was also playing guitar, making stained glass art and water skiing. She believes that challenging herself both mentally and physically aided her complete recovery. I think that’s key. Rich and I will keep aiming for 100%.
I’d just like to add that MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is fascinating to anyone interested in learning more about the differences between right and left brain thinking and developing what Taylor calls a “balanced brain” approach to life.
Thanks to all of you who expressed sympathy when Diane first posted about my absence from the blog. I’m spending a lot of time at the rehab center and even when Rich comes home, it will probably be a while before I can get back to regular writing or blogging. Please know I miss you all, am very grateful for all your kind wishes, and I’ll stop by whenever I can.
Oh. My heart goes out to you both. Thank you for sharing this unexpected journey with bravery and eloquence. I’m sure we’re all in agreement that Rich makes a full recovery and that you take care of yourself, too.
I will continue keeping all of you in my prayers. As Maggie says, make sure to take care of yourself as well. God bless you.
Dear Elena. It’s good to hear from you and to know that Rich is steadily improving every day. Every minute must be agony for both of you, but I’m glad you’re persevering with laughter (and some tears). I look forward to hearing news of Rich’s full recovery and your return to writing and blogging. Hugs to your children and bon courage to all of you.
What a beautiful smile your husband has, and what a calm, informative post you’ve provided. Strokes have touched the lives of my extended family members, so I appreciate how much discipline it can take to achieve such a level frame of mind.
I can also attest to the excellence of Dr. Bolte Taylor’s book – it’s absolutely excellent, and there’s a very interesting and compelling youtube video about it where she gives a nutshell version of what took place in those first few hours, when her body was behaving so differently, but her scientist’s brain was anaylyzing everything. Highly recommend.
My best wishes and prayers for your family.
Elena–hugs and prayers to you both! I’ll keep hope that he makes a full recovery, in spite of the obstacles.
Elena, my thoughts and prayers go out to your and your husband. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I hope that your husband makes a full recovery. Remember to take care of yourself. Keep your spirits up.
I have a friend who suffered a massive stroke on the left side of her brain. She had to learn how to walk and talk all over again. To meet her you would never know except sometimes she stutters a little bit when the right word won’t come. She told me that she immediately accepted her challenges and dove into re-learning. Once an accountant, she is now a deeply spiritual person. She is one of the people in my life I most admire and respect.
Elena, thanks for sharing your journey. You and Rich are blessed to have each other and here’s to a full and complete recovery.
My heart goes out to you because I have been there myself. My husband had a stroke at the age of 45. Although he is a smoker and still smokes. This is a very scary feeling. He had his stroke about 8 years ago and now does real well. He has a full time job now and everything seems to be going well. He is slower at reading now and doesn’t learn quite as fast as he use too. He does seem more dependent on me now, but he is recovered. It just takes a lot of time and patients, but hang in there. They never found the true cause of his stroke either.
Elena, thank you for sharing your story. You and your husband will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this tough time.
Oh, Elena, your post is so humbling in terms of the strength, love and commitment you demonstrate. Thank you for sharing with us, and how lovely that books are helping you through this difficult time.
Elena, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. My husband had a heart attack at 51. Luckily, we got him to the ER within the window of opportunity so he’s made a full recovery. But I know how sad, angry, exhausted, and afraid I felt in the weeks following his hospitalization. My words of advice mirror those of others: try to get enough sleep, take care of yourself, and indulge yourself in good books as often as possible.
Thank you, Elena for updating us. May God bless you and your husband with continuing strength, courage, peace, comfort, and inspiration.
Elena, we miss you too!!! So nice to hear from you. I’m so glad that Rich is recovering steadily, and that all your hard work and his hard work are showing in his progress.
And do take care of yourself!!! Do whatever you can to make sure you have some sanity time for yourself, and some relaxation time…
Many hugs and all best wishes to you and your family, Elena! I know you are an amazing example to your girls and the very best possible support for you husband.
I just knew our Risky Regencies community would respond with a wealth of support. Our readers are a special lot!
