Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sunday January 31 – The Defender and the Weak

Once we got home last night and got children in bed, Martha and I had a great talk about you and your journey. She sees hope and potential. Her enthusiasm shines onto me and and I absorbed as much as I can.

Martha works at CHEO. A children’s hospital in Ottawa. She knows the system. She knows the work environment. She knows a lot. I gleam from her as much information as I can to continue to be your advocate.

We talk about your left side neglect. I have the impression from the OT that this is a big problem. It has improved lately but I am frustrated that the setup in your room isn’t oriented to the left to force you to interact with people on your left. The room mate across the room from you has been discharged and his bed had all things oriented to the left. It would make good sense to see if we can get you moved to that bed.

We discuss your leg lift today and your obvious desire to make a difference in your recovery. Since you only have one hour of physio and one hour of occupational therapy a day, perhaps there are things that you could work on your own. Martha suggested a chart that you fill out to keep track of what you do and how often. She recognizes that any exercises should not be done in excess. You muscles have not done much in five months.

Your need to take a ‘training approach’. A chart would serve three purposes. It would help you fill the hours when you are not at appointments. It would help you be accountable to yourself and keep you on track as well as help you visually orient you to the left margin if it were in a chart format. Finally it would help you build your motor skills. This seems like a great idea to me. I will take it to your OT and PT people.

Martha is a masters student as well as being a nurse. She understands the system of mentors, internships and externships within the medical community. She wondered if there might be some local PT or OT students who would take you on as a case study to further their career. This could be a win-win situation for both. Somehow I will figure out a plan to see if this is possible.

This morning, Tara is the first one up, She crawls into bed with me. She had a bad dream. We talk about her dream and what it meant. She comes to the conclusion that she is feeling social pressures at school. She feels a little outcast because she stands up for another child in her class. In grade four, social interactions start to get complicated.

I feel the pressure to help find a way through this rough spot. I know I can’t ‘fix’ her problems but I also know that as a mother, I want to protect her. She has so much to deal with right now, the last thing she needs is stress from school. I wished you were there to offer some words of advice and you are good seeing things from a different prospective. It hard trying to be both parents to a child at the same time.

Thankfully, just as I was stumbling through the situation with her, Martha got up. The three of us brainstorm to help her see her way. For the most part, I think she is a confident girl who believes in herself. I realized, at the end of our talk, that she just needed to know that we believed in her too. She will find her way.

The first order of the day, once we get to the NSRC, was to go over to Timmy’s and get a coffee. Your new addiction. I slip to you the Boston jacket that I found last night. You are excited about giving it to Martha. “This is beautiful. I will wear it all the time. It will help me get off the couch and get out running.” It’s less then four months to the Cabot Trail relay.

Martha and Quinn have a spirited game of crib while you and I talk. You are trying to find ways to define yourself. “I don’t want to be just a slave to the family – cooking and cleaning. I want to be an at home husband and father. The sneaking around was a life. It was amazingly stupid.” This stroke has helped you trade up on your disabilities. Before your stroke you were emotionally disabled. Now you are stripped down emotionally – this is your emotional rock bottom. From here you will heal.

Your healing is gradual. Your physical healing and the emotional healing. Just as you reclaimed your ability to regulate your body temperature and blood pressure in the early days then you claimed control over your bladder and bowels. Now you are gaining back your emotional layers that were stripped away. The best part is you get to choose what emotions you want to wear. What roles you want to play. Father, husband, son, brother and friend.

Tara sees herself as the ‘defender of the weak’ and you see yourself as ‘the weak’. You have a lot to learn from your daughter.

This weekend I have noticed that you are getting much better to scan about and actively search for things. You are eating all the food on your plate without me prompting you to look to your left or turning your plate. This is progress.

Martha takes the children to a store nearby called the ‘Freak Lunch Box’. We had been to it once before when you were in the other Halifax hospital. Friends of Tara and Quinn educated us on its existence. It is a small shop crammed with all the candies that we would remember from our childhood. The days when penny-candy … was penny candy. A bag of candy or a chocolate bar would have cost 25 cents. Those days are gone, but the candy is still available. It just costs a lot more than a penny now. You make a request for ‘Bottlecaps’. I never heard of them but Martha knew what you were talking about. They set off on a mission to find you some Bottlecaps.

The children come back loaded up with huge all-day lollipops and bags of candy. Their eyes were big with the description of the candies there. While they were gone we have a long discussion about your emotional discoveries.

You ask me when you meet people “What do I say? Hi I’m Chris Cashen and I had a catastrophic stroke.”? You can’t let your condition define you. You have to actively choose to define your condition. I suggest you think like this: “Hi, I’m Chris Cashen. I survived a stroke and I’m not going to let it own me.” That is more positive way of thinking about it.

You have to dictate how you will let the effects of the stroke affect your outlook in life.

You have really rallied by Martha’s visit. You are happy that Martha and I are friends. We should be friends - we h–ve a lot in common. This weekend has given us something else in common. For both of us, our hope has been given a new life.

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