It has been 9 weeks since my mom had a stroke. Here's a look back...
Phase 1: Terror and Desperation - the day of mom's stroke was horrible. It was a mix of fear, adrenaline, frenzy and begging God to restore my mom. I worried about her having another stroke, losing mental capacity, being permanently paralyzed, and not being able to live at home anymore. I worried about my poor distraught dad and my grieving siblings. I remember the first few hours in the hospital I felt a feeling of exhaustion that I've never felt before- I was so anxious to get home into my bed. I felt like things were moving to fast but if I could be at home in bed I'd be able to process it all. I remember every negative and scary thing the doctors told us that day. I remember dad coming into the waiting room and telling us, "well, the doctor said things don't look very good guys," and then sobbing as we moved into the chapel for privacy. Ash & I went back home to clean up the house so that dad would not see the remnants of that awful morning when he returned home. The path between where she fell from her bed & dragged herself to the phone was a mess. Tables knocked over, the rug jumbled in the bathroom, her pajamas in the family room, footprints in the carpet from the barrage of paramedics who took her away, dad's flannel overshirt flung on the couch where he had discarded it in haste. We cleaned up the kitchen and the blueberry muffins my totally fine and able mom had baked just 12 hours earlier. It was surreal. Being in that house without my mom there made me feel sick and empty.
Phase 2: Euphoria and living by the moment- in the days after the stroke, we lived and died by mom's up to the minute status. We set our sights on the most immediate and minute milestones- when they finally let her sit up a little (instead of lying flat to reduce the risk of another clot), the swallow test that meant she could drink water, her first meeting with the neurologist. We clamored for any info we could get from doctors, and in the "wait and see" world of stroke recovery, this is hard to come by. We slept in shifts at the hospital. We communicated to anxious family by phone, text, blog, and facebook. Since mom was on morphine we had some funny things to share. You can visibly SEE the need for families to rejoice in these humourous reprieves- I am picturing my dad smiling, his cheeks pushing up his glasses, standing in the waiting room telling us something funny she did or said. The crushing, overwhelming feelings of "what will happen next?" become commonplace, always top of mind. They go from panic inducing to nagging and unsettling when - over time- you come to grips with the fact that planning anything is pointless, and there is nothing to be done but live in the moment, take each day as it comes. For me that was a major shift- I thrive on plans and this experience forced me to rely on the promise that God would provide. There was a powerful, emotional sense of euphoria and gratitude at mom's survival. It was a sunny, beautiful week. In the mornings I felt fresh, hopeful, and incredibly astounded at God's mercy and providence. We were knocked to our knees with thankfulness for the friends and family who flocked to us. Pride & independence were stripped away and what was left was probably what should have been there all along: complete exposure and vulnerability before God.
Phase 3: The Hard Work- this is where we find ourselves today. Mom's prognosis is excellent- but recovery is slow and hard work. Her spirits are up and down as is to be expected. She is stubborn, which works for us and against us :) Some days her & I are at each other's throats, but that doesn't alarm either of us. She told me yesterday: I'm in a bitchy mood, so don't take anything I say personally. And I said: ok, goes for me too. And so that is where we are right now- powering through this period of rehab. It is painful for her- she has torn miniscus in her knee and her shoulder's causing her lots of pain. These are old injuries exascerbated by her fall & stroke. The smell of bengay will knock your socks off when you walk in the house. Mom now wears knee high socks to avoid her leg brace from chafing. There are heating pads plugged into every outlet you can find. If her back scratcher is missing it constitutes a household emergency. We try all sorts of tactics to get along with each other: compassion, tough love, yelling, crying (mostly ashley, who adds snot bubbles for emphasis), ignoring, and laughing. I love when mom makes a snarky remark and then tries not to smile or laugh but busts out a cute and crooked smile anyhow.
The other day after a trip to the store (which is a lot of work for all involved) I said to Mom, "We're gonna look back at this time 6 months from now and think, 'WOW- how did we make it through that?!'" And I am sure this is true. We have an idea of how hard this is, but I know that we're going to look back at this and be proud of how we pulled together and through. This is semi-out of context, but my father in law teaches 1 Corinthians 10:13 in a way that is pretty neat. The verse is talking about temptation, but maybe it applies to the trials too. It says that God is faithful- he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will provide a way out so you can stand up under it. The part my father in law stresses is that GOD WILL PROVIDE A WAY SO YOU CAN STAND UP UNDER IT. So God is providing a way through this for us, and while we're in the thick of it, that promise is all we need.
Mom's walking is pretty impressive- she is gaining more & more control of her left foot. She is starting to do bathroom & bed transfers on her own with us there just to keep an eye on things. She can go up & down one step with 2 helpers. She likes to munch on almond m&ms in bed at night while she reads her book (propped in a napkin holder for easier page turning). She is bossy as all get out. She had her hair permed 2 days ago for sass. She is able to move her left hand a little bit. In another 5 weeks I'll be returning Mondays to work, and we're going to figure out Dad's back-to-work plan too. Mom has been smart about knowing what she can & should not try on her own, which makes us feel good about leaving her alone in the future. She is probably reading this & rolling her eyes at me big time ;) Mom- I love you so, so much. You don't rememember those first few days like I do, and so you can't fully appreciate how far you've come. I have 100% confidence that you will make a 100% recovery. All the sore muscles & aches & pains you're enduring now are speeding your recovery. You are the very center of this family & we need you for us to function. So keep up the good work- and remember to be kind to your local caregiver :)