Painful Blessing: Epilogue

Do you believe it?  The Epilogue is now complete!  Jill didn’t want to write another book, so she agreed to write this 5 page Epilogue: her reflection of what happened over the past 12 years.  Please send this to ANYBODY who has a book.  I hope the email has a BUNCH of likes and gets wildly distributed.  ENJOY!

Epilogue: Is It Over?  

by Jill Krantz Viggiano

We now rounded the twelve-year anniversary of Gordon’s stroke. It is hard to believe our lives have been changed so dramatically for such a long time. The funny thing is that, even after all these years, it still feels strange to me. I still feel out of step with normal life. I struggle to explain our life to anyone who asks the generic question “What do you do?” We aren’t “working,” we aren’t retired, we aren’t sick, we aren’t making any big plans. If I say I am my husband’s caregiver, it sounds like he is incapable of caring for himself and that makes me feel like I am minimizing his tremendous accomplishments in recovery. He does need me for many things and I am his caregiver, but we are more than that. I still haven’t found the right words.

We Decided To Move

We did not stay in our home in Lake Oswego. It became too much for me to maintain our big, beautiful house and yard. As it became clear that Gordon would never return to work, it also became clear that we could no longer afford that life. I remembered that night when Gordon was still in the hospital and I walked around our dark house, saying goodbye to everything we owned. Fortunately, our time there did not end the way I envisioned it that night, but it did end. Our home of 15 years, with our children’s heights marked on their bedroom doorways, is now occupied by a lovely couple who have become friends. They did not paint over our kids’ markings in an act of kindness. I still miss our friends, our neighbors, and our old life, but I know we did the right thing. Like everything else, our new home and our new life is good—different, but good.

Our children are all grown up. Gordon’s stroke and the radical change in our lives affected them both. Their trajectories I described in Chapter 15 have continued in many ways. Neither Rachel nor Tom like to talk about what happened.  They both still like to make fun of their dad when he messes up. Both pursue stability, order, and predictability. Both were happy we sold the house and moved to a new town. 

Rachel has spent much more time with us and seems to have made peace with all that happened. We each have a strong relationship with her. She certainly bears scars from all that happened but she seems to be healing nicely. 

From the beginning, Tom began to withdraw emotionally. Where there was once a warm, loving, sweet child, there became a cold, harsh, young man. I am happy to say that emotional wall he built to protect himself is slowly breaking down. It is always my hope and prayer that the wall will disappear completely. I hope his scars heal nicely too.

Recovery

I am happy to report that Gordon’s recovery continues! His fingers on his right hand began to move at the 4-year mark.  He was able to fully open his hand at the 8-year mark. We immediately rushed him into trying to shake hands with people he met. That created awkward moments as Gordon could only open his hand once, then it clamped shut again—tight. The poor sweet person on the other end of the handshake had to wait as we pried Gordon’s hand loose. At 10 years post-stroke, Gordon could open his hand twice, so handshaking has become possible without taking a prisoner. 

Weird Reflex

A weird reflex common in stroke survivors is that every time they yawn, their affected arm raises up into the air, like they are volunteering for something or are dying to ask a question. For all these years, Gordon yawns, the right arm goes up, and he tries to hold it down with his left arm, like a battle with a possessed limb. Once we got over the strangeness of it, we embraced it as comic relief. Here at the 12-year mark, that reflex is starting to diminish. Positive change is still happening. 

Gordon’s remaining deficits from the stroke have proven to be formidable obstacles. While he has improved dramatically, his cognition continues to be significantly impaired. Cognition refers to all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating. I often have to repeat myself when I introduce a new subject. At first, I thought he wasn’t hearing me. Now I suspect it is his ability to comprehend what is being said. His brain cannot focus on a new subject the way most of us do. He needs a moment, some context, and often a couple hearings to make sense of what is going on.

Conversation

Gordon is great at conversation—I say something (“What do you want for dinner?”), he says something (“Meat.”). But open-ended questions are difficult if not impossible for him. An open-ended question requires a response that follows logical order: a beginning, middle, and an end. We try to make a game of it when he is struggling to tell me something. He says whatever words he can get out, then he starts over and tries again. We laugh. By the third time I have heard enough to piece the response together. I tell him what I think he is trying to say and we laugh again at how hard it was to get those four or five sentences out in the right order and with the correct words.

