3.31.2010

Out on Parole

Mom's getting a half-day pass to come home this weekend, and best of all, she's going to come home for good on TUESDAY! By then it'll have been nearly 4 weeks since she's been home. What a good day that will be :)

Today mom had her weekly "doctor's roundtable." I couldn't be there in person so I was conferenced in. The connection wasn't great, but I could tell the tone of the meeting was very positive and there was lots of laughter. The recap is that mom's made lots of progress in the last week- she's walking some, she is requiring way less help on her transfers, and she's getting a little more independent (dressing, showering, etc).

So now what? Mom will direct us this weekend on how she wants the house rerranged. Dad & Jack are going to start building an ADA shower in the garage, and we'll work on getting mom's new bedroom-in-the-dining-room set up. I'm sure we'll go through several iterations to get it right. And we'll re-do it again as mom's strength returns & we can toss wheelchairs, braces, walkers, and ramps back in the garage.

What a crazy year. Having a baby has given me extra reasons to be thankful for my parents. Luke always says that a highlight of his day is dropping jo off at my mom's or his mom's & watching our parents love on our baby. That is so true. When I want to talk about the most inane Jo-things (her last poo, what tooth she is cutting, one of the 8,000 cute things she did today) I call my mom because I know she'll be EQUALLY as excited or interested. Having a baby makes you appreciate your mom more, and it gives me a unique perspective on how much SHE loves ME. It was a rare opportunity I had during maternity leave to spend lots & lots of time with her. Thanks to a VERY understanding boss, I get the chance to spend more time with her over the next few months. I'll be with mom 2 1/2 days during the week, Dad will be with her the rest of the time. I'm really looking forward to it. Life is good.

For a good laugh...

Luke plays in a rec basketball league. I don't have anything really impressive to say about that, but I do want to bring your attention to the creative names of their opponents. "Their" name, by the way, is "THE LUNGS," which they think is quite ironic as they're a bunch of 30 yr old, not-so-physically-fit guys. Anyhow, my favorites are:
1. 7man wolfpack (obviously have good taste in movies)
2. Those guys (bet they cool off w/a beer at a bar called "the office" afterwards)
3. Punch Your Face Off (fighters, not lovers)
4. Coaches Gone Wild (no thank you)
5. Injured Reserves (low self esteem)
6. The Wild Turkeys (alcoholics)
7. Child Please (luke likes to say this, a lot)
8. Sex Panthers (is that even allowed???)
9. Podunk Ballers (obviously from milwaukie...maybe oregon city)
10. Blazing Trees & Strokin 3's (well it rhymes)
11. Stop Running I'm Old (this is my favorite)
12. Coordination Optional (probably a bunch of false modests)
13. Awkward Situation (I hear they wear short spandex unitards)

3.29.2010

Monday & Mom

Interesting day for Mom today. She woke up from a mid-day nap crying, confused and disoriented. She called my dad, he called the nurses & headed back to the hospital. The nurses assured us that Mom was ok, just confused- and that is normal & ok after having a stroke. We think maybe Mom hasn't really dealt with the emotional impact of all this- we've all cried like babies but not her. She said she woke up & Dad wasn't there, and she'd had a dream she needed him but couldn't find him. Then she couldn't figure out how to dial his number & she was worried she was having another stroke, and got worked up. Dad said the therapists actually said this is a GOOD thing- because afterwards she was a little more emotionally responsive. She did super well on the exercise bike, riding for 13 minutes compared to Friday's 5 minutes. Tonight I asked her why she hadn't cried before & she said, "what is there to cry about?" I pointed out that you can be thankful to be alive but still cry because you're sad or mad or whatever. She said, "Eh- why cry over spilled milk?" :) She was super tired today, confused today for Friday, and just seemed pooped out. It breaks my heart to think of mom being sad, but she has had some pretty traumatic losses & she probably needs to grieve them. I have not heard her complain once about the physical limitations though, which blows my mind. In fact tonight as we ate in the cafeteria together, with Jo in my left arm & her bum left arm at her side I said, "It's probably easier for a mom to have a stroke versus a man because we're already used to eating with one hand!" She laughed & said, "That's good- put it on the blog." :)

I leave you with this- more video from Sunday's victories. She told the therapist that "all of portland will hear about me walking today- these girls tell everyone everything." Yep, we do!

3.28.2010

In 17 days you can...

In 17 days you can...
1. go to sleep a normal (though not neccessarily very HEALTHY!), high functioning adult woman, age 52.
2. have a blood clot form in the left side of your brain, stopping all blood flow to vitally important tissue and brain cells
3. wake up, hit your body on the nightside table and crash to the floor without any ability to break your fall using your left arm or leg
4. use every reserve of strength, faith, and courage to crawl to the phone for help
5. be transported to tualatin with more pomp & circumstance than ever before
6. scare the living daylights out of your family
7. find that your left side is numb, droopy, and for the most part, unresponsive
8. experience god's grace, second only in magnitude to the grace he extended when he saved you the first time round
9. be humbled beyond compare while you watch friends and family stand (sometimes uncomfortably) at your side, crying and laughing, hugging you and telling you in fumbling words how very dear you are to them
10. feel pain and fatigue unmatched in your lifetime
11. lament the blatant assault on your modesty as nurses have to help you dress, bathe, and go to the bathroom
12. quit smoking, against your will
13. listen to your children and husband talk in hushed tones across the room, and feel a sense of guilt and pride at the way they are a united front, for you
14. move to a high rise loft in the pearl called RIO
15. slowly and by bits regain some lost function and capacity
16. try to spread your wings...and instead hit the floor on your first independent attempt to get into bed alone
17. walk again...

Cookbook Perusin'

Today was a very good day. I couponed, went for a 6 mile run w/Jo along the waterfront, then went to visit Mom at the hospital. We did a cooking class together at the hospial (diabetic friendly chocolate chip cookies....no comment), then Ash & I snuck out to eat some real food (PF Changs), got mom some more stable shoes (ugh- black velcro kind from payless- she will only need to wear them as long as she has the leg brace on), then back to the hospital for PT (posted above), then we snuggled up in a $20,000 bed to review heart-healthy cookbooks. Becky, mom's lovely roommate's daughter, snapped this pic without us even asking. Mom couldn't have scored a better roommate & roommate's daughter :)

Faux-hawk

It doesn't look good on girls. Ignore the pink/orange/red ensemble- it was an odd assortment of pj possibilites at grammy's house!

Ash read Jo some books before bed.

Couponing

I bought all of this for $20.50 today. I got back a $26 walgreens gift card (register rewards) - that means all this stuff FREE plus I made $5.50. And then I went to 3 other walgreens & did the same thing. fist pump.

The Ramp the Stephens' Built



What champs. Dad & Jack whipped this thing out like they'd been building ramps for years.

3.27.2010

Big Steps...

Mom walked with a cane today! Ash was there to see and said it brought tears to her eyes. Truly this is pretty unreal. Mom wore a brace on her bad knee and with very little help walked about 45 feet. The picture shows her PT helping her, but most of her walking was done unassisted. Coincidentally, Dad & Jack built a ramp on the front porch today. $116 in lumber, a quick 2 hours, and BAM - the ramp was done. Despite Mom's big steps today she'll probably use a wheelchair for some time and that ramp will make life easier for her. As cool as it was to see the ramp go up today, it will be way cooler to see it come down someday soon.

3.26.2010

Jo & Rucker Play FETCH!

Jo is starting to play fetch w/Rucker. Listen to her laugh- it is the sweetest sound I know.

Jo's blue ribbon!

Let a lifetime of competitive parenting BEGIN! (Just teasing)
Jo won her blue ribbon today at survival swim lessons. I know that sounds ridiculous. We dunk her under water, she turns onto her back, and floats unassisted for the count of 10. What a super baby!

