Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday October 20 – You are Waking Up

I woke up to the radio announcer talking about the Angels game last night - I already knew they won because I stayed up to see it but it was a pleasant reminder that this should be a good day.

When Tara came into the kitchen, she pointed out a rainbow shining by Annie’s food dish. “Look Mummy, a rainbow” she said, “I wonder where is it coming from.” Closer inspection revealed that the rainbow was from the sunshine that was reflecting through the Hope crystal that Betty from the school gave us. I hung the crystal in the window that I look out the most … the kitchen window. We both grinned at the wonderful thought.

I feel like I’m on top of things more then usual. When you are around you are focused on the immediate needs of week and I focus on the plans for the next week, month or year. I don’t know how, but I have managed to keep tabs on the current week much better. Is this the result of a survival instinct that comes with a crisis? What did I harness onto to enable me to do this?

My grandmother, who had a young family in London during the war and the London Blitz, often said, that was the best time of her life. Granny was an educated smart woman. During the war Granny felt needed in a way she hadn’t felt before.

A crisis is fertile ground for finding a purpose. Whether it’s a huge crisis like a war or a small crisis like our family’s situation now – it makes you look at things differently, appreciate what you almost lost and it empowers you to handle it all.

A crisis brings out the extraordinary in a person.

The journal writing has been very therapeutic to me. It started as a means of telling the people who love you and care about us, how you are doing. Many people had thought that you had died.

But then it became more – it became a record of your story for you to help with your healing. When you listen to my words and emotions, I think it will help you. Only time will tell if the journal continues to serve this purpose.

In the process of writing it became therapy for me to write you this long love letter.

Martha told me about journal writing being recommended for new mothers of very premature babies. A fragile infant can not be touched and new Mothers can’t hold their child. They have a brand new life full of hopes and dreams who they can’t physically bond with.

Writing things on paper, remembering moments and identifying feelings helps with the healing. This has been what this journal has done for me. I pray it might help you too.

I feel a little anxious about the journal. I am getting so much feedback on it – I feel a little pressure to keep it going – even though I can’t give it as much attention as I would want. On the other hand I really have the easy job, you have the hard job – If this journal makes even one day of it easier for you – it will be worth it.

I hope you aren’t upset that I have exposed some of our family stories for all to see. I have not included a lot of the embarrassing stuff, I figure I’d leave that material to you … If you do, then I’ll the one who is embarrassed.

I greeted you with a hug and you asked if I remembered our anniversary! Wow that 53 days ago. I told you of our deferred plans the do something special on the Monday after the anniversary. I told you how I could still feel the hug you gave me that day!

I wondered, aloud, how on earth would I ever top the death-defying gift that you gave me for an anniversary present. According to your wedding anniversary gift protocol, this year was supposed to be wiring.

Only you would have thought that wiring could refer to the wiring in the brain.

Maybe the anniversary day is the last real memory you have before your stroke.

You had the TV on when I came in. You fumbled with the controls – I don’t think you see the buttons very well. I try to guide you through the channels. You get frustrated and turned it off. I believe this is first time I’ve seen you turn off the TV out of frustration. Maybe the problem is just sensory overload … Your brain is not wired enough yet to appreciate TV.

Physio Linda is wondering more about your hip pains and has talked to the nurse practitioner about further testing. She describes the apparent unawareness of your left side as ‘Left sided neglect’.

She held two fingers in front of your eyes very near the midline of your face. She asked “How many did you see?” Your answer was “One”. The left neglect includes your visual field too. This explains why you still have difficulty wanting to look to your left. Why would you want to look to your left if there is nothing to look at?

When the physio team gets you sitting on the side of the bed, you are balancing your torso better. They get you lean over to the side and brace your body with your elbow. Then you are to push yourself up to the palm of your hand … A mini push-up. You can do this on the right … it takes a lot of effort. You are unable to do this on the left.

Despite this Linda is always careful to say “ That’s good Chris” in an encouraging voice. “That’s a little better then yesterday.” She feeds you seeds of hope.

Kim, the student is back – no teachers strike Yeah! She cleaned you up even trimmed your nose hairs and eyebrows “I’ll give you two.” she says as she goes to town on you. Almost a complete makeover.

Dr. Mendez pops his head in the door to check in. A quick hello and a smile and he is off again. I told you who he was …and you said remind me about him later. Maybe it is too much information at this time.

Dr. McNeely came in to see how things are going. I told him I was concerned about your hip pain. Tylenol and ibuprofen barely touch it. He examines your left leg and caused you to yell … yes yell in pain – There was no whispering of your painful expression. Your yells convinced him that your pain is due to more then stiffness that you might get from laying around for 7 weeks. He says that he will order a bone scan.

