Some readers who have been with me from the time I started my blog may remember my posts about my father. He had a crippling stroke at the age of seventy-six, and lived for another eight years, confined to a wheelchair with his left side paralyzed. He passed away in late June of 2015, so he has been on my mind more than usual as that date approached and passed.
I wrote one post about his upbeat attitude; that one is HERE.
I wrote another about the last few months of his life; that one is HERE.
He went through many things that I have yet to write about, probably because it makes me very sad to revisit those memories. It's probably not all that much fun to read about it, either.
But I've been thinking that maybe his story can help others--either a person who has had a stroke or someone who knows a person who has had a stroke. I want to thank Terry of Treey's blog for providing the motivation I needed to do this. If you want to learn what it's like to have a stroke directly from someone who's had one, go on over and have a read.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, a stroke happens when blood stops flowing to any part of the brain, damaging brain cells. The effects of a stroke depend on the part of the brain that was damaged and the amount of damage done. Damage to the right side of the brain affects the left side of the body, and vice versa.
My father's stroke was a severe one and his life changed completely in a matter of hours. He left home to get help, and never returned. He walked into the hospital under his own power and was unable to walk or move the left side of his body shortly after. He was an active, independent person right up to the day of his stroke, spending his days gardening and doing yard work, fixing up second-hand cars, and taking long walks. After the stroke, he couldn't walk at all--not for pleasure, not for the activities of daily life, not if his very life had depended on it. He was dependent on caregivers for most of what he needed, from bathing to toileting to dressing to getting in and out of bed and his wheelchair. He even needed help to change position in bed or in his chair, which led to an increase in pain from pre-existing back issues.
He was very despondent in the first few weeks after his stroke. He
kept going mentally only because the doctors told him he might regain
the function in his left side. He couldn't imagine not being able
to garden or walk. There were tears from both of us as he begged for
reassurance that if he worked hard enough he would be able to do those
things again. He was sent to the first available bed at rehab, but sadly
he did not regain any ability to use his arm or leg.
Because Dad's stroke occurred in the right side of his brain, his speech was not affected. (Conversely, a left brain stroke can destroy or impair the speech function.) We were grateful that he had not lost his ability to talk. He would have had no other way to communicate well with us, as he was not familiar with typing or computers. The day that Dad had his stroke, there was another man admitted to the same hospital who had a left brain stroke. This man's hospital stay, rehab, and eventual placement in a nursing home paralleled my father's, so we had many opportunities to see the frustration and isolation caused by his inability to speak. He refused to use the picture board provided to him (to point at things like meals, toilet, bed, and so on) so he was left with only hand gestures to try to get his needs met. He was a very impatient and easily-angered person, and while I suspected from observation that part of that was his original personality coming to the fore, it could only have been made worse by not being able to communicate his needs, wants, and feelings.
There is more to tell, but I've gone on long enough for today. Some of the things that happened to Dad were even humourous, although all of them are tinged to some extent with the pain of his losses.
Thank you for reading. I'll leave you with a list I hope you never have to use.
Signs of stroke (also taken from the Heart and Stroke Foundation's website, linked above):
Face - is it drooping?
Arms - can you raise both?
Speech - is it slurred or jumbled?
Time - to call 911 right away
Notice the FAST acronym formed above: getting help fast is critical to save a person's life and reduce disability.
Until Monday, please have a healthy and safe weekend, my friends.