Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lightening Strikes and More about Stroke Journey

The weatherman held out hope for a good rain last week. Instead we got a tiny bit of moisture and major thunder and lightening. (Why does it feel right to say thunder first when the order of occurrence is lightening then thunder?) We also experienced a fried modem. That was about 3 days ago, and hubby has had a new modem almost that long.

The brand he picked up has complicated instructions that include directions for accessing the user's guide . . . ONLINE!

That said, I am posting this at Coffee Fusion, one of our favorite spots for stroke recovery community integrative therapy. I expect to eventually get back to posting and visiting blogs, but a camping trip to the Smoky Mountains, sans Wi-Fi, is also in the works. At outpatient therapy Thursday June 23, my physical therapist tried preparing me for encountering uneven ground in the nation's most visited national park.  She had me stepping over (with great trepidation and concentration on my part) and walking around obstacles.

The trade-offs  between not over-thinking movements and maintaining concentration is still a work in progress. Laughter, while good medicine, is a big distraction. Yesterday, on our way back to our van after a trip to visit my mother in Hattiesburg, we proceeded fairly steadily, although definitely not elegantly, I with my wide canvas belt on with Walter holding on in case I lost balance and failed to recover on my own.

Until this outing we have had no problems. Then it happened, I can't remember now what hubby said. It was hysterically funny at the time. I cracked up, and would have literally cracked up had Walter not had hold of that belt. I still couldn't recover, but he had me. He grabbed me around the waist and  set me back on my feet.

Good save! Hooray for my favorite comedian!

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Good Medicine

Pre-stroke May 2011 was booked for some grandchild-care, one of my favorite activities with favorite little people. The fact that I had missed those moments made visits by the grands healing medicine for stroke recovery in May and June.

Our Georgia tribe and parents visited while I was in the Singing River Hospital Comprehensive Rehab Center in Pascagoula, MS.

Nana (that’s me) savors oldest grandchild Luke’s publishing skills.  He shares with me and his siblings a cutting edge how-to booklet he wrote and illustrated on how to catch a lizard.

With son Walt driving my wheelchair and daughter-in-law Sarah as kid-wrangler, a visit to the duck pond at the front of the hospital was a treat.

Kids, mild temperatures and a welcomed breeze—a great combination for an escape out of doors.
The Georgia tribe:
Luke, 8

Nate, 6

Charlie, 5

Stella, 3

Our Louisiana twosome and parents visited in early June on my second Saturday at home. Since we missed grandson Walker’s first birthday celebration, a late mini-celebration was in order with cake and ice cream.
A beach cake for sand-loving Walker 

Mom Katie puts Walker in his official birthday-cake-eating outfit--diaper only

Big sister Molly Kate assists with presents.

Walker is his usual enthusiastic self, sharing his delight in life with everyone around him.

Molly Kate models her dance costume since we missed her first recital.
And she performs her group's Baa Baa Black Sheep recital number for Grandma Sugar and Nana.

Even other people’s grandchildren deliver healing properties. A more recent much-needed lift in spirits occurred as a result of a visit by seven-week-old Zoey and her posse of admirers: her grandmother and a former colleague of mine Diana Reid, Zoey’s mom Cassidy Reid Jacquet, and Zoey’s Uncle Tanner Reid.

Diana’s seven-week-old granddaughter Zoey succumbs to naptime.
Diana is a gifted graphic artist. When I first worked with her, she was plying her craft fulltime at a major local industry and freelancing after hours. Cassidy and Tanner were little, about seven and five respectively, maybe even younger. They often accompanied their mom to my office at the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. They played quietly or created their own art while the adults--Diana, Treva, a fellow Sea Grant communicator and gifted colleague, and I--provided Diana with digital text files, photos, (pre-digital days), and bounced ideas around about design for the project of the moment.

What fun it was to see Cassidy as a mom to little Zoey. And to see Tanner all grown up and taking a summer break before returning in the fall for his third year at Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA.

Hubby Walter, AKA Baboo, and I are still laughing about and enjoying again moments shared during the grands’ visits.
Can you tell Baboo and Nana are happy with their doses of “good medicine”?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

About Dear Hubby on Father’s Day

Husband Walter
One of the things I have always appreciated about husband Walter is his ability to discern patterns in relationships. He gently pointed out some negative patterns between me and offspring when they were little and offered simple, benign alternatives for developing new patterns. Now that our two boys are grown and fathers themselves, it thrills me to see in them some of their father’s admirable character traits and commonsense approaches to life. I thank God for these fathers in my life.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Birthday Blessings

My cousin Carolyn, left, my mother the birthday girl, and me, celebrating Mother’s birthday No. 92

Sunday June 12, Husband Walter and I traveled to Hattiesburg to celebrate birthday  No. 92 with my mother.

