A Stroke of Misfortune

On Saturday, August 11th our lives got quick turned upside down, our definition of normal is changing once again. My mom, Little Ms. Spunky, had an ischemic stroke on 8/11 in the morning. She lives with us so it has been quite an upset to our household for her not to be here.

She had a TIA or “mini”-stroke several years ago so we knew the signs to look for. We immediately called 911 when we realized what was happening. Both my kids were woken up during the frenzy of this situation. She was checked out by the paramedics and immediately transported to the Emergency Room of the nearest plan hospital with a specialized stroke unit. She was evaluated and stabilized in the Emergency Room and then admitted to the Neurological Observation Unit. The stroke affected the left hemisphere of my mom’s brain causing right-side paralysis in arm, leg, and face, as well as speech and language deficits.

On Wednesday, August 15th she was transferred to an Acute Rehabilitation Center about an hour away from home. She receives 3 hours of therapies each day including one hour of speech therapy, 30 minutes of occupational therapy and one and a half hours of physical therapy. She started all her classes on Thursday the 16th and is already making amazing progress.

She is moving her right leg. The physical therapists have her practicing standing, walking on the parallel bars and walking with a cane. She still has a lot of weakness in her leg but what she is doing is huge progress.

She has begun to move her right arm but she still doesn’t have sensation in her arm when someone touches her. Her occupational therapist is working with her on regaining movement and control in her right arm. She is still not moving her fingers on her own but it’s generally the smaller muscles that are the hardest to regain.

Her face looks significantly better, the droop is not as noticeable, her smile is becoming more symmetrical. It’s not back to how it was before but it’s better.

Her speech is giving her a lot of difficulty. She is most frustrated by her inability to speak. She knows what she wants to say in her brain, her speech therapists have determined that she can make all of the sounds, the main problem is that her brain is sending the signals to her mouth and the muscles in her mouth are not letting her get the words out. She is saying “yes”, “no”, “yeah”, “I know”, “I don’t”. We have all noticed that when she is relaxed she says some things spontaneously. All of these are good signs.

Cognitively she is not showing many problems. She can identify objects in flashcards, she can answer yes/no questions correctly, i.e. “Do girls have beards?” – “No”. The thing we have noticed is that sometimes when you ask her a question it takes her a little bit longer to process the information. The funny thing is that when someone asks her a trick question she can give them the stink eye and adamantly say “No”.

I am driving at least an hour each way every day across two toll bridges to be with her during the day and to observe her therapies. They emphasized in the program how important it is for family to be involved. She will be there about 3 weeks and after that she is coming back home so I will have to know how I can best support her once she’s here and help her continue to make gains in her recovery.

I truly am amazed at how great she is doing with her treatment and her recovery after the stroke. It will definitely be a long road of a lot of hard work but she’s not doing it alone, we are here to do it with her every step of the way. All I can ask for is progress not perfection, one baby step at a time.

From the American Stroke Association, these are the warning signs of a stroke. If you or someone you know is having these symptoms please call 911 immediately, noting the time the symptoms begun. Time lost is brain lost!

numbness Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
confusion Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
trouble-seeing Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
dizziness Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
headache Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

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