Pics of Mom

Here's some pics from the last few days of visits w/mom:


Rucker, therapy dog

Mom is looking away b/c she's grossed out. Jack said, "I made this for you today Mom," then pulled belly button lint out of his belly button for her. GROSS.

Me & Dad

Oregon Baby


Uncle Bart, Aunt Linda & cousins Casey, Michele & Julia came to visit!

Uncle Bart & his girls

Mom, Julia & Jo

3.25.2010

Insubordinate vs Over-confident

My mom fell today. She is fine.

At 2 she had physical therapy after occupational therapy. She was tired. "Exhausted," she said. So she scooted herself (in her wheelchair) onto the elevator & back up to her room. She called the nurse to help her into bed. The nurse tried to talk her out of it b/c she had another therapy session. Mom insisted she needed to lay down. The nurse went to get the "head nurse." Mom got tired of waiting so she tried to get into bed herself. The funny thing is she might have made it except she forgot to set the brakes on her chair. So she fell. Becky, the roommate's daughter got the nurses and there was all sorts of commotion to get mom back in bed. She did, however, get out of her last therapy session :)

Hm. Well, this is probably EXACTLY why they told us she'll need someone with her at all times. A side affect of stroke is a lack of perception and unrealistic expectations of one's capabilities. Not to mention the fact she forgot about the brakes- there are several steps in a transfer, but brakes are a pretty important part.

Mom's had SEVERAL lectures now about this. I was (lightly) chewing her out and the nurse said, "She wasn't disobedient, she was just over-confident." Mom latched on to that & later I heard her try that line on my sister.

I think it was probably a good reality check for mom, and maybe a little embarassing to have every nurse on the floor buzzing around you. My dad told her if she pulls this kind of stunt at home he's just going to have to tye her up :)

3.24.2010

Doctor's Roundtable for Mom

This morning we had our first "discharge planning" meeting with all of mom's doctors & therapists. She said it felt like being called into the principals office- and it did!!! She told us that her therapists tell her she "doesn't focus enough, and rushes through her work." She said it is just like what jack's teachers used to tell her at parent/teacher conferences! Ha!

Anyhow, so here's the main points:
1. They expect to send her home to us on 4/6, two more weeks.
2. When she comes home she will probably be in a wheel chair and need 24/7 "company." This is because she has some issues with vision, "putting things together," mobility, and perception. It will not be safe for her to be alone, at least now for now.
3. She does NOT have sensation through most of her left arm. This is different than what we thought. It seems like that should be pretty easy to figure out (can you feel this mom!?) but it is hard. Or rather it is painful to figure that stuff out - we're all sitting around & we ask mom if she can feel certain things, then look at one another, making eye contact & digesting the results.
4. In terms of what to expect as she recovers, the doctors, as expected, cannot tell us what to expect. There are amazing success stories out there, and discouraging stories too. So I guess we just have to take it one day at a time!
5. Regarding her mobility- they are seeing progress with her left leg that is encouraging. She is walking, transferring (wheelchair to bed), using the bathroom, and dressing with 75% assistance. Their goal is that when she comes home she will only need 25% assistance with these tasks. She let them know she would prefer to go home with a walker, not a wheelchair. They think that is a good long term goal, but may not be very realistic over the next 2 weeks.
6. Getting the sleep apnea thing under control is a big deal. She's not a fan of the mask, but hopefully she'll get used to it. That plus the fact that she's eating more should have a huge impact on her progress and strength!

I feel unsettled. Hope springs eternal & I wanted them to tell us that mom can go home & live life as she did pre-stroke. As my mom would say, "HELLOOOOOO?!?!" She had a stroke 13 days ago. OF COURSE she hasn't recovered! It is a long road & I am confident she will continue to progress. When I think about her condition 13 days ago I am floored to think of how much has improved. Man.

So for prayer requests...
1. Mom's strength, motivation & determination in therapy.
2. Her mental commitment about smoking- in her mind she has not "quit" yet. This is a problem!
3. The "next step" for our family, whatever in the world that will look like! The plan is that I'll take a leave of absence from work & we will collectively make sure someone is with mom at all times. We're not sure how long she'll need that, and we're not sure what options we have with insurance for in-home care & stuff like that. Surprisingly enough, I'm not losing any sleep over this. In most cases this sort of "unknowing" would drive me batty- but here's what I keep telling myself: God has made a way so far, and he will continue to make a way. This is definitely an exercise in trusting God!

3.23.2010

This is how mature we are


This is an exact transcript of a series of texts between my sis katie & I:

Katie: Oh my gosh, I might be so sad right now! Savannah might have a peanut allergy!
Michelle: Oh bummer Katie! This sounds really trivial but I am mourning her potential loss of pb-chocolate ice cream!
Katie: That's the only reason I am worried!!! How can she miss out on some of the best stuff on earth???
Michelle: Reeses PB cups. AHHHH the worst: SCOTCHEROOS!?! NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Katie: Noooo! And worst of ALL how can I justify eating them in front of her when she is aware of what she is missing out on!?!?
Michelle: Crap Katie. As her godmother I am not sure I can make that kind of a commitment. AHHH.
Katie: Ha! we might have to find her another family who can sympathize.
Michelle: Consider Lexee (that's our 10 yr old little sis) She's your & matt's back up for Jo you know :)
Katie: Haha, I hate to say this, but she might be a better choice anyhow.

Who qualified us to raise children?

Stand & Deliver

Now that mom's cleared to dine in the hospital cafeteria, Dad took her on a romantic dinner date to the salad bar. Isn't that cute? She also made him fork over some cash for lunch money. I'm not quite sure how she thinks she's going to get down there & navigate the cafeteria on her own...but I'm betting the hagan daaz ice cream cooler will serve as good motivation.

Two pretty exciting updates:
1. While helping mom stretch her left leg Dad observed it is TWICE as strong as it was a few days ago!
2. Mom stood up today for TEN minutes! I think she was holding on to something, but this is the precurser to eventually walking!!! I am so impressed with how aggressive they're being with her therapy!

Her sleep apnea test last night confirmed she does indeed have sleep apnea. Now she's going to have to wear a cool mask at night. Seeing as how she's such a compliant and obedient patient I'm sure that'll be no problem...

Dad said that tonight he had the best visit he's had so far with mom, just him & her. Tomorrow is mom's big meeting w/all her doctor's & therapists. We'll talk about her progress & they will tell us what they think about her coming home, and when.

Mom also got a visit tonight from Aunt Jenny. Aunt Jenny is my husband's aunt, and my sister in law's mom. Ha. Try & figure that out. My brother married Luke's cousin, so my mom got a pair of sisters for in-laws! And both sisters have been to visit my mom. Does that happen in normal families? I don't know, I have a pretty extraordinary family.

3.22.2010

Seatbelts on!

Today Sara & Naomee met me at RIO to see mom, and bring me Jo. Sara brought coleslaw from KFC too, at mom's dire request. She also got pizza today for lunch since she went on hunger strike. Well...not exactly hunger strike but they finally gave in & said she can eat whatever she wants from the hospital cafeteria. Good grief- she is a high maintenance woman :) Today on our trip to the cafeteria (for haagen daz!) she buckled Jo into the wheelchair with her. Jo loves it. Quick update tonight b/c my food is on my lap & we got a Ricky Gervais stand up dvd from netflix today...yum and ahhh.

3.21.2010

The last 11 days

Tomorrow I go back to work. I feel like it was a lifetime ago that I was at work and got that gut wrenching call from Jack. At that moment in time I would have handed over every single one of my earthly possessions to know that 11 days later I'd be making light of my mom's nicotine cravings. Thank you God!

Tragedy is a weird thing. It rocks your world & leaves you desperate on your knees. No matter how much I endeavor to trust God, I've seen in the last week that the second God answers one prayer I am momentarily thankful & then respond, "I can take it from here God." And then something else comes up that I cannot imagine a way through, and God makes a way through that too. His grace is unending. If 1000 times I recklessly try to wriggle out of God's hands, 1,001 times will he reach back out for me when I realize I should have just stayed there in the first place.