The physical disabilities aren’t the big deal I thought they were going to be. We still work on his right arm and we keep active so we don’t lose ground with his right-side strength and coordination. It has become second nature to me to help Gordon with all the things that require two hands. I don’t mind helping and he is always appreciative.

My Life Now

 I rarely think of our pre-stroke life anymore. Once in a great while, my mind drifts to what our life might have been and I get that dull, sinking feeling of loss. It passes quickly as I remind myself of God’s generosity and care for us in bringing us to where we are now. We are healthy, we have a nice home, the bills are paid, we have all we need. All this is nothing short of a miracle. Who gets suddenly yanked out of normal life and career, has no ability to work ever again, and still has all he or she needs? We do, by the grace of our good Lord.

All those years ago, in the depths of my helplessness, I learned to fully surrender my life to Jesus. He has been faithful in His promise to care for us and to use our tragedy for good. We continue to do inspirational speaking around the country. We continue to engage with anyone who reaches out to us when they need encouragement in their struggle. It is gratifying to represent hope and possibility to those around us. 

Surrender

One of the greatest gifts of Surrender is contentment. I am not envious, I am not dissatisfied, I am not resentful. I am truly happy for others who are doing well. Forgiveness is easier. I don’t really worry. I am content. Life is short but my eternity is assured. I know I rest in God’s hand and one day I will see His smiling face. What could be better than that? 

While I am here on earth, it is my hope that I can bring joy with me wherever I go. I hope Gordon and I can be good examples of marriage and commitment. I hope we are a blessing wherever we happen to be. I hope the love of Jesus is obvious to anyone who interacts with me. I hope the pain we experienced only magnifies the blessings we have received. 

Pain and Blessing—Painful Blessing. Sounds like the perfect title for a book.
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If you want to have a copy of the downloaded,  go HERE!

I Know What You Are Thinking….

Wait… didn’t you write to us yesterday?

Yes I did…but I am becoming bored!  Aren’t you?

It is my birthday...and many people are writing to wish me good cheer. So I am sitting by my computer acknowledging the well wishes.

No story would be complete without the mention of the Corona Virus. My guess is that EVERYONE is tired of hearing about it and welcomes when it is over.

You can go back to my very FIRST blog in July 2012 and read how is quickly coming up on my 4 year anniversary of my stroke; that was 602 Blogs ago! Can you believe it has been 602 Blog Posts?

When I started, I figured I can go for 100 of so Blogs; but here I am at 602! My first few year a blogging, I had pictures, but I had to delete them because I was sued.  I guess they don’t appreciate using the photos that other posted on line. Now I pay a licensing fee to ShutterStock so I can use their photos.  I must say, they have some awesome pics.

Anyway, thanks for reading this.

I Bet You Can’t Wait for This!!!!

Yup…Jill is writing an Epilogue to her Painful Blessing story…and I decided to distribute it for FREE…No Charge…to you!

I know what you thinking…How could he forgo all that income from this Epilogue?  What can I say, it is just the way I am.

Don’t expect another book; it is truly an Epilogue.  You will fine out:

  • Am I getting better?
  • What has he gotten back?
  • Can he talk?
  • Will I go back to work?

OK, maybe you know some of the answers, but there are plenty of people who don’t. Of course, you can look at my video file to see the progress I have made so far. But the way Jill writes about her experience brings it to the next level.

This chapter has certainly become an Epilogue; it’s a final review…to date. Jill shouldn’t have a problem connecting with people.  It is the ONLY good thing about this: People now have the time  if they take a break from Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I don’t realize when I am having an impact…..

Impacting others is a theme I have when writing my blog posts.  Each post, I get an overview of how many people read my blog.  When I write something REALLY personal, I get a large number of readers…and I get personal emails of how I impacted that reader.  When I wrote about retirement a few days ago, I got this response and asked if I can use it in my blog.  She graciously said yes:

Gordon,

I met you and your sweet wife at a Portland Executives meeting a couple years ago or more.

