The first weekend of April my brother came to visit, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. I remember leaving with the husband for two or three hours at a time the firsts day he arrived to spend time together running errands, returning to feed Charlie and then heading back out again. It was the most freedom I'd felt in months, and I was so glad to have one of my brothers there to share the load, even if it was only for a few days.
After jumping through a variety of hoops in the process of social security disability paperwork, we had finally gotten word that my dad was scheduled for several appointments with specialists who would determine if he would qualify. The first appointment was with a physician that first weekend in April.
Friday evening we spent time together with the family, but started to notice that my dad seemed a little off. His speech had become extremely unintelligible, so he tried to avoid talking that night. His walking was struggling. After he went to bed we sat up trying to determine what to do. The training I'd gone through at the rehab hospital along with my personal crash course into stroke management pointed to the fact that my dad was experiencing a TIA or mini-stroke. At the same time, we knew if we missed the first disability assessment the next morning that our case may not be taken seriously and the appointment would be extremely difficult, if not entirely impossible to reschedule. We decided to take him to the appointment and monitor him closely in case he got worse.
My brother and I accompanied my dad and arrived at a strange doctor's office. Offices normally used by physicians were occupied that Saturday morning by the Social Security staff, and the waiting room was filled with a very motley crew. I sat filling out a stack of paperwork while we waited. When it was time to go back to the tiny exam room, my dad barely made it. He could barely talk to the doctor. When he was asked to do certain tasks, they were impossible to complete. The doctor got to the point where he would verbalize what he should be asking next, but he would instruct my dad not to attempt it because there was no way he could accomplish what was being asked. Then he had my dad stick out his tongue. It went to the side. He left the room and came back in several minutes later. He started to tell us that he was not allowed to give out any medical advice, but he asked my dad to stick out his tongue again. I told the doctor that we were planning to leave his office and head straight to the emergency room, and he nodded in agreement that we were doing the right thing, although he couldn't tell us in so many words.
We headed to the hospital and spent the afternoon and evening with scans and assessments and phone calls and concerns about his current situation. He had a TIA. There was nothing we could have done to prevent it, and he may have more.
All of his progress to that point had been wiped clean. We were starting over.
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.