There is the most unreal euphoria that comes from something like this- I feel like I've won the jackpot to get to keep my Mom. I know I won't get to keep her forever, but it has helped me cherish the time we do have together. It has changed my family's perspective on health, family, health insurance, work, and our community of supportive friends & family members. We will bring food to people in our life who suffer tragedy in the future. We will reach out to those we barely know so that we can meet their needs & maybe have the distinct honor of being "the hands of god." We will pay for insurance that has a "max out of pocket" we can live with. We will not smoke. We will visit others in the hospital even when we don't know what to say or how to act--- because we know they won't either! We will reevaluate financial vs quality of life goals...and not make the mistake of assuming they are the same thing.

In the last 11 days I have seen my mom's future brighten, and ours in turn. I have seen a family organize like an army of grieving soldiers- a united front of broken hearts. I've seen people's strengths & gifts highlighted when push comes to shove- Jack's sense of humor, Ashley's bent towards the dirty work (cleaning, cooking, laundry), and the depth of Dad's love for his wife & family. I have watched my mom reluctantly take center stage, and in a way that she would never have wanted or imagined. I have seen the immense and gratifying JOY a baby brings to my parents and even strangers in the ICU waiting room. I've seen my uncle burst into tears when he tries to tell his sister in law how thankful he is that she is ok. I have seen God perform miracles of mercy.

Like all of life's most intense moments, I'm sure this "high of thankfulness and relief" will wane. I remember first kissing Luke, and then getting married. Finding out we were pregnant, and holding Jo for the first time. In those moments you don't think you will EVER forget how it feels, but time dilutes the memory. I write all this down so that when life (god willing) returns to "normal," and the big drama of the day is that Mom can't reach the christmas decor on the high shelf in the garage, I will re-read this and remember as much as I can that life is precious, god is good, and I am blessed.

Certified Transfer Technician

Tonight dad & I were trained on how to help mom transfer from her wheelchair to the bed & vice versa. While practicing I dropped her! No, just teasing. I didn't drop her. My own child ate poop yesterday, but at least today I did not drop my mother.

So we can do the transfers, but Mom mentioned she'd rather come home with a walker & not a wheelchair. We agree completely. But you just never know how fast or slow this stuff happens, so we'll take it one day at a time. I was helping her stretch her left leg today & having her push it back towards me- she has a good amount of strength in her left leg, if not neccessarily control just yet. From what I hear, the left arm takes the longest to "come back." We met with mom's recreational therapist yesterday who took a lot of notes on the things mom does in her daily life- gardening, cooking, stained glass, etc. She said that the most important thing she wanted to do again was "rock her grandbaby." The rec therapist suggested that mom meet with the horticultural therapist (who knew there was such a thing!) who will help her learn to modify her gardening activities. There's also some cooking "classes" she can attend to learn how to get around safely in the kitchen.

She's still craving cigarettes pretty bad. She holds my dad accountable for this, but also expects luke to help her out (both are ex-smokers). She constantly asks if we drove her car to the hospital (I think she has cigarettes hidden in there somehhere) and when my dad leaves she says, "Don't let me down tomorrow Casey." This morning she said she needed to go outside for a bit before laying down. She wanted a cigarette. Forget the fact you can't smoke on hospital grounds- we're not giving her any! We just change the subject most of the time, but sometimes we make up funny excuses. Today as she was wheeling away from my dad she said, "Your excuses are really starting to suck. All the way to the divorce court." :) Now how can you not smile at that?

Not for those with a weak stomach...


I got this pic sent to me from luke yesterday, who was home with Jo. I texted back, "That's not poop, right?" I was joking. He texted back, "It is." He wasn't joking.

This is so, so gross. We're not TOTALLY sure she ate it...but it was all over her face & hands. She got into a diaper in the diaper pail. Gag. Interestingly enough I googled "what to do if your baby eats..." and "poop" was the first suggestion.

3.19.2010

A good friday

Today was a good day. I'm not really clear on what determines a good vs bad day, but it usually has to do with how tired or energized I am & the general state of mom & dad's spirits. Yesterday I spoke with the social worker at the hospital who informed me that a stay at RIO runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000/day...and insurance pays 80%. I'm no mathmatician, but I know enough to know that's a big number. And who knows how much the week in the hospital cost!? I had the pleasure of breaking this news to my dad last night. What a pit in my stomach- I actually dreamt about insurance last night. This morning I woke up & prayed two things: God, give me an air of thankfulness, and please let the insurance thing have just been a mix up. And do you know what happened??? Dad called the insurance company & found out that he does indeed have to pay 20%...up to a maximum out of pocket amount of $3000. Wow. Dad will whistle a happy tune & smile when he signs that check. Never has anyone been so thankful to [just] be spending $3k!

Mom still isn't eating a ton, but she seemed a little more chipper tonight. They're going to have her reveiwed for sleep apnea, which I am POSITIVE she has. Interestingly enough, sleep apnea can cause strokes!?!? Mom is the poster child for stroke risk of all kinds, but it was very interesting to know that sleep apnea can be a cause. Hopefully they'll get her hooked up to a cpap machine at night & that will also help her energy.

I leave you with a few photos- new & old.

Flower Power

Mom had a long rigorous day of therapy followed by lots of visitors. Aunt Linda, Abby & Vernie stopped by, plus us kids & dad. Jo also showed up because she had nothing else going on.

While Vernie was there we took a walk to the healing garden & took some pics...

Jo decided to sport her flower head band to cheer up Grammy.

It worked.

Rucker couldn't make it but he sends his love from home.

Do you know a girl who looks cuter in denim shorts?

The difference between a mom & a dad

A Mom will put the high chair tray down on the floor so the dog can lick up the left overs.

A Dad will do the same, but fails to clean the tray with soap & water before returning it to the high chair.

3.18.2010

A full day at RIO

Mom had a long & busy day. Dad visited for lunch, and the major topic of conversation was not how the morning's therapy went, but how much Mom would like a cigarette. My mom is a creature of habit, and honestly I think quitting (against her will) smoking may be harder than the stroke recovery!

Tonight when we visited Mom she was kind of crabby. She's got some major "left side neglect," which is to say that she is very unaware of the stuff happening on her left side. Some of that she can work on, force herself to constantly be looking to her left as an act of habit, but I think her future dream job as crossing guard is off the table :) The other thing I noticed tonight is she wouldn't really look at me when we talked. I'm not sure what that's about. I think she's maybe feeling sad and upset, but she doesn't want to discuss it, of course. Her "go to" emotion is anger & frusration. That's hard b/c when she gets frustrated or annoyed (like when we tell her she CANNOT smoke or when we are trying to talk her into eating) it is easy to overlook that what she might be compensating for are much more vulnerable feelings. I haven't seen her cry once. I haven't heard her (not even once) say she's nervous, scared, fearful, or depressed. That's no good. Part of her therapy is emotional/mental, so maybe they can encourage her to tackle that. I did print out my blogs over the last week for her to read tonight. Maybe that will evoke some sort of emotion from her. She is so stinking stubborn!

So the prayer request for today is that she'd start coping emoionally & also that the cravings for cigarettes would subside.

3.17.2010

A video of mom...

This is cute- last night mom enjoyed pringles, subway, & choc almond ice cream. Tonight she's in RIO, a way cooler facility- but we're committed to HEALTHY EATING- at least for mom. I'm eatting my way through a papa murphy's pizza & a coors light. A girl's gotta let her hair down after a day like today :)

ENJOY!!!

