Friday, October 9, 2009

Tuesday October 6 - Closed Doors and Open Windows

I drove into Halifax with Erin today.

Erin’s father, Donald, is one of Chris’ best friends. They met soon after we moved to Truro. Donald is a soft-spoken gentleman with a bright inquisitive mind and an eye for finding beautiful useful things in wood. He taught Chris many woodworking tricks. When he and Chris get together, Chris would make him giggle in the most endearing way.

Chris loved Donald’s wife, Bet, too. Bet was born in Ireland and still had her beautiful full Irish accent. Chris was very sad when she died about 8 years ago. Donald’s daughter, Erin, lives in England and comes to Canada as often as she can to tend to Donald’s needs. When she’s not here Chris does. He would visit Donald in the senior’s home two to three times a week. I think Chris regards Donald as a surrogate grandfather of sorts.

Generally when Erin is in Canada, she stays with Donald to keep him company. But today, he loaned Erin out to drive me to visit you. Donald is very interested in your progress.

Erin and I talk about how adaptable people can be to their new set of circumstances. She tells me of a mutual friend that you have who, had a very severe stroke at a young age. His life is a lot different now but he still continues to embrace life despite the differences.

This brought to my mind an email that Janice (from PEI) had sent me about a veterinary meeting she had gone to last weekend. She was very excited about it. The topic was the ‘Disability Paradox’.

Her email says the "Disability Paradox is a phenomenon scientifically proven over and over again from human studies. It states that disabled (or sick in other ways eg. cancer) patients surveyed report basically the SAME or better quality of life (QOL) before and after their medical condition once the adjustment period has lapsed. AMAZING because you would automatically think the QOL would go down after the problem occurred but it doesn't.’

“This is because at first all you focus on are the bad things ("focusing illusion") but then later you find out that there are still good things. The second reason is evolutionary for survival and what happens is that adaptation occurs so that an event (bad or good) doesn't take up so much of you brain that you give it too much attention.”

“We are hardwired to do these things. It's NOT a decision or choice. The third part of the paradox is called ("Scale Recalibration") wherein you now see that positive things are possible and likely give them more weight. Things like: Social interaction and human contact, Mental stimulation and other engaging activities. Maybe you can't do the same things even walk, talk, etc. but the weight shifts to what you can do.”

She goes on to cite an example of this: “ I saw Micheal J. Fox on "The Hour" with George Stroumboulopoulos. When asked if he could change his condition, Parkinson’s, that he wouldn't! Because of the insight, experience, people, etc that it has brought to his life. Before he drank partied and wasted his life even though physically he was fine so obviously the NEW set of values and abilities superseded the old.”

Janice concludes; “So I guess I believe the "Disability Paradox" AND the speaker said that even when you tell patients this paradox exists the initial adjustment is so overwhelming that they do not believe it is or can ever be true; yet, when surveyed later they have similar QOL scores. Weird but interesting. These are scored themselves not by someone externally assessing their QOL. I never thought about this before because I never had any real reason to.”

This certainly explains a lot about the strength of the human spirit to survive. And in fact, in my observation, it explains a lot about animal’s determination to survive and not lament their circumstances.

When I explained this to Erin she summed it neatly up into a short sentence. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Funny how people with scientific backgrounds have to analyze something that Mothers and other wise people have been saying for years!

I’m worried about Quinn – all his nightly noises are probably preventing him from getting a good sleep. I booked an appointment with Dr Bell for Quinn for 9 AM tomorrow.

You had just woken up when I came into your room. Sue and Kristy are right on my heels. Kirsty is interested in your left-sided perceptions and visual field. Your eyes drift to the right by default. Is this because you see better this side or because you are just not as cognitively aware of your left side. I believe you are staring to connect to your left … but I can see it will take time. You are pretty tired as Kristy works with you. It’s hard to keep your attention. She says it’s still early and everything you do is a huge effort.

A simple thing like “Look to your left” needs you have to listen to the words, understand and remember which is left then you have to will your body to do all this …When the wiring is slow, this whole process takes a long time. It’s easy in that time to loose the thought, especially if you are sleepy as you are today.

Sue is concerned with communication. She wants your effort to communicate to be as easy as possible. We know you can communicate so we don’t want you to waste energy on this skill. You need to save your energy to work on other skills like connect with your left side.

Your mouth care hasn’t been done today yet. So while you are awake, Sue cleans your mouth. I’ll bet it felt nice. I tell her about you brushing your own teeth on the weekend. You have no energy for that today. Sue brushes your teeth too. I ask if your throat is sore. You gesture so-so with your hand.

You do breathe through your nose some but mostly you breathe through your mouth. This would dry your throat out. You have always been susceptible to sore throats. This doesn’t help.

The charge nurse arranged for a room change. You get moved to 7357. It’s a single room and a lot quieter. This should help your sleep during the night.

Physio Steve and Linda are first to visit you in the new room. They get you sitting on the edge of the bed and move you side to side testing you balance and strength. Linda feels your abdominal muscles and is pleased. She feels some strength. I ask if you have a 6 pack or a 3 pack (because I was worried that only the right side had muscle tone). She smiles and says “There’s definitely a 6 pack!”

Your Mom, Dad and I talk quietly while you sleep. Erin returns to visit you. “Did I wake you?” She asks, waiting to hear your response. Erin says the whenever you called her, you would always start the conversation with “Did I wake you?” This became an ongoing joke between you.

She did wake you, but you were clearly pleased to see her. She said that she would do some reflexology on you on her next visit. You looked pleased with this thought.

The charge nurse has also arranged for you to get pain medication on request. I try to show you how to use the buzzer so that you can tell the nurse that you have pain.

I have to go back home. I lean over and say my good byes. “I love you, be strong and get well.” You say “I love you too” and then you kiss me. Not an air-kiss, but a real pucker-up kiss that made a smooch noise! Wow, what lip power. I felt great. Our first kiss since the stroke!

I get to Assieh’s to pick up Tara and Quinn. She offers me a bite to eat. Quinn asks “How’s Daddy?” I tell him about a comment you made to one of the nurses today. You asked her “Is it Christmas time yet?” It got me wondering if there is more to this comment then trying to be funny or a random query. This is the second time, When you were in the ICU you wrote this question on paper.

“Maybe Daddy is worried he is going too miss helping Santa.” Quinn suggests. This seems like a reasonable explanation to a seven-year old.

Two years ago, Chris let the children in on a secret. He and a few other daddies around the world had been specially chosen to help Santa on Christmas Eve. That Christmas Eve Chris and Mr. Borden (a teacher from Tara and Quinn’s school) were helping Santa with the sled. At some point in the evening, Santa did a fancy flying maneuver over a forest and Chris fell out and into the woods. It took a little while but Santa did find him and picked him up to help finish off the night’s work. Santa, being a merry old elf with a rather odd sense of humor, teased Chris the rest of the night about the incident.

In the morning, under the tree was a present from Santa for Chris. It was wrapped up. Chris opened it. Inside the package was a flashlight with a note saying that “Next year, maybe you will learn to stay on the sled.”

I don’t know the meaning of “Is it Christmastime yet.” It’s trapped in your head meanwhile my mind keeps trying to find tries to find meaning in each day. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Could being Santa’s helper be your ‘Window’ to the “Door’ that your stroke closed.

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