On March 26, 2015 my mom had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. My dad found her collapsed in their home. We are unsure how long she was there — maybe up to three hours. The first few days/week were harrowing. We all wondered if we were going to lose her. Her brain was swelling and they had to remove half of it (to be put back later). That surgery was successful and slowly she began to recover. Eventually, she was moved to rehab, but had a relapse and was back in NICU. After that settled, she was back in rehab, and then in June 2015, she was sent home with my dad to begin her rehabilitation to the “new normal” of her life at home. The stroke left her paralyzed on her right side, unable to use her right arm or leg, unable to walk.
The left side of the brain controls the ability to speak and understand language.
The right side of the brain controls the ability to pay attention, recognize things you see, hear or touch, and be aware of your own body.
My mom’s right side remained in tack. All those things listed above she is able to do. But miraculously, my mom retained the ability to understand language (left-side). People who visited her and spent time with her were (are) amazed that she can “carry on” a conversation — in the sense that she understands completely what you are saying, the intonation in your voice, and the emotion and feeling of the words. She can sense and understand emotions, maybe even more so now. (Maybe because the senses in her right brain are heightened.)
She has severe aphasia and language apraxia. If you’re curious, here’s a link on it: http://www.allinahealth.org/…/Effects-of-left-sided-stroke…/
“When you have language apraxia (aPRAYX-ee-a), you know the right words but you have problems forming words or putting sounds together. Muscle weakness or loss of feeling does not cause this.”
This is my mom. When you have a conversation with her and ask her a question, you can tell that she KNOWS what she wants to say. She has a response that is appropriate to your question because she understands your question. But when she speaks, the wrong words or sounds often come out. She can’t speak in sentences. Most of the time, she has a sense of humor about it all. She’ll laugh when she HEARS what she’s saying — because it’s silly and not the right words. We laugh, too. It’s wonderful and beautiful. But sometimes she gets frustrated. Because she can’t always communicate her needs, wants, or how she’s feeling. It’s hard on our family to see her struggle with language, and then also to not be able to MOVE to at least show us with her body.
But every week her language and speech are getting stronger. When I visited my family this past weekend, my mom was spelling words with scrabble letter tiles. 3-letter words were too easy for her. My brother said she was working on 4 and 5 letter words. You give her the letters in the word and she puts them in order. It’s amazing to watch! Before the letters were even in order she usually knew what the word was. Also, I gave her the letter tiles for our names (Gina, Jimmy, Justin, Larry, JoJo) and she spelled all of those. I knew early on that she could read, but seeing this level of understanding brings so much hope and happiness to my heart. I need it. We all need it.
A year ago my family couldn’t get a hold of me. Finally, sometime after midnight my father told me I needed to get to Pittsburgh as fast as I could. The drive from State College to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh was a daze. When I arrived at 3 AM my whole family (extended) was there and no one was sure… it was all uncertain. It was the scariest moment of my life.
I miss my mom. I miss calling her up and getting advice that I don’t want. I miss her irrational behavior. I miss fighting with her. I miss having her take JoJo for a week and love up on her and spoil her. I miss gardening with her. Every day I think about her — the old her and the new her. As terrible as it’s been to “lose” our mother — the crazy, foul-mouthed, irrational Italian woman — I’m so thankful that we still have her here with us. And that she is, in all respects, that SAME Linda. She really is. She hasn’t changed at all — she’s still crazy and beautiful and funny and frustrating.
Thank you to all of our friends who have been supportive this past year. It’s been so hard for our family. I lost my job, in a small part, because of this. My depression hit harder than ever after my mom’s stroke, as you might imagine. Some days feel so hopeless. And all I want is my mom. And when I realize I’m not going to have her the way she was — it’s even more hopeless. But many more days are filled with love and hope and appreciation for all those that continue to send love and support our way. We are forever grateful.
THANK YOU. THANK YOU. WE LOVE YOU.
Please come and visit Linda! She loves to talk and hang out and laugh and be with other humans. That’s what she needs more than anything.