Today ends on a high note

Last night:
Dad, Jo & I went to visit mom last night. We snuck her chocolate almond ice cream-- we just wanted her to eat ANYTHING. But we got in trouble from the nurse. While I was getting scolded & my mom was threatened with insulin shots to the stomach my dad suddenly appeared very busy and preoccupied with Jo...which was convenient for him I'm sure. Here are the funny things that mom said last night:
1. My dad was talking to her about the RIO evaluation. RIO is an aggressive rehab program. If you blow it at RIO insurance won't pay for you to go back. You got to go there w/your game face on, and you have to be evaluated for adimittance. When they ask mom about her pain level during different things, she's not been below an 8. Dad called her out on this b/c we think she may be exaggerating an eensy teensy bit (Ash & I got our melodramatic ways from SOMEONE). She got annoyed with him. He started to apologize a little. He said, "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings hon, I'm just trying to help you understand what's at stake." To this she said, "Don't worry. My feelings only hurt an 8.5" Then she smiled a BIG smile because she knew that was funny :)
2. The nurse was looking under mom's wrist brace for her id bracelet. Mom assured her it was in there somewhere. The nurse found it & said, "It IS here!" Mom said, "At least it's not on my toe."

This morning was rough. Maybe the roughest yet. Dad & I were nervous about her getting into RIO. We showed up & her spirits were down. She wouldn't really eat & she was super, super tired. She told us she didn't know if she could handle RIO. We waited for the evaulation, and it never happened. They just came in & said, "you're going to RIO now." We told mom it was OK if she didn't want to go just yet- if she'd rather to go to a less aggressive rehab for a while to get her strength up. We really meant it too- we'd be happy if she was happy. She didn't really feel like talking about it, so we packed her bags & with some help we got her in my car & drove down to Good Sam (NW pdx). Dad & I were so frazzled. We'd heard how tough RIO is. They kept calling it "bootcamp." We were worrying we may have pushed mom into something she wasn't ready for. Her attitude would make or break this rehab experience.

When we got to RIO things changed pretty dramatically. Her room is lovely & overlooks NW 22nd. There are huge windows with lots of sunshine, and most importantly, the people who work there are incredible. We felt loved and supported IMMEDIATELY. In the hospital they want you to LIVE. But the nurses change all the time, different docs & therapists- and when mom would need to go to the bathroom the nurses acted like it was an inconvenience. At RIO their entire job is to help you- and they REALLY seem to care. Most importantly, they explained their program & philosophy. This seemed to reassure mom a lot. Dad asked if she was scared or nervous- she said she wasn't. But I think she was nervous & I think she is not nervous anymore.

Dad & I left mom with the several teams of therapists for a while. When we'd sneak a peek in we were blown away- she was sitting up, practicing geting in & out of a wheelchair, eating, and talking with them. I feel like she is in SUCH good hands. She had a long, busy day- but her spirits are high. Poor dad fell asleep sitting up in his chair, so he left around 4. I hung out for another hour and when I left mom she was cozied under a warm blanket getting ready to read her book & then have some dinner. Walking out of her room I started to cry- it is SO hard to leave her. She doesn't seem to mind, but it kills me. I think it must be how parents feel leaving their kid on the first day of school. You know they'll be fine, but you worry anyhow.

Tomorrow's another big day for mom. Pray for her energy & healing. Pray for her spirits to be high & for her to have some victories to be proud of. Dad and I are both going in to work for a bit tomorrow, and we won't see mom until the afternoon. During that time she'll be going through evaluations & lots of different types of therapy. I hope to post a good progress report tomorrow night!

3.16.2010

Today

Today was kind of interesting. Yesterday we had settled on Marquis in Wilsonville, hoping that the hospital would let us stay 1 more day so mom didn't have to go to rehab elsewhere for 1 night. Plus ambulance transfers are at least 1.5 x the cost of a cab ;) Last night mom was on her own all night. By the time we showed up at 8 with her double tall latte from starbucks she'd already been up & bathed! She felt better having finally showered. A stream of therapists came in & out. The neurologist came in & said that the vessel in her brain is still blocked, which is not bad news I guess, just not good news. I think if it gets unblocked (like the clot dissolves) that means more blood flow gets around. Anyhow, he said we could stay one more day & transfer to Wilsonville on Wednesday!

Jo is becoming increasingly unimpressed with hospital life. So I was taking her to the waiting room to get her wiggles out & I walked by one of mom's PT who was saying on the phone, "I REALLY think she'd do so much better at RIO..."

Hm...

Then things got moving. The social worker told us: RIO is still an option. Marquis called, they can take her a day early! AND insurance approved another night at the hospital. Yesterday we had nowhere to go. Today we had multiple options!

The therapists agreed to evaluate mom again today & tomorow morning- then make the call. Unfortunately right NOW is mom's "UP & AT 'EM" time of day. She's a night owl for sure, so it is hard to get her peak physical performance to impress the therapists at 7am...but she wants to go to RIO and she works hard to show the therapists what she's made of. So no matter where god wants her to go, we'll be content with it. Tonight, we think, will be her last night in the hospital. That is SO amazing.

So that's it for now. Dad & I came home for dinner. She called within an hour to make a list of demands...which is reassuring. She'd like tweezers, her magnifying mirror, her perfume, and some baskin & robbins chocolate almond ice cream. :)

We'll keep you posted on what tomorrow brings!

3.15.2010

Bonus Blog

I just talked to Dad. He had gone back after eating dinner at home to see Mom & get her settled in for the night. He said she's more alert than he's seen her so far, and that is AWESOME. He said they had a really good talk about how this will be hard but that they'll get through it. He said she chowed down on her salami & cheese & crackers. He said when he walked in she had the TV on and she had her eyes open. This is the best report I've heard yet. I'm sinking my teeth into their personal finances, setting them up w/online bill pay & all that sort of thing. Ash & Jack think this is part of an elaborate plan I have to fund luxury cars & tropical vacations for myself (busted!). Anyhow, Dad had to call me to tell me mom's SSN and I could totally hear her in the background giving him additional information to tell me-- just like usual. Then he gave her the phone and I got to talk to her for a few minutes. Gosh I love her. She said, "Give that baby a kiss for me!"

One more sweet story. Today the speech therapist told mom she's going to have to retrain the left side of her mouth to help her chew her food and form her words. Impressively she is already making big progress in this area. Later Dad said something & mom replied with a big smile & some sarcastic remark. It melts his heart to hear her flip him crap like that so he said, "I love you- give me a kiss!" He leaned in to kiss her, and then said, "THIS is what we'll do for lip therapy- we'll just have to start kissing more!" She looked over to me and sent me a look that implied a major roll of the eyes, but she was sure grinning. This is my parent's relationship in a nutshell.

Today's update

This is an excerpt from christianblog.com:
Through our prayers, we are not setting out to change God's mind, or have Him redirect the course of His will. Rather, through the practice of earnest prayer, God changes us! The Lord uses prayer to align our wills with His, not His with ours. Prayer opens the door that allows us the view the righteous will of God. And when that will is not going in a direction we deem best, it is us, not God, that is out of align. Therefore, through the gentle and loving use of prayer, God can and does change our hearts and renew our will closer and more in line with His own good and perfect divine will.

So true. Today we were praying mom would be accepted by RIO. All our expectations about the future involved RIO as the next step in the process of healing. It's funny the mental games we play to make ourselves stay sane. I kept thinking- if she can just get into RIO it will all be ok. When that doesn't happen you fall apart. In reality, mom's condition is not worse. There's nothing to be sad about- in fact, she showed a little more strength & energy today- plus she ate some! BUT, because the PT didn't think RIO was the right next step, we felt all frantic and off course.

So what happened? We let go of RIO for now & started the process of evaluating other skilled nursing facilities where Mom can get rehab & graduate to RIO later when she's stronger. Unfortunately our first choice, Marquis Wilsonville, was booked, with a possible opening on Wednesday. The next best thing looked like a place in beaverton- near my dad & my offices. As we talked to the PT he encouraged us to be persistent about Marquis Wilsonville. He said sometimes those places can be creative in arranging a bed until a true "spot" opens up. Dad started talking about how cool it would be to get Mom in a wheelchair & take her for walks down to her own house for dinner. To show her her yard & flowers & home. He said he could build a ramp for the front steps & if she got scared or lonely in the middle of the night he could be there in three minutes flat. You tell yourself NOT to let this happen, but we set our sights on Marquis Wilsonville as the ONLY option.

