As many of you know, our world changed dramatically at the beginning of August. While traveling with our family, my mother suffered a stroke. A CT scan in the emergency room revealed that she had a 9x4 inch cyst in her brain, and surgery was scheduled to remove that cyst and take the pressure off of her brain. The surgery went well, but Mom was in a coma for ten days. A frightening time, as you can imagine, as some told us she might never come out of that state. She did, and I believe God listened to the prayers of many.
Twenty-six days later, we took Mom back to her home town via ambulance and checked into a nursing and rehabilitation facility. Unfortunately, we were ignorant as to their lack of care, and Mom came down with pneumonia six days after arriving there. That night, when they wheeled her into the emergency room, my sister and I had to decide whether or not to stop life support. God gave us both a peace that we should keep fighting. Mom left that hospital two weeks later, and we transferred her to a different nursing facility.
It has been a tough battle since then, mostly red tape. The nurses and their support staff have been beyond incredible. Most of them treat Mom like a person, and not just a lump in the bed. In fact, I would have to say the nursing staff has been her greatest cheerleading team - even nurses from other floors stop by to visit.
Mom has now been at this hospital since the end of September. Her condition when she arrived was someone who was in a dazed-like state, not completely sure of what was going on around her. She could not speak. She could not swallow. While, not paralyzed, her motions were limited. Because she cannot swallow, she must be fed through a feeding tube.
I am proud of Mom; she is a fighter. Given all of the grandchildren she has to live for, she's not about to lie around in bed for the rest of her life. Her improvement has been slow, but seems to have been picking up speed this past week. Sunday morning we stopped by on our way to church. I'm not sure what prompted me to ask her, since I haven't played cards with Mom in decades, but I challenged her to a game of "Go Fish". Mom's fine motor skills functioned just perfectly in holding the cards and picking up new ones. Her cognitive skills handed me the correct cards. Best of all, her speech skills asked me for the card she wanted, and told me to "Go Fish". Yesterday afternoon, she beat her granddaughters at Rummy.
Last night, we took Mom out of the hospital on her first adventure. Our oldest daughters were rehearsing with their bell choir at the church across the street from Mom's hospital. We received permission from the doctor, bundled her up (it was in the 40's outside) and wheeled her over. What a joyous experience that was! Mom loved the little trip, loved seeing the church decorated for Christmas, and lit up so charmingly when the conductor came over to introduce herself. Our daughters, Amy and Wendy, were thrilled to have Grandma there. But, the best was yet to come.
My sister, our children, and I took Mom back to her room. After we all took off our warm outer clothing, I noticed that Mom was making the motions to stand up from her wheelchair. I asked her if she wanted to do so, and she indicated yes. We brought a stool with a tall handle over to her and put it in front of her to pull herself up. I challenged her first to lean forward and far as she could. That had been a struggle just the day before. She was able to go pretty far. I then asked her to go so far that she could touch her nose to the bar. She did it! Each time another granddaughter walked in the room to see what we were cheering about, she did it again! Given that she could only pull herself forward a couple of inches the day before, this was a tremendous accomplishment!
Now, she wanted to try to stand. She grasped the bar firmly, and I watched the muscles in her arms tighten. She was able to pull herself up slightly from the chair amidst rounds of cheers from all of us. She did this several times, and we actually had to tell her to stop for the night, as we were afraid she would be far too sore today. What a look of accomplishment she had on her face!
Over these past four months, we have had a few doctors tell us such horror stories. While in Southern California, two neurosurgeons insisted Mom had not only a stroke and a cyst, but brain cancer as well. They gave her five months to live. We've had doctors tell us that she would likely be in a vegetative state. Just last week, her current doctor pulled me out of the room to tell me she would never get better than she was. The funny thing is, the nursing staff has the completely different attitude and continues to praise Mom's successes and they are astounded at the speed at which she is gaining back control of her body.
God has done some amazing things for our family through all of this. Our faith has been strengthened. We have drawn closer together as a family. Our children have learned how to care for someone they love. They have shown so much compassion, and that has given Mom encouragement. They have watched my sister and me work to make sure that Mom is well-taken care of. They have learned to be an encouragement to other patients and families in the hospital, as well as the staff. Often children are afraid at hospitals, and afraid of the other patients. Our daughters have a true gift of compassion. They love going down the hall to the rec room during BINGO time and joining in with the patients. They don't sit away from everyone at their own table, but split up and sit with the patients. I am so proud of them.
Why am I writing this blog? I hope it to be an encouragement. God is so very good. If I had listened to the medical community, my mom would have had chemo and radiation for a cancer that did not exist, and she would have been taken off life support when she had so much more life to live. I believe, that if you trust God, and you get into difficult situations, He will give you the guidance to make the decisions you must make. - Kathy
Our family's been going through some amazing times as we deal with helping my mother-in-law recover from her stroke. We could not have made it this far without the prayers and assistance from friends and family. While I'm grateful for the assistance we've received, I'm most touched by the prayer support from many faithful people - many of whom I have never met. God is sustaining and strengthening not just Kathy's mom, but all of us. Here's an email Kathy sent me from the hospital to share.