Elena, we do miss you, but what we want most is for your husband to continue his recovery, for you to take care of yourself, and for your family to return to normal.
Thanks again for all the kind wishes, and yes, I am trying to take care of myself too. I haven’t been shy about accepting help with household matters, so I could focus on Rich’s care and the associated paperwork. The first month I was barely eating and sleeping, but it’s gotten easier. I’ve started exercising again and even made it out for lunch with a friend this week.
Thanks again for all the kind wishes and the inspirational stories. They help a lot.
A postscript to my earlier comment: do not let the insurance company get you down. I am extraordinarily grateful that my husband and I have health insurance, but they do not make the process easy.
An example of their intransigence is the way our insurer initially refused to pay for my husband’s cardiac rehab. Despite his heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery, they said he wasn’t sick enough to need it. And then, when he got both his surgeon and cardiologist to write letters, they lost them — and then lost the second and third copies as well. Eventually they paid, but it was one of those stupid battles that is frustrating and enervating and, in the end, pointless. The insurer had contracted with the hospital to pay $25 a session, our co-pay was $15, so the insurer was essentially fighting over $10 a session for 12 sessions, or $120. It took a year for them to reimburse us for our out-of-pocket expenditure, and if my husband wasn’t so stubborn about health care issues, he would have given up long before. And of course this is going on during a period of physical and emotional fragility. I hope your insurer is not so intransigent, but do not give up!
Okay, rant over.
My prayers and thoughts are with you and your husband!! My husband has had three strokes due to having a protein in his blood that makes his blood clot when it’s not supposed to. Luckily there’s been minimal damage done. Some short term memory loss, he gets overwhelmed when he’s tired and he can have trouble getting out words…and he has trouble remembering a series of items…dh makes lots of lists and carries file cards in his pockets in case he needs to write down something to remember later…and sometimes he’ll think of a word that he wants to use, but something else comes out–like the time he referred to a friend’s pit bull as a ‘pool bitch,’ and the time he told the guys at work that he had had ‘sex’ therapy when it was speech therapy, and he’d watched ‘Armadillo’ on dvd when it was ‘Armageddon.’ We laughed a lot through the years!
Lots of healing light and best wishes coming your way for your dh!
Elena, thanks for this post. Although it was “my” day, I was quite happy to give you the floor, and although Plan A was that I’d post later in the day, I thought this post deserved its own time. So it’s all yours and I’m honored to give up the space to you!
Susan/DC, what a story. I haven’t had that sort of trouble, not yet anyway. My biggest challenge so far has been that the acute rehab center wanted to send him home earlier than I thought right. Not that I don’t want him home, but I had safety concerns and believe he still needs daily therapy from trained professionals. I advocated for the transfer to the subacute rehab center and I’m glad I did, because he is doing well there and I think he might have regressed, or even had an accident, at home.
Debora, thanks for sharing your stories. We already have some interesting ones of our own. For a while, Rich would say “oilcan” (like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz) when he needed water or pain medication. I found that fascinating.
Janet, thanks for giving me the day. You’ve all been wonderful.
Elena, you are your dear hubby are in my thoughts and prayers as well. Take good care of yourself and give yourself some time to vent and unwind every day. We miss you! And we look forward to Rich’s full recovery.
I just could not read that without sending my best wishes to you both. — willaful
Thank you for keeping us posted, Elena. I’ll continue to keep you, your husband and family in my prayers.
Take care and stop back whenever you feel the need. We’ll be right here for you!
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Hang in there!
I would just like to sy you and your family are in my prayers. Let everyone and anyone who can , help you. I spent 11 months in hospital with my daughter fighting Bone Cancer when she was 7,it can affect you physically. It’s good to hear your husband is improving. And my baby is now healthy and 21. 🙂
Louisa, Willaful, Santa and Amy, thanks for your kind words.
Carol, I’m so glad for you and your daughter that it all ended well. But I tear up just imagining how scary it must have been for you. Thank you for sharing and for the kind words.