Dad decided the best course of action would be to show up in person at Marquis & ask for them to make room for mom. He wasn't gone long. When he got off the elevator he saw Jo in the waiting room & snuck up on her to tickle her. When I asked how it went he said: "It's pretty hard to turn down a bawling 53 year old man." I guess when he got there to make his case he just broke down. It's funny how you can talk to 100 people you love each day about how mom's doing....but you talk to one stranger & you lose it. He explained he'd been in love with his wife since they were 13 and that he wanted to be able to be at her side in minutes if she needs him, and that they lived just down the street. So the plan is that on wednesday mom will come "home"- to Wilsonville. We are so, so excited.

So I guess the moral of today is that this morning I prayed because I wanted God to change his plans & get her into RIO. He didn't answer that prayer, but instead he changed our hearts to want something else for mom- and he delivered peace & contentment. I guess that's the ideal outcome of prayer- not to get "our way"- but to change our focus & try to align with god's plan...peace, contentment & hope aren't too shabby either.

Thanks for the prayers. I have my blackberry with me all day & the comments, texts, and facebook messages chime in like little digital hugs of encouragement. Did I tell you that I'm saving all the emails & comments so that in a while we can build mom a rehab book? I've always thought it is a shame that people wait to say such kind things about others until the person passes. In this case Mom's been given an extension & she'll get the chance not many people get- to realize the magnitude of impact she has had on others & just how large her fan club is. How awesome is that? If you want to email me notes or letters to her I'll make sure we read them to her in the near future. She's not quite ready yet for all this heavy emotion- she says it'll make her cry. But I think in the days ahead she'll appreciate these kind sentiments when she's feeling discouraged or frustrated.

The other great news today is her left leg is feeling stronger. The PT showed us some exercises to do w/her to improve her sensation & strenght. I smuggled in mcdonalds b/c she REFUSED to eat the spaghetti they served her for lunch. Oh. And she graciously tasted my mashed potatoes, but declared them too garlicky & wouldn't continue to eat them. She did eat almost half a 1/4 pounder & several fries. That's more than she's eaten in the last 5 days combined! Dad's smuggling in salami, crackers & cheese for her tonight.

I think the prayer request now is for mom's energy to continue to improve, and for us to get her into Marquis Wednesday. Actually I suppose based on what I said earlier, we should be praying that god's will be done & that we have the capacity to embrace it & be thankful even when things don't go how WE think they should.

Tonight we're planning on letting mom sleep alone in the hospital. I'm hoping she can get some rest & not feel too lonely. Today & yesterday I got to see mom laugh a few times. That is so wonderful. I wish I could remember what it was that I said to make her laugh. Tough to say when you're as funny and clever as I am. Could've been any number of things...

BIG prayer request.

UGH. roller coaster morning.

Good: mom got a good 4 or 5 hours of (relatively) solid sleep between 2 and 7am.
Bad: RIO came out to assess her as a candidate for the rehab program. She didn't pass. GOSH this made me SO SO mad. I really am not a fan of this phrase, but I'm so PISSED OFF! Ugh. We've been hanging our hopes on this RIO thing, like it would be some miracle recovery plan. They asked her if she could do 3 hrs of rehab a day and she said NO. In her defense, the guy was there around 9, which is like 8 am really. And she is not, even on her best day, a morning person. Much less is she a morning person 5 days after a massive stroke having eaten very little & still exhausted. To say we are crushed is kind of an understatement. We need to reset our expectations. Mom's not WORSE than she was yesterday- but our expectations of the next few months need to be recalibrated. We can do that, but it takes a little bit of time for us to reset and indulge ourselves with a little bit of anger and frustration. And let me clarify- we're not angry at mom or god or anything. you know how it goes.
Good: Dad talked the RIO guy into reassessing her this afternoon. We don't want to stack the deck or present a false picture- if mom's not quite ready then that is ok & we'll do RIO later on- but our hopes are up again & we're laying it out for mom in black & white. Tough love, right?
Good: Jack said she's pushing back with her left leg even a little stronger than before. Praise!

We'll keep you posted- love you!

There is no pleasing this woman

I feel bad that mom's eating this mushy hospital food, so tonight I kicked it up a notch. Ash & Patty cannot contend with me now! :) I made mashed potatoes with lots of butter, sour cream, & garlic. I carefully seasoned delicious chicken that I was forced to ruin by way of puree. I even made gravy for her, which shows substantial courage on my part. Before I left to come here tonight I had a few bites & then brushed my teeth. I indulged in some self gratification. "Hot damn!" I said to myself, "You're culinary prowess cannot be matched!" I get here, Mom's out like a light. So is Ash. I poke Ashley until she wakes up & finally vacates her beloved recliner. In the process mom wakes up & asks, "what's the matter?" because we're being too loud. Since we've already woken her up I take the opportunity to tell her about the DELICIOUS meal I've prepared for her (I intend to get good mileage out of this). She's not interested in eating it right now (don't worry, I had the nurse put it in the fridge for preservation) so I lean in to give her a kiss goodnight. And you know what she says instead of "I love you and realize how much work it was for you to attempt gravy and I appreciate each gram of fat you so lovingly prepared?" Instead she says with thinly veiled judgement, "You smell like garlic." Like she's some sort of offended vampire or something.

3.14.2010

Mom, Day 4

I slept at home last night, Ash & Dad did the night shifts. Then I met Kristen, Cristina & Raelee to run the shamrock 10 today. Well it was actually only 9.3 but I had to run across the morrison bridge twice so I am taking credit for 10. I feel emotionally drained so I wasn't sure how the run would go, but it was great. In fact, I got 3rd place! Nope, that's a lie. But my brother actually believed me for a minute. Sucka!

After the run I showered & headed out to the hospital, where I was pleased to find Mom had been "downgraded" to the INTERMEDIATE care unit. AND I was happy to lay eyes on a cozy comfy recliner chair next to her bed for whoever is there keeping her company and holding her head when she coughs. I think the hospital m.o. is 'underpromise & overdeliver.' We were given a bleak prognosis for mom (good luck, she's paralzyed & will need to be in a nursing home for life) and crappy stiff chair the first day. Now we're looking at getting her home in the coming month(ish???) and we've got a recliner. I'm not comparing the convenience of a recliner to my mom's recovery...I'm just saying that recliner has dual head and foot rest plus it swivels.

Mom continues to be more & more alert. She's off morphine now & onto oxycotin (sp?). She says she feels like her brain rattles when she coughs, but the further she gets from her last cigarette (now 4 days ago-- the longest she's gone w/o a cigarette in nearly 4 decades!) the better things will be. The neurosurgeon today said that the blood clot came from her neck (not sure what that means) and that some of her grogginess is NOT attributed to pain meds- it is just how you are after a stroke. Hopefully that'll get better with time too.

