Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Didn't You TELL Me?

Much of our experience of stroke rehabilitation is this:  Expect the unexpected.  We focus so much on physical rehabilitation that we forget the profound mental, emotional and relational effects that Al's stroke has had on our family, and on him.

Since Al is home almost all of the time, I expect a lot from him.  In fact, at his appointment in December, Al's physiatrist, Dr. A, challenged him - sharply - to get up and do jobs around the house.  He told Al, and I quote, "Right now, you are useless.  You don't want to be useless, so don't be useless."  It wasn't the best bedside manner I've ever witnessed; in fact it was downright harsh, but it was also straightforward enough that we got the message:  Living your normal life, helping around the house, and helping your wife and helping with the kids IS THERAPY!
So, for the past 3 months, we've been working, together with Al's therapists, to create a routine where Al helps the kids with chores, and puts them to bed, among other things.  He does laundry and dishes while I'm gone to work, too!  (Yes - a wife's dream come true!)

Here's the thing:  from the way that our doctor "encouraged" Al to do as much as possible to resume "normalcy," I assumed that I could challenge him to do almost anything.  But during another appointment this past Friday, I was telling Dr. A about Al supervising the kids with chores.  The doctor asked how that was going, and Al wasn't really able to elaborate, so I said it was hard to follow through when the kids didn't do what they were asked.

Then Dr. A looked at me and asked, "Well, what do you expect???  He lost half his brain!  You can't expect him to think on his feet the way he used to."

OK, so I thought I knew that, but I also knew that the doctor wanted me to challenge him to do just about anything he could do with one hand and limited balance.  Now I've learned that I can't challenge him too much.  So, I'm still learning:  Encourage him, challenge him, praise his efforts, be his cheerleader....but don't expect too much at one time.  Don't load too much on him, or he will just shut down.

Every time I think we have something figured out, we have to make slight course-corrections.

And let me just add this in here as well:  Al's driver's license was suspended by the Secretary of State last week, until he takes a specialized driver's training course and assessment.  Dr. A had filled out a form for Al to take to the SOS, and he indicated he was confident in Al's ability to drive and pass the SOS test, but that's wasn't enough for the good old State of Michigan.  All of this also means that I am the sole chauffeur in the house for now, and that we have to dish out several hundred bucks to get Al through the specialized driving course.

I have a hard time praying when I'm confused and overwhelmed like this.  I go to the Lord and pretty much just sit there and say, "OK, Lord, tell me what to do.  So far, I haven't seen any specific Scriptures telling a mom with 4 kids and a disabled husband how to balance her life and to lead her family.  Throw me a bone, here, OK?"

Hebrews 4 keeps coming back to me during this Lenten season, and the very last line, vs. 16, says, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace wtih confidence, so that we may receive  mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

My greatest fault is that I forget that I need Jesus more than anything, and I need him for everything.  Even if there is no Scripture explicitly addressed to my needs, He has the answers.  When I try to figure things out on my own, I will just get more confused.  But if I approach the throne of grace and lay it all before the Lord, He will be the one to give me grace - including wisdom, insight, courage - to decide what I need to do and how I need to do it.

Again, God speaks to my absolute need for HIM to help me muddle my way through this in Matthew 6:33:  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."


  1. But Jen, the doctor was wrong, Al lost part of half of his brain and I bet Dr. A never showed a scan of what areas of the brain were dead and damaged. That would give you an idea of what functions are not working to tell you how much Al can reasonably expect to accomplish.

  2. I feel like I can relate somewhat to what you are going through. 14 years ago, my husband became disabled due to severe bipolar disorder and clinical depression. It was hard to learn what to expect from him. If he was able to get up and help me around the house and with the kids, then he really wasn't disabled, was he? I just wanted help, and had unreal expectations. 14 years later, now he is much better and most days is able to help some.

    But Jesus was really the Helper that got me through the last 14 years. Thank God, I knew Him!

  3. Hi, Jen. I just read your post and my heart goes to you. I somewhat can understand where you at right now I can relate with what you're going through. My dad had Bell's Palsy three years ago then eventually his 30 years of business had to closed down, but none of gave up our faith. We still believe that there will come a time that we are going to enjoy a bright morning ahead... and we're right.

    My dad is now enjoying his retirement with my mom. Though he was admitted last December because of mild stroke, we still thank God because MRI result is normal.

    I am going to include your family in my prayers, especially you, because I know how hard it is for you. Always keep the faith. :)