Monday, September 16, 2013

Changed Forever In An Instant

Two years ago today all of our lives changed in an instant.

I can still hear the sounds of that night. My calm words as my brain knew what my heart yet did not and I asked my husband to please smile for me, my frantic scream out the door for my mother to come quick, my voice strong and steady to the 9-1-1 dispatch, my tears as I relayed what I now knew to be a certainty even before we'd left the house to my best friend and her calm voice on the other end telling me everything was going to be ok somehow.

I can still see him laying, smiling, on the floor, see the look on my bewildered friends and neighbours as I opened their door like I had so many times before, only this time unannounced and asked if my kids could stay the night as I went with the ambulance. I can still feel the acute pain, the terror, the heartache.

I can still remember how detached I felt as everyone around me at the hospital told me they couldn't believe how calm and collected I was as I was asked to sign consent forms and make decisions as a next of kin like I had many times for my children, only this time my partner, their other next of kin, was lying on a stretcher and the decisions I made were for him.

I remember the arms of my friend Jo strong around me the next morning as she'd started her shift in the ICU and had been briefed on the youngest stroke patient our hospital had taken in since starting their stroke program and then realized she knew him, knew me, knew our kids, knew what was at stake not just in the abstract but on a personal level for our family.

Three months of our lives were spent with him in that hospital, three months of daily visits with my children in tow, of visits home, of learning a whole new way of living.

Visiting with Daddy, I'd often take the kids in pjs because it would be passed their bedtime when we'd get home

Our younger two kids have no memory of Daddy as a fully able bodied person. Our oldest son is still has anger because he does. From totally healthy to hemiplegic in less than 5 minutes, and then back to able to use one limb (his right arm), and then about a month after he came home he was able to walk with a cane instead of a needing a wheelchair all the time, and now he is able to walk independently, albeit with an altered gait. His left arm remains nonfunctional.

Two years ago our lives changed in an instant. Many things about our lives are different, accessibility issues, new specialists, always more testing, work issues, learning new ways to do activities of daily living for James, learning a new way of interacting with one another. Many of the things we have learned and are learning are deeper than just the day to day though. The role of disabled people in our society. The way people view persons with disabilities and the differences between those who have a strong advocate and those who don't. The things those of us who are able bodied take for granted.

It has been two years since James' stroke. I would never have chosen this for him, for any of us, and yet it was thrust upon us and two years out I can look around and see lessons learned that were valuable, relationships made with people we would not otherwise have crossed paths with, gifts in the strangest packages.

James' first night home with us after the stroke was Halloween night, 6.5 weeks after the stroke. He wanted to be able to go trick or treating with our kids. We had a great time. He was in a wheelchair and we had a just turned 1 year old, a 2.5 year old, and a 5 year old with us. We had an amazing time and I won't ever forget the memories we made that night. Next month he and I will take those same kids trick or treating in our own neighbourhood, in the new place we call home. I am so glad he survived the stroke, grateful that we have these memories to make and the hope for many more in the future.

Halloween 2011 <3

1 comment:

  1. You have unbelievable strength, Alison. You are an amazing young woman whose life has been turned upside down and yet you seem to get through each day and ready to face the next. I am very proud to call you my "granddaughter".
    Love, Nana xoxo