The food situation is pretty pitiful. They make a big production of wheeling in a tray with a covered dish. The anticipation builds as you eye that black plastic cover. All the surrounding condiments & utensils look promising. Maybe we're looking at chicken florentine or crab alfredo. Perhaps enchiladas or something involving fries. Nope. Jack unveiled the plate cover (and who are they kidding with that anyhow? The food is ALWAYS lukewarm at best, so they should consider trying to get their money back from the plate cover company) and said, "EVERY meal is thanksgiving at the hospital!" He's right- more pulverized ground turkey with a scoop of instant (and when mom "instant" she makes it sound like a profanity) potatoes and some sort of disgusting ground vegetable. Ew. She requested "Tillamook brand beef jerkey." Or "A tuna sandwhich from subway." Or "chocolate chip cookies." But to no avail. Dad brought her blackberry sorbet which she enjoyed, but she is turning her nose at the rest of this crap. Tonight I came home & made REAL mashed potatoes with butter, sour cream, garlic and pepper. I pureed it to make it easy for her to swallow. I pan fried chicken breast which I pureed with chicken stock (this is still a foul texture, but it tastes better than the hospital stuff) and attempted gravy. It does NOT rival mom's cooking...but it is at least better than the stuff she's had so far. So we'll see how that goes tonight. As she gets used to the changes to her mouth & tongue hopefully she'll be able to start eating solid foods. Until then I'm going to make myself scarce during feeding time at the zoo. One of those nurses is bound to get a black plastic food cover to the head if they keep presenting such cuisine to my mom.

The highlight of the day was when the physical therapist came in. She asked mom which knee was hurting & my mom lifted her left leg!!!! The therapist was SO excited. She even went & got the nurse to tell him. My mom acts mildly offended (like, how could we doubt her abilities???) but really to see that leg move feels like I'm watching magic happen. It is so cool. She seems to move her left side out of habit versus when she's really TRYING to, but the point is that there's some little dirt road in her brain that's getting the message from her brain to her leg. The main freeway's shut down for good now, but she'll get used to this detour. Mom wanted to go to the bathroom, so they offered her a commode. That sounds super fancy but really it is a grown up potty training chair on wheels. The wheels must have locks though...that would be a dirty trick :) Anyhow, she refused. The PT said, "Karen- look how far away the toilet is." It's about 5 feet from her bed but Mom said, "I KNOW! I can get there." And with lots of help, she did.

After PT she was pooped out, so I left her & my dad to rest. I'll be going back at midnight to try out the sweet recliner & love on my mom.

It's funny because a week ago if I would have walked in to find my mom laid up in a hospital bed, struggling with a body that is now clumsy and foreign to her, I would have been devestated. When I'm feeling super tired sometimes I start to get angry or really sad about how things have changed. I don't want to see my mom discouraged. I don't want to see my dad walking around with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I want to walk into her house with my baby & dog and have her take both off my hands with joy that only a Grammy can have. I want her to come over and help me hang up pictures or rearrange my living room. I want to meet her at our favorite stores or go grocery shopping with her, or just sit in her living room and watch her rock my daughter. I get SO MAD when I think about letting go of that stuff. And then at other times, well MOST OF THE TIME really, I dwell on the fact that Thursday morning my worst fear was almost realized. I could have lost my mom. She could have suffered worse brain damage. She could have been emotionally traumatized or lost all motivation. And when I think about what COULD have happened, I feel undeserving of this blessing. It's like I get a second chance to enjoy, appreicate, and celebrate my mom. There's a line in a dave mathews song that says it perfectly: Celebrate, we will. For life is short, but sweet for certain!

Tomorrow's a BIG day. All the normal docs/therapists are back & they'll be evaluating Mom for discharge & candidacy for the REO program (which is like the harvard of rehab). We need prayer that she continues to gain energy, mobility, and maintains her fighting spirit. We also need prayer that insurance agrees to cover the cost of rehab (which we anticipate...but you just never know!).

And now, a confession. I am being mindful to keep a postiive outlook. I am celebrating the blessings rather than focusing on the hard parts. I am trying to harness this new perspective and take to heart how precious and fragile life is. But despite all those altruistic notions there is a little voice in the back of my mind bragging, "Michelle. SO many more people are going to start reading your blog."

3.13.2010

Mom, Day 3

All good progress today. This will be brief(er) because I'm exhausted--- but it's the GOOD kind of exhausted-like how you feel after you give birth to a perfect little baby- tired, wary of the the challenges ahead, but OVERWHELMINGLY CONTENT AND THANKFUL.

Two days ago I prayed for mom's LIFE. Yesterday I prayed for mobility. Today I prayed for mom's energy, and so far we're 3 for 3. I cannot say that prayer is always my first response to adversity (as it should be), but when you are desperate and your choices are few, that's where I land. On Thursday Jack & I arrived within minutes of each other & got to Dad before Mom was back from the CT scan. We held each other & I prayed this: "GOD! We are desperate. PLEASE just fix this. I command you in the name of Jesus to fix this." Now I'm not sure I should technically be comanding God- but he knows my heart & it was an honest plea. I KNOW that God is good no matter what, and our prayers are heard, if not always answered in the way we'd expect them to be. But in this circumstance I feel like God is dumping buckets of mercy on us. Things could be so, so much worse. I know somewhere in the back of my head that things can still get worse...but I'll ride this blissful optimism train as long as I can- there is NOTHING to be gained by anticipating a bleak outcome right now.

Mom's energy rebounded today in a big way. She still does some talking with her eyes closed, but she was "awake" a huge part of the day and is conversing in increasingly normal ways. Her snoring sounds normal (LOUD). Her VOICE sounds more normal and less groggy. She is sarcastic, snarky, and complaining...which I swear she does in part to reassure us that she is still the same old mom.

Her physical therapist was VERY encouraged at her progress today- no walking, but a little shuffling (with lots of support) and perhaps she saw a little wiggle in the left toes (!) but definitly improved mobility in her left arm & leg. When asked to move her arm, mom can do it a little. She howled in pain when they repositioned her b/c her left knee hurt. We brought her chocolate ice cream this morning & dad fed it slowly to her. She said after the first taste, "This is heaven on a spoon." She got tired of dad giving her tiny bites so she took the spoon & started shoveling it in. Sadly she was NOT impressed with tonight's dinner menu- PUREED BEEF. Seriously, it was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen not packaged in a cat food can. As retribution for being denied cigarettes and coffee, she made us all taste it. I gagged. We told mom that us 3 girls could only come up with frozen lasagna for dinner last night. She was NOT impressed- she said, "Dad HATES frozen lasagna!" Then she thought better and said, "Well, don't baby him."

Looking back on the day, which for me is ending shortly, the best part was mom's increased energy. A close second though is all the time we are getting to spend with family. At almost all times there's a small, appropriately subdued party going on in mom's room, and a larger party raging in the waiting room. I haven't spent this much time with my parents, brother & sister since about 1996- when we all lived at home & none of us kids had driver's licenses. Tonight, at my own house, I MISS them. Ashley is a cleaning machine, Jack is comic relief, Patty is perfectly squished in like she's been part of this family for 20 years, and my dad is smiling, telling funny stories about mom and taking JOY (as we all are) in the funny things mom says that tell us in no uncertain terms that we have our MOM with us still, and therefore, our hands FULL.

For Rucker's first 3 years of life I spent some SERIOUS time at the dog park. I met some very, very special people. Les, Tony & Tammy are "my pack." You go ahead & laugh at me. That's fine. I'll even fuel your fire: I signed an email to them the other day with this "lots of puppy kisses and tail wags." Anyhow, we have spent many hours together walking our dogs, picking up poop, and becoming friends. I've seen them very little since I had that two legged pup (jo), but despite that, Tammy showed up today at the hospital with THREE LOADS of food. And we're not talking frozen lasagna. Fresh, home made chicken soup. Sandwiches, veggies & ranch, cookies, casserole, cake & chili from Les, a bag of baked bread. It blows me away, brings me to tears, and I fumble for words adequate to describe what this gesture meant to me. My dad shook his head and said - that restores my faith in humanity. Then we feasted :) Tammy & Les aren't the only ones - so many people have blessed us with food. The only chance we have of eating better is getting mom back in her kitchen!