Good - we are taking more action.

I ask him about the vision loss. He said it maybe permanent but is usually peripheral to the left. “Just like the left sided weakness” he added almost as an afterthought. I hoped you didn’t hear that. I don’t think you are ready for that kind of truth yet.

Besides, doctors are only human … even surgeon doctors. They have been proven wrong before – I think they rather like to be proved wrong in this type of situation. And I know you will rather enjoy proving them wrong.

The last 7 weeks have given me time to adjust to the worries that I have felt. These are the same worries that you are only, just now, able to come to grips with. Dealing with this stress is hard enough for my mind to over come. It will be a lot harder for you to over come with an injured brain.

Some of the life lessons that I learned in the last seven weeks, you will have to learn too. We can’t skip to the last chapter to see how this is going to turn out. We will just have to wait and see. We will make to best recovery possible.

You were awake pretty much the whole time I was there by your side. Most of it you were very lucid and absorbed what I was telling you. But at least once you asked a crazy question like” Why is the score board on the ceiling? “and” Sleeping in K-cars is OK”. I can find no hidden meaning in these words – I think you were half-asleep.

I read some emails to you from the first week of your marathon. Some of them referred to the magic blanket. So I read to you the first entry in the journal. The one about Tara’s Magic Blanket and Quinn’s Channel 29. Kim and Jenn, two student nurses, were there too.

I cried while I read, you and the girls cried while you listened. It was a healing moment.
You mind is awake to hear, absorb and feel.

That mental exercise tried you out. You tried to sleep but couldn’t. While you were trying, someone had left a message at the nurse’s desk about the Angels game it pointed out that Rod Carew had thrown out the first pitch. You smiled. I asked if you wanted to hear the letter that I wrote to Rod. You looked surprised and worried …maybe you thought I’d embarrass you with a letter to him. But you bravely nodded yes anyway.

I read the letter. You cried again. I don’t think you were embarrassed … I think you were touched.

It was time to empty your bladder. You whisper that you would like to try in the urinal. The urinal looks like a plastic vase with a wide base but a narrow neck. Kim and I back away. You never liked an audience for this sort of thing. I asked you if I could tell Kim about your solo drives to Ottawa and what you did to save time on the drive. You said “Sure”. (I am going to take that as a ‘sure’ for the journal now too.)

I tell Kim how you were always so determined to get to Ottawa – door to door - in less then 14 hours. I think 13h 20m was your ‘personal best’. To save precious minutes and to keep yourself awake – you would guzzle Coke Cola by the liter and rather to stop for the unavoidable bathroom duties … you would reuse the coke bottles in another way.

I never witnessed this skill but I would think it would some practice … and possibly a funnel. Who would have thought that particular talent would be needed now.

This story certainly speaks to your determination to do something.

As I drive home I am stunned by the passage of time. I can’t believe that I was there for the whole day again. How does time seem to go by so fast when I’m with you. I wonder how you are measuring time.

You are still awake when I get ready to leave. You have been up since 7AM and I leave at 4PM. I hate leaving you when you are awake. Before I leave, I turn on the TV and I tried to find the channel that the Baseball game would be on for you tonight … in case you are awake still.


  1. Dear Gwen;
    Chris is making huge leaps in progress now - I see such an difference in your comments just from last week to this week - he really is waking up! Keep the faith and stay strong -you are an amazing woman and you're managing this crisis with unbelievable strength and determination. Although I really don't know Chris, except from the few times he was in the clinic while I was there, tell him he has so many peole rooting for him and wishing him the best - oh, and tell him it's NEVER ok to sleep in K-cars! (my husband had a K-car when I met him, and he took a lot of ribbing from me over it until I got him upgraded to a "new" car - it is a joke to us to this day, and I was tickled by Chris's comment!
    Take care and stay strong
    Kelly Marcoux

  2. Tell Chris that, while I HAVE heard of mirrors on the ceiling, I've never heard of scoreboards... that would be too much pressure... sheesh!

    Seriously, it's so wonderful to hear Chris emerging - and he certainly sounds like THE Chris we know and love. Tell him his CB friends are cheering wildly!

    Love, Kate

  3. I am so happy to hear that the funny Chris is emerging more each day. I remember the movie that he made to poke fun at Janice...the deer HEHEHEHEHE. We did have fun playing parts in his silly film. I had missed reading your blog for a few days and then today...sat, I caught up on his progress and I was sooo happy to hear the improvements. The miracle of Chris' life has definately touched me. Keep the faith and hope alive. I am sending happy thoughts and possitive energy you way. Megan Chris, Ben, Emma and Dani Donkin