With a Little Faith

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On July 24, 2014 my world as I knew it would forever change. On a lovely summer afternoon, my motor skills and speech would start to falter, an ambulance would be called and I would be rushed to the University of Michigan Hospital. I was suffering from an Ischemic stroke so was given tPA (a blood clot buster medication) and put under surveillance for 24 hours thereafter in case of bleeding and complications. I told the nurses when I arrived that I was too young for a stroke, only turning 50 that year. They smiled and said, “We see 18 year old’s all the time suffering the same thing. Stroke knows no age group.” The next 3 weeks would be spent living on the acute rehabilitation floor at the hospital. There I learned about the fight to get back what was my life as I had known it.

The stroke had occurred in the “pons”, or the brainstem area. They do not often see strokes occurring in this location, and I have been reminded by many in the medical profession that I am lucky to be here, as this area controls the oxygen and blood pressure levels {?}. Since it was on the left side of my brain, it took my functions on the right side. My right arm was completely attached to my side that first week. But, my team of Occupational therapists they were eventually able to get me moving. I told them, I did not care if I could walk again; I just wanted my right arm/hand back so I could make art.

The first 3 months are crucial for what a patient gains back and then they tend to plateau for awhile. I did not know until returning home that I was looking at a minimum 2 year recovery. All the while in the hospital, I kept thinking this was like having major surgery and that I would recuperate like I had before. I had no clue that the brain had to reconnect everything and that I would be learning how to do things again on that right side. My right hand and foot were as cold as ice. While that has improved, I still have problems with it on a daily basis.

My ignorance of what the stroke affected was a blessing during my recuperation. Just the week before, I had gone with a girlfriend to northern Michigan to celebrate our 50th birthdays on a girls’ getaway. She took me to a Scottish themed Bed and Breakfast, Sleeping Bear Dunes, lighthouses, and areas of Lake Michigan I had never seen. It was a once in a lifetime thing and the memories of this trip was one happy thing to occupy my mind. I often think what would have happened had the stroke occurred while being so far from home?

When I was discharged from the main hospital, I was sent to OT/PT at a local hospital outpatient program from August 18 – December 23, 2014. Twice a week the ladies there worked their magic teaching my body how to do things again, and relieving pain that comes with stroke. Simple tasks were given as homework assignments like picking up buttons or change, using therapy putty, practicing writing my name; anything that would get my fine motor skills back.

While my right side is still greatly affected from this, I am so happy to be able to grasp things with my hand, write a few words at a time (without tiring) and even wash my hair. There was a time I could not even do these simple things. Although, I still have daily struggles and complications from my stroke, I try to remember the alternative: that I survived and was given a second chance.

12 comments

  1. Dear Nancy, reading this again, thinking of you, how strong and beautiful a person you are, I`m so very happy, you have come a long way, back to normal, even I know you still have your body not doing exactly as you wish ,you are back to creating your beautiful art pieces again, you can walk little tours outside, and as you say write a bit, before getting too tired.
    My wish will always be that you are once again, able to walk, talk, and do all you did before, but I feel blessed on your behalf that you have reached so much, and that it slowly gets better, my dear friend .
    Hugs from Dorthe

  2. Dear Nancy,
    I enjoyed reading your article 😊Best wishes to you with your stroke recovery!
    I love your art and you have been an inspiration to me with my art journey the past 10 years. If you ever need a “buddy” to go junkin’ with you I am close by in Ann Arbor😊

    Make art. Create. Repeat.
    Janet Bergen Movahhed

  3. Oh Nancy, I’m so thankful…you have come so far! I can’t even imagine how hard you have had to work, but God has blessed your effort. May He continue to bless you and strengthen you. I adore your work, and can’t wait until you are back in full force!

    Hugs,
    Sandra

  4. I remember willing you on with every post you made, I kept thinking and praying please met her make beauty again, so proud of you Nancy

  5. Nancy, you are an inspiration and I remember when this happened to you as I’ve been a follower of your art and progress for a few years now. My mother died from complications of a stroke she had at age 53, never to recover -then died 3 years later. Her mother died from a stroke at 48, so consequently I believed I would succumb to the same fate. I’m now 61 and (knock on wood) so far so good. I don’t look too far ahead but I’m still kicking! As I said before, you are and have been an inspiration and survivor. I wish you all the best and keep creating so I can keep following!

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