One other specific praise- Mom's attitude has been excellent. She's by no means a "compliant" patient, but neither is she depressed, discouraged, or showing even the faintest sign of self pity. I am SURE that the road to rehabilitation will be hard and mom will be so frustrated & discouraged at times (when weeds sprout up in the yard that she can't pull, when she stumbles or trips, when she finds where Ash & I have creatively put away her dishes)- but for now at least she has been nothing but feisty, stubborn, and BRAVE. I don't know where this reserve has come from, but I think it has to do with the fact that on Thursday morning, a little after 5am, Mom had to make the choice to lie where she'd fallen or make the painstaking, scary, and painful crawl through two rooms - on the HOPE that she'd find the portable phone in the family room. She is literally battered & bruised from her efforts. She has the war wounds to show for it- but the point is that she CHOSE TO FIGHT. I cannot imagine how hard that was for her, but if that isn't a tangible sign of the will to persevere, I don't know what is.

Today started for me at 3am, and I've not napped since. I say that as justification for this disjointed, emotional (aka cheesey) and LONG blog. But good news- I saved the best for last. These are all of the thing's Mom's said in the last day that we have laughed at. All point to one conclusion, she is still herself. Thank God for that!

1. She told Jack last night, "See? I told you all those years you stressed me out would give me a stroke!"
2. Jack was encouraging her (and that is NOT "jack's way") by telling her "GOOD JOB" after every bite she took last night. She told him- I'm not a baby- if you say good job to me one more time I'm gonna hit you. He pushed the limit (which IS "jack's way") so she did, in fact, hit him.
3. Due to her awful headache she's been keeping a cool cloth on her forehead. When the neurosurgeon came to check on her he said, "I'm here to look at your brain." She pulled the towel off & said, "There it is." Later he asked her to smile her "best smile" and she stuck her tongue out at him.
4. Around 4am she asked me for a wheelchair (she's not ready for that yet). I asked if she wanted to sit up, and she said- No. Just go get me a wheelchair & let's go for a spin. (This is her subtle way of asking for a cigarette.)
5. She is asking to be taken to the balcony for a cigarette. She asked for Luke (she thought he'd comply with her request). She's looking in the pockets of her robe for cigarettes. She asked for 4 more nicotine patches. She said to me, "Humor an old lady, give me a cigarette." I told her, Nope- dad told me not to. She said, "Come on- I've humored HIM lots of times!" (These are her blatant ways of asking for a cigarette)
6. She keeps throwing her good leg over the side of the bed & making like she's going to leave. She told the nurse she was ready to leave. The nurse said, "sorry, not today." She replied, "I promise I'll come back if you let me leave." The nurse used good discernment and didn't believe her, which is probably thanks to an entire semester's worth of training in nursing school. In fact I think they wisened up & turned an alarm on the bed in the event that she follows through on these threats! She called Ash & Patty "wussies" for not "busting her out." Someone told her uncle chad would be visiting tomorrow- she advised that he call first because she might be home by then.
7. This is my favorite. Last night I told her that Jack & Patty are going to try to move up closer to Portland. I said, "They might need to stay at your house for a while until they buy a new house." She groaned (loudly) and said NO! I love them, but no. They can move into YOUR house & YOU (meaning me, her favorite child) can move in with me. [smug grin] Later when asked to clarify this statement in front of witnesses she would only say that she just wanted Jo.

Thank you for reading all this. I could be way more concise, but I want to look back & remember all of these details later on when the fog lifts. It's therapuetic for me too. Luke's patiently waiting for me to finish this novel b/c he knows it helps clear my head.

The prayer requests are for Mom's continued high spirits & motivation to get home. Prayer against future strokes, and most of all, praise for God's providence and provision. I am not so foolish to think that God is "agreeing to my demands and terms." I know that's not the case. My mom is here because it's part of God's plan. But I'm not picky & I don't really care on whose terms she's here, I'm just thankful she IS.

3.12.2010

Mom, day 2

Today was an AWESOME day. And for now, "awesome" is a very relative term. 2 days ago my mom chewing and swallowing fruit cocktail would not have been such a miracle...but today this sort of thing makes my chest swell with pride and my hands turn up in thanksgiving to God.

Here's the cliff notes version: You don't know "reality" until 3-5 days after a stroke when the brain's swelling has gone down. Things can look good one day & get worse the next. Or vice versa. We'll take the versa :) She'll be in the hospital at least until Monday. Then she's got to go to rehab- length of stay TBD based on her progress. Way too soon to take a guess on that. But all signs are pointing to hopeful.

Dad slept at the hospital last night, in a very uncomfortable chair. There were a few scary minutes when mom was coughing & couldn't get rid of the congestion in her throat- her back and head are really causing a ton of pain & she has us hold her head & eyes when she coughs- you know if you have a cold & coughing makes your eyes feel like they'll explode? That's how it is for her. Her body, besides suffering major trauma and a thoroughly exhausting "crawl for her life" is having serious withdrawals without her daily pack of cigarettes & pot of coffee. She corrected me today- only TWO cups of coffee (plus all the tea she drinks...) Anyhow- we met dad at the hospital at 7:30 and all got in to see mom around 8. She was feeling super tired (still on morphine) but she was sort of "with it." From there she endured lots of tests and checks. I don't know how to organize this all, so here's a list of the highlights from today:

1. Today on the way to the hospital we stopped at starbucks. There was a group of men doing a bible study in the corner. This is SO cheesy, I know- but I decided I'd ask them to pray for my mom's mobility & the tests for the day. I totally interuppted them, and then surprised myself by starting to sob and hiccup while I asked the favor. They assured me they would pray- but I definitely took them by surprise. What a fumbling mess- but whatever. Shakes up their daily devotional :)
2. When we'd been in the room for a few minutes mom was waving around for dad. She pulled him down to her and they hugged tight. She must have been saying something to him as she rubbed his back and neck, because I could see the top of his head turn red and his shoulders start to shake. I will not have enough time with my mom in this life if she and I both live to be 100- but I know now more than ever that tomorrow is NOT promised to us. And if today was all we had, this memory of my parents loving each other would hold me over until I get to heaven.
3. The care team is graciously turning a blind eye to the fact that baby Jo is kicking it in the ICU. To her credit, she has been a stellar baby, even taking two good naps in my arms. Mom heard Jo & wanted to see her. Since Jo was asleep we put her in the crook of mom's bad arm so her right arm could reach over and pet her grandbaby's hair and soft cheeks. She did this for a few minutes and let me tell you- there wasn't a dry eye in the room. On a lighter note my mom reminded me that she'll not be able to watch Jo this Monday & Tuesday as usual. Check.
4. Rounds. Ok, I know about rounds because I watch Grey's Anatomy. The doctor comes in, talks about her condiiton in front of all his underlings, and stalks out. Not super impressed. The ultimate let down? He wasn't even McKindaCute.
5. Physical Therapy: PT went amazing. Yesterday they wouldn't let mom do anything but lie (lay? I can never remember...) flat. Today they shoved her out of bed & with a LOT of support, she stood. She can feel things on her left side but has no muscle control really.
6. Occupational therapy: also went well. There's a kick-ass program at Good Sam's & there is some criteria to get in there--- Mom's being recommended for it based on the potential they're seeing in her! This is a 2 week rehab program after which she could get to come home (!!!) or may need more time in a skilled nursing facility. There's a very good nursing facility about .3 miles from my parents house...
7. The big highlight of the day (in my opinion) was when mom had the swallow test. They wouldn't give her water which is driving her nuts and making it SUPER hard to talk. We let her lick a sponge...which she scoffs at but accepts for lack of a double tall latte in sight. Today they gave her an ice chip- she didn't choke. Then some custard. She said it was gross, and did they have chocolate ice cream? They gave her chocolate pudding, she said she liked it but not the pill they snuck into it (nothing gets by her). She sipped water off a spoon, then water out of a cup, then bites of applesauce and the big victory? She chewed & swallowed some fruit cocktail!!! God, THANK YOU.
8. My uncle Chad came to visit. He's not your average uncle chad though- he is (i'm not going to get this right) a brilliant nurse with his PHD in nursing- he is a professor at University of Portland and SPECIALIZES in stroke recovery & geriatrics. Convenient? Yes. Divinely appointed? Absolutely. He let the nurses know what's up (in a totally tactful way he dropped his creds & the nurses know now that we are a big deal)! He is such a blessing, helping us understand what's going on and interpreting all this medical stuff.
9. Friends & family- so much love being sent our way. People (Nina, thank you) randomly connecting with us to tell us they are praying for my mom. They've never met ME- much less my mom. And the usual suspects are there too- my dog pack (laugh all you want- this is what we dog park people call each other!) offered to watch Rucker or bring food. Friends & family are emailing & calling like crazy to check on my mom. In a few months I can't wait to tell my mom about all of this- she is going to feel like royalty to hear how loved she is. It is humbling and the best feeling ever.

