Monday, May 18, 2015

Grand Canyon and a Grand Wife!

Yesterday, my wife flew to the Grand Canyon with her mother and a sister. That is a red letter day for the Dunham's. This is the first time since my strokes 3 and a half years ago that I am alone with the responsibility to take care of our son.

My wife is a saint. When my strokes happened, she took charge. She handled every minute detail, keeping visitors at bay, juggling a scared 6 year old boy with little help, and dealing with a barrage of people wanting any and all news. 
Dunham's in the hospital: January 27, 2012

After my strokes and when I came home from the hospital after 18 days, she had to continue a hectic pace. Reassuring everyone including me that I would be OK even when she wasn't sure. She had to drive me to countless appointments and have a semblance of a "normal" life for our son.  

I cannot imagine what her life was like. People keep saying that I was so strong. SHE was the strong one. When people cried about me, SHE was the shoulder to cry on. It should have been the other way around.

She had to grapple with the miasma of emotions, financials, unknown passwords, insurmountable paperwork for disability and Social Security, helping with our son's homework and trying to figure out our life. 

Even now when she left for a well-deserved vacation, she had lists to help me. 

I am so grateful that my wife, Heather Saxton Dunham, had the courage to stick by me when I gave up on myself. My recovery or "my new normal" is because of her. 

Since my strokes, I have been appointed to be on the Board of the American Heart and Stroke Association. Because of my strokes, I have researched about caregivers.

Also, the National Stroke Association has some great tips about caregivers like my wonderful wife: 

Caregiving is often described as the most difficult job you never applied for. A stroke in the family can cause many shifts, whether it is relationship dynamics, finances, home modifications, or role changes. 

As a spouse, sibling, child, grandchild, or friend, you may be charged with new tasks, such as providing daily assistance and support, plus planning, and facilitating your loved one’s care. Because stroke is sudden and unexpected there is often little or no time to prepare. No matter when or how your role as a caregiver begins, it can be a challenging job that takes a physical, mental and emotional toll.

Caregivers play an important role throughout the post-stroke recovery process starting from day one. Caregivers can be a family member, friend, neighbor and/or a healthcare professional. We have developed numerous resources to help you on this new journey.

Caring for stroke survivors can cause high levels of emotional, mental, and physical stress for both the stroke survivor and caregiver. In addition to distress, disruption of employment and family life makes caregiving very challenging. Family caregivers can promote positive post-stroke recovery outcomes; however, they need to care for themselves as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Heart Walk and strokes

On Saturday, May 16, 2015, I am walking in the Treasure Valley Heart Walk. I am walking because I can.
The fact that I can walk at all is a miracle considering I had two strokes in January of 2012. I had a torn carotid artery. The second stroke happened in the hospital, and it was massive.

I lost 20% of my brain. I lost all communication, have aphasia, apraxia, and I could not even remember my own name.

Yet, I was lucky.
Here are some statistics about strokes in the United States:
·                  Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year— that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.
·                  On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
·                  Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
·                  About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
·                  About 185,00 strokes—nearly one of four—are in people who have had a previous stroke.
·                  About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes(, when blood flow to the brain is blocked. That is what I had.
·                  Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
·                  Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
After 18 days in the hospital, I started intense therapy at Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services (STARS) including physical therapy, occupational rehabilitation, speech therapy. I did also did acupuncture, hypnotherapy and other vision therapy for reading and writing.
In three years, I had over 400 hours of therapy.
Ultimately, I resigned from my job as the Executive Director of the Associated General Contractors because I could not work because of the severity of my strokes.  
Nevertheless, I try to continue helping others. After the stroke, I successfully won reelection for the College of Western Idaho 10 after the strokes.
Last year's Heart Walk
In January of 2013, Governor Otter appointed me to serve on the Board of Idaho Housing and Finance Association and the Housing Company. I am also on the Board of the American Heart and Stroke Association. In December, 2012, I joined Risch-Pisca, Law & Policy, PLLC as a Legislative Consultant working part time.  
My passion is to educate people about strokes. I talk to students and participate in many stroke support groups. 
Life is precious but it is difficult when you have a stroke. I hate the term “my new normal,” but I am grateful that I can participate in events like the Heart Walk. Many stroke survivors cannot.