My stepfather had a stroke about two weeks ago. It was an incredibly bad one, such that the neurologists at the hospital weren't sure he would recover at all if he even lived. The decision was made to administer some controversial drugs which stood about an equal chance of helping him tremendously or making the stroke that much worse. After a brief consultation my mom decided to have them administer the drugs. They worked.

When I went to visit him in the hospital he was still very much out of it, I'm pretty sure he recognized that I was there but there wasn't much beyond that. Having been doped up after surgery once myself (though on a much more minor scale) that was about all I expected. Through the course of a couple of visits I got to talk to the neurologist and heard about his expected recovery/rehab progress. They said that since the drugs had worked he should make an almost total recovery, but that it would take time to recover movement and speech. Movement would be quick but speech could take months to a year to recover and would be a slow process.

I bring this all up now because 1) it didn't feel right to write about it so (relatively) publicly as it was happening and 2) I talked to my stepdad on the phone last night. I called my mom to see if I could come up for a quick visit this weekend (it will be quick since he still gets exhausted quite rapidly), while on the phone she asked if I'd like to speak with him. Sure, I said. I didn't know what to epxect really, slured speech maybe, mumbling at worse, I was actually quite affraid of what I was about to hear. Then he came on the phone.

Other than being a little quieter than normal and having some trouble with names of places (talking about australia) I'd have had a hard time telling anything happened. We chatted for a little while and I could tell he was getting tired so we parted planning to continue more on saturday. It reminded me of my grandfather.

My maternal grandfather has alzheimers and has deteriorated quite a bit. I feel guilty because I haven't seen him in quite some time, but it was a choice I made and believe my mom understands. I remember my grandfather up at 6:00am to go play volleyball and run even at 80. I remember him taking us all on hikes out on the olympic peninsula. I remember a very strong and intelligent man and I couldn't bear to have that memmory replaced by visions of a man who didn't recognize me. When I saw my stepdad in the hospital after a major brain trama fading in and out of cognition I was terrified that I'd end up "losing" another strong male figure in my life.

Words really can't describe how good it felt, how relieved I was, to talk to him on the phone last night. To listen to someone who was every bit as sharp and stubborn as he's always been. It was amazing for me that after such a devastating blow the body and mind could recover so well so quickly. I imagine that view might be quite different from his perspective, I know there are lots of speech exercise he has to do daily to help his recovery, but it still astounds me what the human body and spirit are capable of.


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