Monday, June 18, 2007

a stroke

Almost 3 years ago my mother in law had a massive stroke. Fortunately my father in law found her right away, and she was rushed to the hospital and treated. They say receiving treatment in the first 3 hours is crucial. We weren't sure if she'd make it, and if so, what the damage would be. Miraculously, she is almost completely physically recovered. She and her doctor speak of a weakness in her right arm, but you wouldn't know it from how active she is, continuing to swim (she's a Senior Olympics gold medalist) and doing all her regular activities. But her speech... She has such a difficult time with all of her language skills, not just speaking but also reading and writing. She has been through so many different therapies and tries so hard, and still she has such difficulty. Shortly after the stroke my husband and I would say to her "it's OK, we spend most of our lives trying to figure out what the May Queen is saying." She was so shy about speaking. She's a perfectionist, and didn't want to speak if she couldn't get it right. She wouldn't play bridge with her friends. She didn't want to go out. But we all pestered her and encouraged her and wouldn't let her give up. And it has gotten better. A little. Some sentences are perfectly clear, some are a mixed bag, and some are just a garbled mess. And we try to understand as best we can. But I'm struck by how frustrating it must be for her. To have so many thoughts and opinions in her head, and not be able to get them out. When any small comment, such as "What a beautiful flower" is hard to express, how many times a day does she decide it's just not worth the effort? And how many times a day do we, in interacting with her, decide the same thing?

The May Queen will never remember her Grandmother as someone who talked normally. She said to me the other day "sometimes I just can't understand a word that Grandma says!" I try to explain to her what happened, but she doesn't understand. But, thankfully, she still interacts with her. She still loves her. Last fall Grandma and Grandpa were visiting, and my husband and I were out for the night, so they were putting the May Queen to bed. MQ insisted that Grandma read her 2 bedtimes stories, despite Grandma's urging that Grandpa read instead. "No, you try!" MQ said firmly as she patted the bed next to her. So Grandma sat and struggled through the first story. When she finished MQ said "now I'll read the next one."

My mother in law had a huge smile and tears in her eyes as she told us that story. And we are all so glad that everyone made the effort.

10 comments:

nomotherearth said...

The May Queen sounds like a lovely, lovely girl.

Sober Briquette said...

That's a wonderful story. Children can be so accepting and wise.

It is distressing to think of all that is not shared because of the difficulty in communicating. On so many levels.

Solve this one, and you'll solve the world's problems. The May Queen offers us some hope, yes?

thirtysomething said...

Children are the best teachers sometimes, and so uninhibited. We, as adults think that we know what is best when, if we could just step aside sometimes, we might catch a glimpse of real wisdom, joy, and well, life - through the eyes of a child. Great post. Very heartfelt.

Christine said...

I love how May Queen showed such strength and love toward her grandma. Sounds like you are raising a wonderful little girl.

"how many times a day does she decide it's just not worth the effort?" What a perceptive thought.

slouching mom said...

You've articulated so well how it must feel for people with aphasia, whether it's from a stroke or another kind of brain injury. It's terribly hard for them, and you're so right that it wreaks havoc on their emotional well-being (leading to depression, for example).

In grad. school I did a year-long rotation in neuropsychology and saw quite a few people suffering from aphasia. Their frustration was palpable.

Veronica Mitchell said...

What a great kid.

You brought back a memory. My grandma's husband survived a stroke, and when we were visiting, my brother spent time with him helping him practice his words. He could not remember my brother's name, but he could remember his big feet. When he wanted to see my brother, he would hold his hands wide apart and say "Feet!"

Joy, of course! said...

What a lovely perceptive post about trying to put ourselves in someone elses shoes. I think even though MQ doesn't remember her Grandmother as someone who talked normally she will be touched uniquely by knowing her as she is now.

Kelly said...

My husband's mother suffered from Alzheimers. She started to have severe difficulty speaking just as our daughter was learning to talk. I remember her struggling to comment on our daughter and what she was doing. It was very difficult. Your mother-in-law is very blessed to have such a sweet, compassionate granddaughter.

Blessings~

jen said...

we can learn so much from them, can't we? the naked acceptance.

ewe are here said...

What a lovely girl, your MayQueen. And she's not only getting to spend time with her grandma, she's learning patience, something we could all use a bit more of.