I had just finished my last college final of my freshman year. My room was packed. My roommate had already left for the summer. I was leaving the next day. And then I got the call. One of the calls that you dread more than anything. A beloved family member is in the ICU and it doesn’t look good. He was 3000 miles away and there was nothing I could do.
Although he was only in his early-50s, my father had a massive stroke. He was downtown at the time, and the first buildings that he entered had thought he was inebriated and kicked him out. Finally an ambulance was called.
Like many stroke patients, my father was in the hospital for several weeks and then in rehab for months. He had suffered a massive left side CVA and had no speech or right side movement. Eventually he went home and nothing was the same. But then it was, kinda. A year or two after the stroke, he started driving again (which I still think was a MASSIVE mistake on the part of the DMV). He started eating solid foods again. He even started speaking. A little. Mostly swear words. He was walking with a limp, but no mobility aids. He joined an adult aphasia group and met with others weekly in a conversation and book club with some amazing SLPs.
It was because of his ongoing therapy that my mother suggested I look into grad school for speech pathology. And I did. And it was because of him that I did my master’s project on adults with aphasia. And it was because of my dad that I looked exclusively for jobs in adult rehab. For a while. And then even after working in the schools for 7 months, I took an internship across the country to work on AAC with both adults and children.
Here is the part that I cannot get over. Five years post-stroke, his speech was better than two years post-stroke. And ten years post-stroke it was even better. He was communicating in sentences and was somewhat clear. He was doing amazing. He shouldn’t have even lived five years, and yet he kept improving.
In his last decade, he took a turn for the worse physically and had several additional strokes and surgeries. He was not where he was ten years previously. But isn’t that amazing… if a stroke survivor can make it that long, there is hope for continued progress for years and years. And even decades!
My father passed away in June of 2019 (25 years after his first stroke!) surrounded by family. I miss him every day!
Isn’t he awesome?