On Wednesday afternoon, September 24, 2014, I attended the Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Center rededication. The hospital remodeled the rehabilitation spaces, and it was about a $1,000,000 project. At the dedication, it was announced that it is now called a “Center” rather than just a part of the hospital located on the hospital's 3-West and 4-West floors.
It was odd for me to go to the celebration. Throughout my career, I have gone to hundreds of ceremonies like this dedication. I saw people at the dedication who I have known for years. It seemed like I was “there” just because I support so many causes. “Great! Mark Dunham is at the dedication! Of course, he is there because that is what he does to support the community.”
I chatted with many people, I ate wonderful hors d'oeuvres, talked with political junkie’s about the upcoming elections, and took a tour of the new remoldeled facilities like the therapy room, the nurses stations, the rooms, and the “Easy Street” where brain injury patients practice for everyday tasks.
It was bizarre for me. I almost forgot that I was “here” as a patient not too long ago. I almost imagined I was “here” supporting the hospital in a official capacity like my role as a Board member at the College of Western Idaho or the American Heart and Stroke Association. Many people at the celebration knew I had strokes. However, many people did not. They assumed I was there to support the program as a public figure.
However, reality galvanizes my memory when I see my old room, Room 3447, where I thought my life was over. I could not even walk the hallway alone without a nurse beside me just in case I would fall.
On Easy Street, I could not recognize an apple or a orange. "Orange" was the worst: A color and a fruit!
Saint Alphonsus has a wonderful Stroke Rehabilitation program. From their website:
Welcome to the Inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation Program at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (SARMC). We are located on the hospital's 3-West floor. The Stroke Program at SARMC has a highly experienced, skilled team of therapists specializing in assisting people recover from cerebrovascular accidents, also known as strokes.
The consequences of a stroke may cross the entire spectrum of medical, physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional and psychological problems. Because of this, SARMC provides a team of rehabilitation professionals who have specialized training in the treatment of individuals who have survived a stroke.
The Stroke Program at SARMC places a high priority on helping the patient and family deal with the effects of a cerebrovascular accident. Both the patient and the family are key members of the rehabilitation team and assist in goal setting and discharge planning. The team works together in a collaborative manner to meet the needs of each patient and family.
We laughed. It has been less than three years.
Even now, “this” is horrifying to me: “I had two strokes less than three years ago.”
It is ironic that the same morning, September 24, 2014, I attended a Aphasia Support Group at St. Lukes. I met two new participants who had strokes and have the obligatory aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria.
I asked one woman if she could communicate via email. She said, “No because I cannot read. However, my husband helps. Here is his email.”
The problem, because of my strokes and aphasia, I still cannot hand-write at all!
We all laughed, and one stroke survivor said something like “It takes six stroke survivors to hand-write and copy a simple email address.”
In one day, two meetings, and two different hospitals, the truth of my life was so stark. I celebrate my recovery but I cannot do a simple task like writing a note.
The mockery of my life.