Thursday, November 21, 2013

Easy Street and strokes....It is NOT easy at all!

"Rehabilitation Easy Street" is on the third floor at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho. “Easy” is a misnomer for me. Nothing was easy about my rehabilitation in the early days.

My room was on the fourth floor, and my therapist told me that we had to walk down one floor to “Easy Street” on the stairs. I had to use a harness so I wouldn't fall.

On “Easy Street,” there is a general store sponsored by the Albertson's Corporation. In reality, there are shelves and plastic products.

My therapist told me that I should look at item on the store shelves. What is toothbrush? Deodorant? Envelops? Fruit? I was dumfounded. I had no idea what those things were. Of course I had no concept of an alphabet.  I could not remember my name let alone saying obscure terms like deodorant

My therapist told me that I needed to concentrate on the plastic fruit.  I would look at an apple. I had no clue what “apple” was. The therapist said,  “what is the color of an apple?”

No Clue.

“Look at that fruit. What is it? That an orange? Is orange color or a fruit?” What the hell! Orange is a color and a fruit? What a diabolical plot! That conversation made my head hurt.

Some therapists would ask me about my life. “What do you do for a living? What about your family?” I knew I was the Executive Director of the Idaho Associated General Contractors and I was on the Board of the College of Western Idaho. But I could not say that because I could not speak. That was incredibly frustrating. Now, I realize this was not a plot. Rather, it was forcing me to start speaking, forming words, etc.  

My hospital therapists were incredibly caring but they made me do a lot of things that I wasn't prepared to do. They challenged me a lot.

In those dark days in the hospital, I was so despondent. Depressed was an understatement.

So when my therapist would say “do this” or “try this,” etc, in my head I often was thinking “what's the use! Part of my brain is gone. Just leave me alone. Please! Maybe I should just die!"

But they wouldn't leave me alone. Every day, several hours a day, they had me  doing things then I didn't think I could ever do again.

My room was my sanctuary. Filled with flowers and overwhelming stacks of cards of concern, I would sit in my room wondering what my future would hold. Often I just wanted to be alone.

My world was a 12 x 18 room. In my room, I could be alone. I didn't need the harness that nurses and doctors insisted that I use everywhere else.

I remember one evening, I had my dinner and my wonderful wife called me. We agreed that my family would miss that night because my son didn't want to go to the hospital. Our six year old was scared and tired of the play dates that kept him busy. 18 days in the hospital. 13 play dates. I understood, and in a way I really didn't want to see him because I was so damaged. So, alone that night, I  silently wept.

The nurse checked on me, and she said, “I'm so sorry! Can I help in anyway?”  “No,” I said. “Just want to be alone.”

To say that I had highs and lows in those days, is not true. I do not think there were any “high.” Even though I had the support of family and friends, I tried to be strong for everyone, but sometimes I wanted to wallow in my self-pity.

But a therapist would come in, and say something like “we're to do this today. Get ready.”

It was grueling.

Now 22 months later, my recovery is so grueling even now. But every day I can see a change. Every single day. Though therapy was torture, those therapists changed my life.

Compassionate. Stern. Patient. Pragmatic.

Therapists have a special place in heaven.

No comments: