It's been 19 months, 3 weeks and 3 days since my husband had a stroke.
You would think that we would have some things figured out, like maybe he would be returning to work. Or that I would be handling things better. Or that life would be returning to “normal”, or at the very least we would be creating a new normal.
Instead, what is facing us is pretty much a blank slate. At this point our future seems the most undefined it's ever been. Last year at this time, I was working full-time. Al was still going to therapy. He was getting the help he needed and I was making the money, doing the chores, paying the bills, getting the kids to and from school, ordering pizza for dinner so often that the pizza place just answered by saying, “the usual?” At least I felt like we were making progress. I assumed things would be “better” in a year.
One year later. It feels like nothing has changed. But it certainly has. I am only working part-time now, which is a great help to my sanity. I honestly don't know how other moms work 40 hours a week manage to survive. I was a wreck after one year of it. Of course, I did have the added fact that my husband was rendered disabled by a stupid CVA. I guess that might have added some stress. (ya think???) But I've never been very good at handling a lot at one time. I feel as if my brain came with limited juggling ability from the get-go. Maybe it's because I have serious ADD (self-diagnosed, but I KNOW I have it) and refuse to be medicated for it because I'm already a walking drug factory. The pharmacy people know me by name, too.
I can't complain too much, though: we had a great summer. It just went too fast. We had a 2-week vacation to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my parents live. As soon as we returned, my in-laws flew my husband to their home in Venice, Florida. It was a nice break for my husband to get out of his dull routine, and a nice break for us (shhh, don't tell him I said that.) The purpose for his visit was that his parents had contacted a variety of people to give a “second opinion” of sorts on his progress. They had Al visit with a physical therapist, an orthotist from Hanger, a podiatrist (to help him with some recurring foot issues that have resulted from his AFO), and even an acupuncturist to try to re-awaken his face. In addition to seeking outside input, they also did some intensive home therapy with him on a daily basis, helping him into their pool and making him ride a stationary bike.
During that time, his therapy group met, via phone call, with his company to determine whether he would be truly able to return to his previous position as IT Administrator at Lear. They emailed him in Florida stating that their final recommendation would be that he not return to his position at Lear, since Lear cannot accommodate him on a part-time schedule, and since his position required a lot of physical activity: going up and down several steps, several times aday, walking over moving lines, carrying computer equipment, working in a fast paced environment rushing to the floor when emergencies are at stake.
OK. Fine. I completely understand, and I know there are agencies out there that can help a disabled man find a decent job, since he still has quite a sharp mind, and he has a lot of experience, both in networking, as well as with his MSW. What I don't understand is the snail's pace at which all people involved seemed to move. We had met with his PM&R doctor several times in early spring and made it abundantly clear that our goal was to get him back to work, even though her very first words to him were “Well, you don't have to go back to work.” What a very bizarre thing for a doctor to say to a man in his 30's with a family to provide for. She might just as well have said, “Just accept your fate, stay at home and collect disability.” The last time we met with her, which was in May, she agreed to contact our therapy group to get the ball rolling on Al's return to work. She said, “Maybe you can go back as soon as next week.” In retrospect, this convinces me that she has no clue what it takes to get a disabled person back into his job. A few weeks later, we met with Al's OT, who said she would hand our case over to yet another OT who specialized in back-to-work transitions. Granted, we had a 2-week vacation in there, and then my husband left for Florida for 6 weeks. Not much time for them to meet with him, but then to have an email finally saying it's a no-go seemed just a little too curt for my tastes. I guess I just wonder why no one came to this conclusion months ago, since we had actually had meetings with HR at Al's company and made it clear to them that he wouldn't be able to return full-time, at least not for the first several months. It seems they could have simply closed the door then.
All of this to say, here we are, staring at sort of a blank slate. It's clear that Al should continue some sort of therapy, as he has not had any voluntary movement return to his lower left arm, but he is able to move some muscles in his upper arm. With the electro-stim sleeve and continued therapy, we are still holding out for the best possible scenario, which is for him to completely regain the use of his hand. As for his leg, the PT in Florida, as well as the PT's here, have agreed that all of the muscles in his left leg actually work; it's just a matter of training them and strengthening them in the right way. This is obviously very encouraging, but therapy is very helpful for him to learn exercises that will continue to target the muscles that need training.
But we have already been through 2 therapy groups and 2 physiatrist / PM&R docs, and we are ready to move on to #3 in both. Before I go on further, is it just me, or should a physiatrist be active in helping to orchestrate therapy, treatment, and even back-to-work goals? Because my experience so far is that we've met with the docs we've had, maybe once every month to six weeks, and they haven't necessarily helped us draft a plan, something we can see and actively follow. I wonder if I'm just living in a fantasy world. Please share your thoughts / experiences if you have any with PM&R docs.
So, we feel like we're starting from scratch, although my dear hubby is definitely further along than he was a year ago – more movement, better balance, more independence, etc. But it's a tough spot for a young father of 4 to be in – wondering if, when, and how he will return to work. And a mother of 4, and caregiver to her dear hubby, not able to work full-time, given my other responsibilities. And I hardly feel like I can come to grips with what all of this means for our family, even though I've 19 months to digest it all.
I feel a bit sheepish to add this as an afterthought, but I am full of faith. I DO believe that God has a plan for us, and that He will be faithful to lay it out before us, and continue to provide for us as He has done for the 15 years of our marriage, and throughout this whole stroke ordeal, and for all of our lives. It's just that I'm kind of a perfectionistic control-freak, and I don't like not knowing what's going on. My husband on the other hand, is a bit more challenged, I think, to believe that any good will come of all this. It's hard for him to see how he will ever provide for his family again, and it's hard for me to convince him that “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)
However, our kids are sweet and loving, and they pray over Daddy faithfully, and they love his kooky sense of humor. He already has a lot going for him – a good relationship with his kids, great Christian friends who help in every way they can, a fabulously capable wife (ha ha, that's a bit of a joke, since some days I can barely remember who I am and what I'm doing), and above all a God who has never abandoned nor forsaken him.
In writing this, I am renewed in my belief in that last statement – that God will never forsake us.
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sorry it's been a long post, but I'm trying to catch up on all that I've missed writing about!