I have been trying to write this post for almost a week now, but there is so much I want to say and I am trying to convey my thoughts and feelings and the facts. I apologize for the length of this post and I hope it isn’t too preachy, but my faith is a big part of my life and I believe that God who is the center of my faith played the biggest part in my mom’s journey and recovery.
Where do I begin?
As humans we have this wonderful individual autonomy, the freedom of choice. Of course, our choices have consequences. We can choose what we eat, how much we eat and how much we exercise, we can choose what we do for entertainment and education. We choose our priorities, what we do for a living, and we choose what we are willing to have faith in. Every moment of the day we are making choices.
My mom chose a life of music, teaching, loving, caring, faith and faithfulness, praying, eating easy fast and fatty foods, and exercising only very occasionally. She has not been (at least not in the 31 years I have been on the planet) a skinny minnie. I even remember one occasion where she jogged from the car to the front door of a school and my dad turned from the driver’s seat and said “save this image to memory, it is the ONLY time you’ll see your mom running.” He was right.
Now, as I said before, my mom lived a faith filled life. But belief in God isn’t a “get out of jail free card”. As a Christian, I believe that one of God’s greatest gifts is the freedom to choose. As such, if He effected our lives so that our choices didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have free choice. If he showed us His hand in every aspect of our lives, He would take away our freedom. We have to make our own decisions and live with the consequences. The consequences of my mom’s diet and sedentary lifestyle are high blood pressure, strokes, and now diabetes.
On March 27th I got a text message while I was eating my lunch at work saying that my mom was being taken to the hospital because she was having a stroke event. I cried. I was surprised and scared and there wasn’t much else I could do so I cried. I had a coworker drive me home because I couldn’t drive my car, I was freaking out a bit too much to drive. I got her to take me and my car to my sister’s house.
When I got to my sisters house I got my nephew to pick David up in my car and bring him there as, well, that house kind of became Ground Zero for the night as we tried to figure out what was going on and how to best deal with the situation. When David got there all I did was cry silently as I hugged him.
Aside: It has been 6 years since my mom’s first stroke, and it seems she has a big scary stroke event about every 3 years… You think I’d be more used to it, but I’m not. Seeing her change, and the uncertainty of her situation are just traumatic. I fear the time she has a massive stroke event and I’m used to it.
I got to see my mom for the first time the next day and she couldn’t speak. Very confused. Very garbled language it was sad to see her in such a state.
On Easter Sunday mom was not doing so great she seemed to fade in and out of world more than usual. One side of her face drooped and it looked like she was having another stroke but we’ve couldn’t really be sure it could have just been a headache we called the nurses and because they know more than we do, and her but pressure was high and it really did look like another stroke.
Over the next few weeks mom’s condition only really seemed to get worse she was hallucinating, she had garbled speech, she was seeing people who were long since dead, could not follow instructions or conversations… They had to put a pressure sensitive mat with an alarm in it beside her bed because she (despite severe balance issues) was not willing or able to follow the simple instruction to stay in bed until a nurse could help her. We really didn’t know what to expect or if she would ever really recover.
From the first sign of stroke until April 19 when David proposed to me I really didn’t know how or what to pray for my mom. I didn’t know if it would be better for me to ask God to just take her and end her suffering, I didn’t know if it was better to ask for full healing, I didn’t know if it was better to just ask for help for the rest of us trying get through it… So I didn’t really pray much at all. But after David proposed I realized that I really, really wanted my mom at my wedding. I would have given anything to make her healthy again and I prayed adamantly for God to heal her. And wanted to see a real reaction on her face to our announcement I wanted to see her excitement I wanted to see how she interacts with my future husband. She did react properly when we told her… Every time we told her that night, then she shared the news with my dad and grandparents whom she saw in the room with us.
Before we left that night I begged mom to get better. I whispered it in her ear as I hugged her goodbye. She didn’t react to my whispers at all. But at the end of the weekend I was told that mom had retained the news that David and I were engaged and that she was able to tell other people our news. Now, I am not saying that my change of heart when it came to prayer or my begging mom directly are the reasons for her recovery… And I am also not saying that from April 19th onward it was a steady progress towards recovery. There were definitely painfully tough days after that. But, there were also many more good, lucid days after that.
Mom was moved from acute care in the Med/Surg Ward to slow rehab in the Complex Continuing Care Ward on April 22… About a month after the first stroke event sent her to hospital. And we were told she had pretty much capped out her recovery. At this point she could not really walk on her own, she was in and out of lucidity, still hallucinating but in her words “doing a better job of ignoring them. They’re boring – no offense”.
You have to understand though that my mom suffered several TIAs and at the very least a stroke that damaged the speech center of her brain and another that damaged the vision center. Mom’s balance and critical reasoning were also affected. When mom was hospitalized after the first stroke in this event the doctor said that there was no way mom would bet coming home without full time care… If she was able to come home at all.
We had a meeting with mom’s hospital staff on May 15th and at this point they were singing a very different tune! One where they were optimistic mom could go home in a couple of weeks. Mom was cleared to walk with a walker. She was not cleared to do any activities that required critical reasoning like cooking, but she could serve herself food if it was prepared for her.
On May 25th I went to get mom out of the hospital on a day pass so she could attend my oldest brother’s 50th birthday party. When I got there mom started walking around her room without her walker, and I had a minor freak out because we had been told she wasn’t able to do that. I spoke with the nurse and mom had been cleared to walk across a room independently at her last assessment. Once we got away from the hospital, mom took that clearance to mean she could walk from my car, across the street, and up onto the yard independently. She even snapped at David when he suggested that she wait for him to get her walker from the trunk.
My mom came home on Sunday June 2nd. She is living in the house she bought with her husband 26 years ago. The house where he began succumbing to dementia over 20 years ago. The house where she had to take care of him and her 2 youngest daughters. She lives there with her 2 youngest daughters, a son-in-law, and her 2 youngest granddaughters.
At the hospital, we had a book for mom’s visitors to write in, and the staff who cared for her wrote in it as well. Mom’s doctor even wrote that he sees her recovery as a miracle. On May 30th my mom’s social worker told my sister, Mary “in all my years of doing this job, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with a better recovery than what your mom has done!”
It is so wonderful having my mom back. Being able to hug her and share with her. The other day I got to help her fold a fajita with some success and a lot of laughter, and then she, David and I watched Pitch Perfect. She really enjoyed the singing.
I was worried about how much of my mom would be stripped away by this stroke event, but there is still so much of my mom there, I am so thankful to God for the miracle of her recovery. I am also thankful to all of the people who chose to pray for my mom over the past 2 and a half months. God heard our prayers and He chose to answer them in the most obvious way.
If you are wondering how my faith, and my personal relationship with God handle the fact that my dad wasn’t miraculously healed of is dementia caused by Alzheimer’s but my mom has been healed of much of her dementia caused by stroke damage, I think I may write a long post about that at some point, but for now suffice it to say that the miracles God worked around my dad’s illness were much more subtle than those he has worked with my mom. But if you would like to see evidence of God’s hand in it all, you need only look at my parents 6 kids, 6 in-laws and 13 grandchildren. We are a strong, successful, loving, supportive, faith-filled and family-oriented bunch. The fact that we are all where we are today is – if you ask me – testament to God’s miraculous love.