Monday, March 21, 2011


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After a few days in the hospital, my dad was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.  This is where the work would really begin for him to get better.  This is where the assessment of how bad things really were would take place.  This is where the answers started to come, and the miracles started to happen.

Upon the initial transfer there from the hospital, my brother went and met with a social worker at the rehab hospital to get some paperwork for Social Security disability.  Because my dad was in Idaho, the case was opened there, so my brother helped to get the ball rolling.   Shortly after his paperwork pick-up he called with the number for Alita, the social worker, and told me to give her a call.  Alita and I became very well-acquainted as we talked regularly, often daily, during my dad's five-week rehab stay.

Some of our conversations are forever imprinted in my memory.  During our first phone call, I drank from the proverbial fire hose as we reviewed information pertaining to so many life details that I now needed to manage for my dad.  She let me know that there would be a team of nurses and therapists evaluating him for the first week to determine his current functionality and to set goals.  The next week there would be a family meeting to review the initial assessments.

I made sure the baby was fed, and I dropped off the older kids at my in-laws so I could devote my full attention to this crucial phone call.  I took page after page of notes as each therapist did a self-introduction and then shared their findings from the first week.  The reports were grim, but the therapists tried to remain upbeat while being honest.  It was a hard dichotomy to listen to them sound positive as they shared such devastating news.  It was pretty certain that my dad would be released in a wheel chair.  His lack of ability to walk was so great that it seemed impossible for him to regain that functionality during his rehab stay.  His speech was still unintelligible, and it was hard to determine how much cognitive function was lost.  His left arm was useless, and function was not returning quickly.  The nurses were very concerned about his diabetes management, as his blood sugars were consistently in the 300-400 range, and his controlled diet and various combinations of insulin were doing nothing to lower them.  His blood pressure was still high.  Probably one of the worst pieces of news was about his emotional health.  Alita described him as having a flat affect.  He didn't seem to care.  He was becoming depressed.  And if he couldn't change his outlook, it would be harder for him to progress physically.

The news from the initial report came just days before Christmas, and definitely clouded a normally joyous time of year.  I remember spending time Christmas evening with my in-laws and trying to play games and be upbeat.  The reality of the current situation was not easily glossed over, and while the kids were off playing a group of the adults settled in the living room as we discussed options for our upcoming circumstance.  We talked about the logistics of building a ramp into our home.  We discussed demolition and the possibilities of major renovations to make our home wheelchair accessible.  We thought of different bedroom scenarios and who should sleep where to best accommodate our growing family.  What started as a family of 4 would become a family of 6 within a 6 week time-frame, and we weren't sure how our 3-bedroom home would best accommodate everyone.  As I shared the details of the rehab hospital family meeting with extended family and friends that night, it was hoped by all that the outlook would improve and that my dad would make a better recovery than initially projected.  Our faith was already playing a large role in carrying this load, but we knew it would become even more vital throughout our experience.  While sitting next to the Christmas tree, we decided to fast.  

Family and friends joined us in a fast for my dad the following Sunday.  I felt strength from the prayers of many and our unity in purpose- an improvement in my dad's condition.  Faith lifted me, and I felt peace and certainty that things would improve.  And they did.

The next week I had another phone-call with Alita after her weekly meeting with the therapists and nurses, reviewing his progress over the last week. It was completely different than the call the week before.  He was walking!  Slowly but surely, he was regaining his abilities.  The therapists talked about the miracle and encouraged us to put our renovation plans on hold, because my dad would probably not need a wheelchair upon release, just a cane.  Never in their long careers had they seen someone in such a poor condition make such strides.  It gave my dad confidence, and his attitude changed.  Alita was most thrilled about the funny, happy person she was getting to know who was so different from the man of indifference she saw the week before.  His successes pushed him, and he worked hard to improve as much as he could.  He became the star of the rehab hospital, an example as well as a friend and a cheerleader to the other patients, his new friends.

This was the first in a long line of miracles that would occur as we cared for my dad.  The physical care-giving had not yet begun, but we cared for him spiritually and emotionally as much as possible at this point, and we were blessed with a miracle.  I began to understand more deeply that no matter how hopeless things seem, there is always hope.  Always.  And no problem is too great for our Heavenly Father.  Miracles happen.

In an effort to remember what I've been through taking care of my dad post-stroke and share the growth and beauty that came along the way, I will be journaling this experience as part of Bee a Little Better.  You can find all posts in this series under the label "the dad story".  I hope you'll stick with me as I record this experience.  If it doesn't interest you, come back tomorrow for something different. 

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