Today is the one year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. It’s been a whirlwind year for all of us. We’ve all had to get accustomed and acclimated to how our definition of normal has changed in the past year.
On this day a year ago, the doctors weren’t able to give me hopeful or uplifting news. My mom had her stroke in her sleep, we couldn’t pinpoint an accurate timeline so we couldn’t determine if she could receive the tPA treatment to minimize the effects of her stroke. The first few hours were scary – she couldn’t speak, she had no voice, she couldn’t move her right side at all. Based on what they thought of the severity of the stroke they initially told me that they couldn’t tell me whether she could ever regain the use of her right arm or leg, or if she’d be able to communicate verbally with us again.
Luckily, she was transferred to an acute intensive rehabilitation center on the 4th day after her stroke. By then she had started moving her right arm and leg, her voice was back and she was attempting to speak. The 21 days at the rehabilitation center were nothing short of a miracle. They got her up and walking, she was using her right arm more and more, she was regaining her ability to speak, we were able to communicate conversationally, and she was writing her name using her right hand. I was there every day of her stay at the rehab center, getting there early in the morning and leaving at her bedtime. It was a great experience to be such an integral part of her rehab, I learned a lot from all of her care providers there. Most of all, I am eternally grateful to all of them for the work that they do. My mom’s progress while there was amazing.
11 months after coming home, one year to the date of the stroke and a LOT of therapy later I’m happy to say that my mom has been doing well with her recovery. She’s definitely had some setbacks. Being her primary caregiver we’ve learned to adjust to this new stage in our relationship. The past 6 months have been especially difficult since this is when all the setbacks have happened.
In February, she suffered Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss in her left ear. After a lot of tests and treatment the doctors weren’t able to determine a cause or an effective treatment. She is still dealing with the hearing loss.
In March, she experienced a seizure. Again with no explanation and unable to determine a cause. Luckily for all of us, she hasn’t experienced any further seizure activity. She is taking an anti-seizure medication, her neurologist suggested it be a medication that she keeps taking long-term. She has been tolerating the medication well and the fact that she hasn’t had any seizure activity makes me feel good about the decision to stay on the medication. The main drawback of the seizure has been that all the progress that she had made with using her right hand has regressed. We are consistently working on doing exercises and activities that will help strengthen her right hand so she can make forward progress again.
In March, May and July she dislocated her left shoulder. Since her fall in 2008 her shoulder had been stable. She changed medical providers shortly after that fall, I mentioned that follow-up was needed but her new primary care provider didn’t agree. After her second dislocation this year, she had an MRI that showed that she tore all ligaments and tendons, etc that help keep the shoulder stable and in place. There are certain movements that will pop the shoulder right out of the socket. After a consultation with the orthopedic surgeon we agreed that the only option is a shoulder replacement. However, the surgeon also recommended that since her left hand has become her more dominant hand that she should keep her own shoulder for as long as possible.
The good news from the surgeon was that he agreed that it was a good time to do a total replacement of her right knee. She’s been waiting for this surgery. If she could have she would have jumped for joy when he told her that he would begin the process to schedule the surgery. We are looking forward to her surgery and are hopeful that a new knee will help improve her ability to walk further.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year with a lot of triumphs and some challenges. We know that her stroke recovery is a lifelong process and we’re looking forward to see what other triumphs she’ll have and what challenges she’ll conquer.
I leave you with this graphic with warning signs of stroke from the American Stroke Association:
If there’s anything I can ask you to do is to please learn the symptoms of a stroke so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Also, pay special attention to stroke prevention and your risk factors for stroke.