Monday, June 23, 2008


I got a call from my SIL telling me Gene had finally gotten stable and they were going to move him out of ICU to the Rehab Unit. She gave me his room number, 118A. I told her I would be there in the morning.

I was very happy to see Gene was looking better when I walked into his room. He was set to have PT, which is when they work on the bottom half of the body, OT which is where they retrain him to get dressed, take a shower, go to the bathroom and work on getting his arm to work. ST, which is teaching him to talk again and then RT which helps to stay active and social.

It's unbelievable how hard it is to do the simplest everyday things when you can't move one half of your body. Not only can't you move but everything on the paralized side is very heavy. Like they say it's "dead weight".

Just turning over in bed, sitting up and eating is exhausting for Gene. Plus just think about it, he can't write, scratch his left side, button up a shirt or tie shoes. Try doing that with only one hand.

I can't explain how hard it is to watch someone you love having to struggle with every day things. Is really sad. You just want to do everything for them yet you know it's best if you let them try to do it and if they can't they will ask for help.

It had to be so frustrating for him to try and talk and not be understood. One thing that really bothered me (and I'm sure it did Gene too) was when several people were in the room talking and they didn't give him a chance to talk too. They would just carry on as if he wasn't in the room. I know they didn't mean to be rude but it was. In fact even the doctors and nurses would come in and talk to us as if he wasn't there. They asked us how he was doing rather then ask him.

One thing that people forget is, that just because someone had a stroke that made it hard to talk, the person's brain is still working and they can think and their IQ is just fine. They just can't get their mouth to form the words. Of course, I'm sure some people have strokes may have brain damage that does remove memories and may even make them forget a lot of stuff.

But the type of stroke Gene had left his memory in tact and his IQ just the same as before the stroke. He was still the same old Gene as always in his brain. Just his body wasn't the same.

Gene told me that when he would talk it sounded normal to him but he knew he wasn't talking normal because no one could understand him. The brain is a strange thing.

At first we would listen to Gene talk and every so often we would be able to understand a word or two and then we would ask a question to see if we could guess what he was saying. It was very tiring for him and for us. At times he would just say "Never mind". It was heartbreaking when he did that because you knew he wanted something. Everyone tried to understand what he wanted and didn't just "forget about" what he was trying to say.

He always was upbeat and at times cracked jokes.

But he also had trouble controlling his emotions. He would cry even when he really didn't want to cry. I found that most of times he cried it was because he was proud of something or it was something touching to him.

Like when Holly told him she graduated from college. He was so happy for her and proud but also sad he couldn't be there to see her accept her diploma. Or when he got cards and flowers. He would be touched that people cared and he would cry.

His PT started out slowly. His therapist was Robert. He would come in move his leg for him. Just trying to get the brain to remember his leg was there. The brain seems to forget about the side that is effected by the stroke.

As time went on Robert showed him how to roll over on his side and then, with help, throw his legs off the side of the bed and sit up. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't. Just doing that little movement Gene would break out in a sweat and be tired. His brain had to learn to rewire itself and learn how to do things all over. Just doing something so simple used so much determination and strength. But he never gave up.

Even trying to eat was hard. First of all it had to be done with his left hand, even though his whole life he used his right hand to eat with. Then the brain had problems with getting the food on the spoon and into his mouth. That coupled with him seeing double vision made eating a mess. Food would be everywhere. He ended up spilling almost as much as he ate. But, he was never really hungry anyway.

The first time I saw him do his speech lessons I was impressed by his therapist, Catherine. She was very caring and taught him to slow down his talking and to over enunciate each word. She would start with mouth exercises where she had him smile big and then pucker his lips as if he was giving a kiss. Then she would have him say 1,2,3. Each number got louder and higher. Sounds trivial but it worked.

His OT therapist was Matt. Matt showed him how to take a shower, get dressed and also some great exercise for his arm.

Matt is a Christian man and even came in one day and asked if he could pray for Gene. How sweet was that! You can tell Matt really cares about people and really wants to help.

Matt also called in a Dr. for Gene's vision. Everything was double to him. Of course not knowing which item you see is the correct one also made everything much harder. He never knew which item was the real item.

The Dr. ended up giving him some glasses that Gene calls "Funny Glasses". They have prisms in them so the eyes can focus right and make you see correctly. They work and in time they will find out what Gene's vision will be like. Will his eyes heal on their own? Will he need glasses all the time? No one knows. But as time passes, he if he still needs them to correct the double vision they will make lenses to fit normal glasses. Until then, they just have him wear the "funny glasses".

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