The past two years her children, grands, greatgrands and others gathered for the event. Early in 2011, Mother suggested that having one family at a time visit her during her birthday month and the months around June would give her a chance for more actual time with her individual loved ones.

And the fact is, she noted, “Crowds make me tired now.”

Simplicity worked for me, too, for this first visit since my stroke in April. Sunday we visited a little then lunched together in the dining room of Provisions Living where she has a studio apartment. After lunch family friends Elton and Joyce Raby visited. These special friends have maintained a tradition of breaking bread together once a week begun more than four decades ago when my father was alive and my younger brother and the Raby offspring were little.

One of her nieces, my cousin Carolyn, also came by with birthday greetings.

The visits in shifts were just right--birthday blessings that spilled over on me, too.

Even so, Mother was feeling under the weather with symptoms of fluid building up again in her lungs. The next day, my morning call to her doctor’s nurse resulted in an appointment for that afternoon. Carolyn made yet another trip to the doctor with Mother. Carolyn has been wonderful. She brought Mother to the Coast to visit while I was in rehab and has been accompanying Mother to doctor’s visits in my absence.

My mother is not the first individual, elder or otherwise, that Carolyn and her sisters Judy and Wanda have blessed with their love in action. They carry on the spirit of their late mother, my Aunt Evelyn, and they remind me of my own mother. They are from different generations, but all are women of unusual character and compassion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: More On Day One of My Stroke

I remember nothing of my ambulance ride during my April 22 stroke, and only a meager collection of disconnected moments of my time in the emergency room of the Ocean Springs Hospital that day. What I do remember is feeling surrounded by prayer. What amazed me was the total absence of any sense of fear or even anxiety. “Surrounded by prayer” was my first attempt at articulating what I was experiencing.

As that state became the major part of my on-going reality, I plugged away mentally, engaged in a search that fascinated me--trying to find words to describe my experience. “Immersion” is one word that worked. I felt submerged in an amniotic sea and at the same time I WAS the sea.

It was a place of total physical, mental and spiritual safety, completeness, peace. There were no spoken words from a higher power or any momentous sense of being one with the universe. But it was totally personal and infused with the unarticulated certainty that God was in control and already had everything planned for my ultimate benefit.

One clue that this state of consciousness was a sea is that I would periodically surface into the physical world around me. Invariably, my “surfacing” was almost always for interesting, entertaining and life-affirming experiences: Seeing and talking with family members and friends; enjoying a meal in the Ocean Springs Hospital ICU, an intense and delightful taste sensation of bowtie pasta and fresh-tasting snow peas in some kind of garlic sauce; savoring the sensory smorgasbord of colorful cards, plants and cut flowers that arrived with messages of prayers on my behalf.

Memories of all these "material world" experiences include no context of time or physical surroundings. Memories of the meal, for example don't include utensils, who, if anyone helped me, or details of where the meal occurred. The only memory is of how the food looked and tasted. Oh, and some recall of my difficulty in corraling snow peas that had escaped their jackets.

Then there were the “angels,” the nurses and techs in Ocean Springs and Singing River hospitals who materialized when physical needs or treatment forced me to surface into the material world once again. They treated me as a sentient being capable of appreciating conversation, humor and simple tips on dealing with my immediate physical needs and challenges. All blessings of the journey!

On about Day Seven of my stroke trip, I was transferred out of ICU to Singing River Hospital Comprehensive Rehab Center in Pascagoula. My sea of tranquility stayed with me well into that new stage of recovery.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Sorry about that!

In my previous post I started out jubilant and wound up definitely whiny.

Comments about her own stroke recovery from Diane of Schmidleys Scribblins should have prepared me for the sudden and total abandonment of every shred of energy. So yesterday was devoted to our therapy “homework” exercises and . . . sleep, sleep and more sleep.

Today renewed energy is allowing a quick and welcomed trip into the blogosphere—and a return to a more reasonable attitude of rejoicing in what I can do and working hard not to lose my balance and topple over when hubby Walter exercises his wacky funnybone!

To all those blogging friends who usually see my comments showing up in response to their posts, I am still reading and finding laughter, enjoyment, and inspiration, but if I hit a snag in the commenting process, I give it a second try, then, if not successful, I pretty much call it a day for computer activity.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Celebrating Success

Husband Walter and I just returned from a get-together honoring almost a dozen employees who are retiring July 1, from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, where I worked until my own retirement May 1 2008. It was a treat to see former colleagues and wish them all the best as they move from the stage of life in which they spent years solving biological mysteries about the plants and animals of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Plus it was a chance to see and thank lots of folks who prayed for me and are continuing to pray for me during my stroke journey.

In typical GCRL coast-casual style, a tent and buffet were set up on the beach near the Lab entrance. Hubby and I were happy that we could join the celebration of the successful careers of these scientists and support staff who have contributed so much to the Lab’s stellar reputation. In doing so Walter and I celebrated another post-stroke first—my first trip across uneven terrain with my cane, including negotiating about 40 feet of soft sand. Oh, and of course, successfully carrying on conversations and enjoying tender ribs, and other tasty fare without any major mishaps while dining al fresco.

