It was once thought that a stroke was a virtual death sentence for those who were afflicted by it. Stroke, formerly called “apoplexy,” was identified over 2,400 years ago by Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine.” There was no treatment, and many patients died because of them.
Fortunately, medical science has progressed to the point that having a stroke does not necessarily mean death or severe disabilities. Although Stroke can be very serious and, in many cases, life-threatening, there are actually therapies that can alleviate and, in some cases, repair damaged areas of the brain.
Today, two type of strokes have been identified: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs due to the lack of blood supplying areas of the brain, and hemorrhagic strokes occur due to bleeding in the brain. Fortunately, hemorrhagic strokes make up a small percentage of strokes, but both types can lead to devastating injuries which can result in permanent disabilities or death in their wake.
TESTIMONY – Prior to August 7, 2018 – My wife was experiencing the intermittent slurring of words, intermixed with periods of normal speech and some difficulty walking (more than normal). Then, on August 7, 2018, the intermittency ceased and all her speech was slurred, she was unsteady on her feet making it nearly impossible to walk, and she was suffering from bouts of confusion.
On this day, my wife suffered several ischemic strokes in the brain stem, which affected her balance and speech centers and caused weakness on her right side. She spent three weeks in hospital, five weeks in rehabilitation, and is now home and being visited by Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapists several days a week. – TESTIMONY
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. It used to be the fourth leading cause of death, but there are now an estimated 7 million people in America that are stroke survivors. Thanks to advancements in treatment methods, millions of people who’ve experienced a stroke can now live longer lives and with fewer complications.
The type of treatment a stroke victim receives depends on the type of stroke suffered. With Ischemic Strokes, since a cerebral artery has narrowed or a clot is blocking the artery, the treatment goal is to remove the clot. With Hemorrhagic Strokes, the goal is to stop the bleeding inside the brain.
Both chemical and mechanical methods exist to treat strokes of both types, but a particular chemical method is worth noting by what it does for ischemic strokes. This compound, called alteplase IV r-tPA, if given through an IV in the arm within hours of an ischemic stroke, works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow. Its current use is highly defined and controlled, and patients must meet quite stringent requirements to be eligible to receive the drug. It’s thought that the drug could be adapted in the future for much more general use throughout the circulatory system.
Testimony – Two months ago, my wife was admitted to hospital, suffering a stroke. She was lucky, being one of the 80% that survive their first stroke. And the further reality is, close to 30% will re-stroke within five years. The best chance to lower that rather high probability is to make certain lifestyle changes. These changes and their impact, will be
discussed in future posts.
Unfortunately, my wife did not qualify for the use of the new, so-called clot buster drug, but she is home from hospital and rehabilitation, and therapy continues. The long road back is just beginning. It is, most definitely, a day by day journey. Testimony
Now that the stroke victim is out of hospital and in-patient (or out-patient) rehabilitation and has returned home, the real work begins. The true rehabilitation is about to begin. Obviously, stroke patients do not automatically go home after being discharged. Most, if not all, medical centers will ensure that adequate care is available to the stroke survivor before sending them home. Indeed, prior to discharge, the designated caregiver will have meetings with doctors, nurses, and therapists to ensure that the caregiver understands the needs of the stroke survivor. A secondary purpose is to ensure, with a high degree of accuracy, whether the designated caregiver is, in fact, capable of taking on the task of caring for the stroke survivor. Most metropolitan areas in the United States have a one or more stroke centers that serve as the basis for the ongoing care of stroke survivors and as a resource for caregivers and family members.
Many stroke survivors are no longer able to care for themselves. These tasks are left to the caregiver. In addition to addressing the personal needs and comfort of the stroke survivor, arranging for the various therapies is necessary for the future well-being of the stroke patient. Juggling work schedules, therapy schedules, and doctors’ appointments, is just a small part of the overall goal of rehabilitation. The patient must be encouraged and motivated at all times to improve. The caregiver is also responsible for creating an atmosphere that will foster the patient’s continued progress. I liken the work of the caregiver to the caring for one who is no longer be independent. This is extremely tough for the adult who has stroked and can no longer care for themselves. It is a big hit to their self-esteem, and part of the caregiver’s role is to keep their spirits up.
TESTIMONY – I’m happy to report that my wife is now home and away from the hospital / rehabilitation atmosphere. After spending 35 days in that environment, I have set up shop in our rec room, which has been configured as a rehab facility / studio apartment. She is visited several times weekly by a therapy professional (Occupational, Physical, and Speech) and when they are not here, she is exercising what is being taught her. It’s a hard road, and I’m doing my best to keep her on the straight and narrow. She calls me her “Slave Driver,” a moniker I gladly accept.
Sandy’s number one goal is to climb the stairs to the second floor of the house. There are 15 steps, in a switchback configuration and, with help with two therapists, she can climb to the second floor. The goal is to eventually move upstairs, but I don’t know how long this will take. We are both motivated to achieve that goal. My goal, above and beyond helping Sandy achieve hers, is to be there every step of the way. I consider myself a benevolent trainer and I sincerely hope she concurs. – TESTIMONY
Almost daily, I hear: “when am I going to be well again?” My response is, invariably, the same: “There is no way to know for sure how long it will take. How hard are you willing to work?” As you might expect, this response doesn’t go over very well. I wish I had something better to say to my wife but, unfortunately, there is no intelligent answer to the question.
Realistically, most of the recovery occurs within the first three or four months after the stroke. However, it can take several years to regain most of what was lost due to the stroke. My response does have basis in fact, as all the doctors, nurses, and therapists I’ve spoken with virtually parrot what I’ve said.
As her husband and primary caregiver, I’m here every day. I see how it affects her. I see her uncontrollable laughter and her uncontrollable tears. I see that she is unable to get into / out of bed each night. I tend to her personal needs and I see how this frustrates and embarrasses her. I see her learning how to use her wheelchair and how she transfers from the chair to the walker. I see how she struggles with and hates the walker. Believe me, I see it all, but I am only able to experience it vicariously. That’s as close as I can come.
In the meantime, I’m here every day. I know what needs to be done in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening, and in what order (my wife is big on order!). I’ve found that my role as husband has changed to that of a caregiver. Not that I wasn’t before the stroke, but now, her needs are much more important than my own. I recognize the need to care of myself, and I do, but my primary responsibility is to care for my wife. We’ve been together for 38 years, and I look forward to being with her for as long as we have. This is not a duty. It’s my pleasure and I wouldn’t have any other way.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this post! Please take the time to comment on it. I look forward to talking with each and every one of you!!