I think we've reached a crossroads in Al's recovery. This has been on my mind for several weeks now, and I have shared the concept with him. It seems we've spent so much time focusing primarily on rehab that we've put our life on hold. And Al seems to be waiting until he is fully recovered before he moves on with his life.
But according to every doctor we know, there probably is not going to be a full recovery. He will regain much of his former ability, but probably not all. It is a discouraging fact to grasp.
It's been 16 months since his stroke. He has made a lot of progress. But the progress comes very slowly. The downside to all the physical progress is what I perceive to be some mental loss. I don't think it's permanent, but Al has been home alone for a long time, without much to stimulate him. I began to worry when he would forget very simple things and he couldn't recall the substance of a conversation with a doctor or therapist. I wondered if his brain was somehow suffering further damage. But I have come to the conclusion that it's most likely a lack of use. There's only so much Al can do to stimulate his brain at home.
I started to realize that we need to shift our focus away from full-time rehabilitation to having Al re-enter his life, while still working recovery.
I think it's time for him to go back to work.
Al is a Network Administrator for Lear Corporation in Mason. Lear is a worldwide company, and the Mason plant supplies one of the General Motors plants here in Lansing with seats for their Cadillacs. Even a few days after his stroke, he was talking shop with his boss, who was impressed with Al's sharp recollection of everything that had to be done in his absence. Now, a year and a half later, I think his brain has "atrophied" in a sense, and it will be very good for him to put it to use again.
There is the natural apprehension about stepping back into his career. Thank God for his company, who still has him on their employee roster. Their long-term disability package is great. But he will definitely need some physical accommodations since he still has no use of his left arm. It is a sprawling plant, so he will probably need some mobility assistance as well. And of course, he won't jump right back into a 45-hour work week. He simply won't be able to handle that sharp of a transition yet.
But the wheels are in motion. His doctor is in contact with his company so that she can formulate a plan for him to return to work. We will meet with her on Friday.
Stroke rehab is ridiculously complicated. There is no real point at which the doctors can say, "You're recovered." From what I understand, the process can take years, or even the rest of his life. And even then, some abilities may be never return. It makes the concept of "moving on with your life" so much more ambiguous.
But I think it's time.