I am so blessed that Walter and other people surrounding me enthusiastically celebrate such small incremental successes with me. It is encouraging.

While it is on my mind, here are a few tips for conversation with a stroke survivor, or, at least, this stroke survivor that I have learned on this journey:

Make sure you are facing me. If there is background noise, get closer to me.

Ask about what I am experiencing now, then really listen, especially for successes; then acknowledge the successes; don’t ignore them.

Share, very, very briefly, the happy successes about another stroke survivor if you want to.

But don’t give a lot of suggestions based on how another stroke survivor got various functions back. Assume that I am actively doing my part toward complete recovery. Every stroke is different, and my therapists have already assigned a multitude of exercises specifically for Walter and me to do daily. Although your examples and suggestions are well-meaning, they imply that what I am doing is not getting results that are good enough or fast enough.

Similarly, I know you are concerned because you care about me, but don’t ask every time we talk if the feeling is back in my hand or leg. The timing on that is not something I can control. Again, just give me a chance instead to talk about what is going well, and when the feeling comes back I will tell you.

Save the complaints about health, work, spouses, or relatives for another confidante. (None of my wonderful visitors have done this, but I did have to regularly divert the conversation with one dear lady in rehab with me. I am happy to report that she eventually began regaining her strength and along with it a more positive attitude. Negative words and body language can quickly spread discouragement.)

Do tell me briefly, what exciting, funny, and happy things are going on in your life. I am interested, and it brightens my day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: No Cabin Fever Here

As we progress in my recovery from the April 22 stroke, husband Walter is making sure I don’t feel homebound. This morning we are at Coffee Fusion, keeping our standing date for coffee and tea.

It never occurred to me before that sitting in a regular chair could be a blessing. But it is, and I thank God that I can have this simple comfortable alternative to my wheelchair. Hubby’s post last week further chronicled one of the challenges he has been facing for several weeks. Even though I am at home now, I am no help in his continuing battle with cunning adversaries, but I am cheering him on. For his post, click here.

On another source of frustration, I thought upon my return home, that my trouble was resolved with commenting on blogs hosted by blogger. Evidently not. I am slowly catching up with my favorite reads, but sometimes technology gone awry is thwarting my commenting attempts. One more thing I will deal with later!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Day 1—The Trip Begins

Good Friday, April 22, 2011, began as a typical  relaxed day off for husband Walter and me. Neither Walter nor I can remember many details of the hours before the stroke clearly now, but I do remember accompanying hubby to Lowes. He rounded up supplies to finish some projects he was working on. I ambled around and attempted to get a decent photo of an Easter lily among the available leftovers.

Good Friday Easter lily snapshot

I also shot some orchids, because they were there, and hubby wasn’t yet. The orchids sported vibrant colors, but their shapes were strange to me, and I never did capture an image that was particularly pleasing to me.
An Easter orchid

Another Easter orchid

Later we pulled into our driveway, I disembarked from the van, and I noticed my legs felt a little different, but I just thought I was tired. Once inside I grabbed my laptop and headed for one of the two sofas that face each other on either side of our fireplace.

After some moments I realized something was wrong with my laptop. Some of the letters were not showing up on the screen. My legs also felt funny. I stood up to walk it off and headed for the opposite sofa. I didn’t make it. Walter helped me the last few steps. “You need to sit down,” he said.

“No, I need to see if I can walk.” I stood up and he had to immediately ease me down to the carpet. I think I said to call 911, but he may have said that. In hindsight the legs and computer malfunction were all evidence that a blood vessel had burst in the right side of my brain and the bleeding was already causing damage that affected the movement of my left side, including leg, and the fingers that failed to receive my brain’s command to strike the keys that would enter the words and sentences that I thought I was composing.

By the time I was on the floor, time had already ceased to be linear for me, and for the next several days . . . or weeks . . . time for me was like U.S. 90 pre-Hurricane Katrina. I could comprehend and line up days of the week and months and dates in correct order, just like I could remember the order of businesses on the north side of highway 90 east to west and the order of those on the south side east to west. I just never could remember what businesses were across the highway from each other. And I could no longer match what I was experiencing with a date or time, or even yesterday or the day before. 

Walter recalls the ambulance arriving within 10 minutes. I remember one of the emergency medical techs telling me that I was having a stroke. The EMTs were businesslike, getting their job done with speed and courtesy.

A few minutes later as the ambulance pulled away, Walter was already calling relatives, and prayer started. I didn’t know that, but I did experience the benefits. From the moment I arrived in the Ocean Springs Hospital ER, I felt surrounded by, even immersed, in love and prayer. But that is another part of the journey.