So many good things. I don't want to paint a too-bright picture, but compared to how things seemed 36 hrs ago I think we're in a much better place. If you saw my mom you'd see she looks like total crap- she can barely keep her eyes open, she snores in between words that are sometimes really hard to understand, and some of our questions she answers kinda funny- but SHE is still in there. I am hoping as she rests and heals a little she'll have a bit more energy & be able to converse with us more, and be taken off the morphine which is undoubtedly to blame for some of the incoherence.

It was funny today during PT her gown was riding a bit high & she told dad to make sure jack was out of the room. He was & she said "don't want him to have to see my fat ass." Nice. But that is totally my mom, so yes--- NICE!

We're home (except dad) to eat dinner. Dad will be home in a few hours & one of us will go back to take the first half of the night shift. I'm really hoping we can talk dad into resting- he's gotten less sleep by far than anyone. His world is rocking & he needs some sleep to recoup- but his spirits are high too.

I feel like I need to temper my high hopes a little- it would be devestating for things to take a bad turn (obviously), but for now I just feel SO lucky and thankful. We'll keep you posted!

3.11.2010

My Mom's Stroke

My mom had a stroke this morning. She is paralyzed (at least for now) on her left side, and SOMEHOW, by the grace of God really, she was able to drag herself from her room through the bathroom & into the family room to call my dad this morning. She said she cried a lot and it was frustrating. She kept saying she didn't want to "be like granny," referncing her mom's death last year to a stroke. They took her by ambulance to the hospital, and she is now in ICU. This happened about 6 am. The great news is she can talk, though it is hard for her & it is hard to tell exactly what she’s saying b/c of her left side. But she is talking w/us & complaining & that is so comforting to report. She is still “mom”- and this is a relief beyond measure. My dad, as you might expect, is devastated. It is the worst thing in the universe to see your dad like this. For whatever reason, one of the paramedics that brought mom in was lingering around. He came in to check on mom & dad after a while, and he was asking dad how long they’ve been married. Dad told him, 31 years. The man gave dad a button that says, “I love my wife” which seemed to have knocked the wind out of dad. It was an old pin, I don’t know if the old guy wore it himself for years or what, but it was so sweet of him to give that to my dad. Jack, Ash & I were at the hospital today in shifts with him and her, and ash & I are here at the house tonight, though dad’s sleeping in the ICU with mom. We don’t know much about her prognosis- we should know more tomorrow after the doctors make their rounds.

Yuck. It was awful to come to this house which is SO totally “my mom” and not have her here, and clean up the house- the blueberry muffins she made last night, the things she knocked down on her way to try to get to the phone, her slippers & glasses by the couch, etc. I told her today that I was SO proud of her for making such an unreal and heroic effort to get to the phone. I told her that that probably saved her life, and I told her that I KNOW she did that for her family and that is proof of how much she loves us. She agreed. I told her, "Mom, you know this is going to suck and be hard, but you know you're going to be ok right?" and she agreed. I asked, "mom you're going to be fine- the worst is over- but if something bad happened to you have total faith in jesus christ?" and she agreed on that point too. Friends and family, do not wait to have these conversations.

This morning when Jack called me I got from beaverton to the tualatin hospital in record time. I had to call jack part way there because I realized he did not say if mom was alive or not- just to get to the hosptial, that she'd had a stroke. He said she was alive, but I didn't know what to expect. I got there to find my dad alone in the room with a box of kleenex, waiting for them to bring mom back from the catscan. The sight of that man worried over his high school sweetheart broke my heart. But God is so, so good to us, and here's one reason why: tonight before I left the hospital my dad was rubbing my mom's back (she is in pain and quite uncomfortable). My mom lifted her good hand, all tied up with tubes and monitors, and started rubbing his chest while he stood at her side. She said, I love you. He didn't quite hear her, so he asked what she said. She said louder, I love you. He bent to her and put his forehead to hers and told her how very much he loves her too. Man. Such simple words, said a million times to one another in their lifetime, but it was the purest and most powerful exchange of love I've ever seen. I felt almost intrusive watching this, but most of all I just feel so blessed to have witnessed it.

The road ahead is terrifying and overwhelming. Will mom be paralyzed? Will the clot in her brain cause another stroke or take her from us? Will she be able to recover? So much unknown, and even though I'm hoping for answers tomorrow I expect we will spend a lot of time "waiting and seeing." I am optimistic and hopeful that she'll gain mobility back. That's what I'm praying for, anyhow. I see God's grace and glory in so many ways- that my mom made it to the phone, that my dad picked up, that the stroke hasn't taken away the essence of who she is. I am thankful- SO thankful- for a family and network that care so much for us. I praise god for my mom, and for her sense of humor. Let's wrap this up on a cheerful note- here is a list of funny things mom has said today:

"I've fallen and I can't get up" (really- she said that to me in the ER)
She keeps asking for a cigarette- she took off her oxygen b/c she said they wouldn't give her a cigarette by the oxygen. When we told her she couldn't have one she asked us (repeatedly) to take her into the bathroom so she could have one. Nope.
She is really wanting to drink, but they won't let her drink anything. She asked for a pen & paper (it is hard for her to talk) and dad & I anxiously watched on, wondering what message she had- it said (in excellent, beautiful, NORMAL handwriting)- Get the doc and tell him - drink not tomorrow but KNOW." "KNOW" being underlined and with exclamation points, and I will point out that her misspelling this has nothing to do with the stroke :)

Please join me in praising God for my mom- for her mental accuity especially, and praying for miraculous physical healing.

3.07.2010

Jo vs Yoplait

I put cereal in a yogurt cup for Jo, thinking it would keep her busy for a bit. Midway through this clever experiment I realized this is just like the kong treats I make for Rucker to entertain him & keep him out of my hair. Having a baby is not much different than having a dog, except that one sheds more than the other.

STAIRS

Jo likes to climb stairs now, which is scary on many levels. Here's a cute video of Gramps helping her learn her stairs. The best part though is the clever way my dad avoids a trip to the gas station to get propane for the bbq. My mom totally fell for it- we had steak browned in the skillet & finished in the oven, just as dad suggested :)

This weekend in photos

Busy weekend. Lex spent the night friday night, which I reccomend. We watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which I do not recommend.
From 2010_03_05

I ran saturday morning with my best running girls (no picture).
Our Aunt Liz turned 60 & the Middlebrooks crew turned out for the best 60th bday I've ever been to. Sadly this is the only pic I got of Aunt Liz!
From 2010_03_05

The party was at cousin Joe's building. There is a beautiful roof top deck which, for the RIGHT photographer, would have inspired some lovely photos. For me though, this is all I got:
From 2010_03_05

From 2010_03_05


Gillian got the award for grandest entrance to the party. She arrived w/her dad on his bad ass motorcycle.

Aunt Kelly, Luke & Dick

Well this one didn't actually take place this weekend, but it was on my camera & it's cute-grammy & jo:

COUPONING! I went to 2 rite aid's this morning & got $164 of stuff FREE and actually made $7.

So now what to do? It is 11:30, jo's asleep, and I'm thinking maybe we'll go swimming at the lance (that's the gym @ work) when she gets up. TBD.