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Father Had a Stroke

December 28, 2012

The first I heard was a phone call telling me that my father was in the hospital.  He was in good condition, but he had fallen and had to be taken to the emergency.  My mother was with him.  He was being well looked after at the hospital.  Later, I heard the full story.  He was getting out of bed early one morning to go to the bathroom when he collapsed.  One of his legs was not working.  He couldn’t get up again.  Mother couldn’t lift him.  She called a neighbor.  He took one look and said “We have to get Jim to the hospital”.  He practically carried him downstairs and into his truck.  He drove them to the hospital emergency.

At the hospital, they gave father a series of tests to determine what was wrong with his leg.  They couldn’t find anything wrong.  They said it wasn’t a stroke.  In fact, they called him the healthiest 88-year-old they’d ever had in the hospital.  Obviously, something was wrong.  They kept him there for more tests.  This all happened on the August long weekend.  Maybe that’s a bad time to show up at the hospital.  A day or two later, he had trouble with his arm on the same side, and his mouth was drooping on that side.  I could have diagnosed a stroke from those symptoms.  Indeed, a further test confirmed it was a stroke.  They transferred him to the stroke recovery unit and put him on Warfarin.

I visited him twice there.  My mother was there every day.  He was in a room with two other men.  All of them had had strokes.  I was impressed with how supportive they were.  They encouraged each other to try again at their exercises.  “Raise your arm a little higher”, my dad said.  It was clear to me that he enjoyed being there.  He had visits from many people who knew him.  He even liked the food.  He showed us the menu.  It looked pretty good to me.

They looked after him extremely well in the stroke recovery unit.  He saw his doctor every morning.  He also had therapy twice a day.  The therapist had him travelling around the unit with a walker.  He certainly seemed to accept his condition, and made the best of it.  The therapy was usually physical, but one session with the therapist was different.  It was a series of psychological tests.  He had to assemble a number of coloured pieces into a pattern.  The last one was difficult for him, but he succeeded.  He asked the therapist if anyone else had completed that one.  She said “You’re the first”.

Eventually, he was ready to come home.  The house needed some changes before he could do that.  Most important was a hand rail on the front steps.  He also needed a grab bar on the bathtub and a bathtub elevator.  Once these were ready, a hospital aide came by to check them out.  Then, they did a weekend trial to find out how he was able to get around the house and how my mother was able to care for him.  Finally he came home permanently.  His arm was back to normal by then.  So was his mouth.  He still had trouble with that leg.

My father came home with a walker and a four-legged cane.  He generally leaves the waker parked in the same spot in the living room.  He does use the cane.  His balance is not very good.  He only walks a careful step or two without grasping some support with his hands.  He didn’t take any more therapy.  Perhaps it wouldn’t help.  He does have some pain in that leg.  He has fallen a few times.  I suppose that is to  be expected as he gets to know his limitations.  He does get all around the house, although he moves slowly because of difficulty with that leg.  When I’m visiting, I let him move on his own as much as possible.  He doesn’t get much exercise.  Before the stroke, he used to walk on a treadmill regularly.  Now, he mostly stays in a chair to read or watch TV.  He still drives his car around the city, taking his cane with him for support.  He also goes shopping with my mother, holding on to the shopping cart as he moves around the store.  He’s 94 now.  I suppose this is alright for his age.  He still has a great deal of independance.  I wonder if I will do that well at his age.

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