I have enjoyed following your blogs and your journey.  I know you can’t speak but does the typing for your blog still bring you joy?  Your thoughts in the blog are an encouragement to so many I’m sure.  

I was treated a year ago for what was initially thought to be a stroke.  It didn’t turn out to be one however it was a migraine acting like a stroke.  Determined probable cause – stress. Imagine that.  I’ve really worked at becoming unhurried and learning how to relax and enjoy the moments in my life.  Patience does not come easily as you know.  I remember some years ago when my husband was dying of cancer I realized everything in life comes from inside ourselves and of course through God in our lives.  Yet it took me years to begin working on the inside.

It’s not that I don’t think you know any of these things, I have seen much of it in your blog.  I just wonder if you are looking too hard for fulfillment in retirement. Please forgive my thoughts if they intrude or are things you’ve already considered.  Retirement is for what we’ve longed for during our lives, time to give to others, time to study something that won’t make us any money but will enrich our soul.  

Think about what you want to retire from – that is important.  But keep the things that still feed your soul.  I will continue to keep you in my prayers as I think of you.  Keep up the good work, your life is an encouragement to others whether we can speak or not.  

With hugs, Jan

Time to retire????

Should I retire in two years…when I  am 65??  I am wrestling with this decision.

If I “retire”, what will I do with my extra time?

My wife says I should volunteer, but I can’t speak!   Who would hire me?  I could volunteer to join a group of people, ….but I still can’t imagine what I would do.

Would you hire me?  Would you have me volunteer to grow you sales organization?  I am guessing no. If you don’t have enough funds to invest in you sales team (and the most profitable group in your company), I am guessing you don’t need a volunteer , who can’t speak…. lead you sales team.

Let’s look at some alternatives

  • If I retire now (with all the speeches being cancelled), I could be an expert in the Corona Virus.  People love experts in this!
  • Maybe I could walk your dog?  I could charge so much per minute.  Of course I can’t clean up (only one arm) so I can just walk dogs who won’t relieve themselves.  This cuts my dog walking by a slight percent (like 100%!)
  • I could play pickle ball. This is something I still want to do, but how often could I play?
  • People have said I could watch their kids.  I get tired of kids after 5 minutes.  If they have that timeframe, I am good to go.
  • I could wait 2 years to retire, and I could do stuff for senior citizens. This is the best idea I can think of!  I could bring back purpose to my life and I could pick the people that I work with….since I am a volunteer.

Looking at my alternatives, the last one has some merit.  My year is in flux, so this my be sooner than I plan.  OK, now I am excited.

I can offer my speaking for another 2 years, and then be done.  Off to the new adventure;  I can’t wait…only 2 more years!

 

Declining Insurance Offerings

Your January enrollments are done, your clients have their W-2s in the mail, and you’ve got their renewal meetings penciled in for next fall — time to sit back, right?

Not so much, especially if some of those clients have highly compensated employees or partners. In fact, now is the perfect time to pivot back to those clients and give them a clear look at whether they’re doing enough to help all their associates protect their most valuable asset: their ability to earn an income.

Three points of protection

To help you manage costly turnover, here are some warning signs that an employee is about to leave—and what you can do about it.

Think of it as a triangle with three essential points to make it complete:

  • Savings and investments if they live a long time
  • Life insurance if they die early
  • Disability insurance if the unexpected happens and they can’t work

Your clients probably have 401(k)s and term or permanent life insurance in their employee benefit packages. They might have group disability coverage, too, but there are two key differences: access and portability.

Employees can go online or pick up the phone and buy their own life insurance at near the same cost their employer offers it (and most often, for much less and with higher benefits). Same thing with savings and investments, where banks and financial advisors abound to help them set up plans with a variety of retirement options.

But disability coverage is different. Employees can’t buy income protection insurance on their own at anywhere close to the cost of buying it through work. And they can only access this valuable coverage without medical evidence at the workplace. Not only that, if it’s a group long-term disability plan, they’ll lose their coverage if they leave the employer. That’s why your clients need to help all employees protect their income if they become sick or hurt and can’t work — providing needed protection for future years, even if they change employment.

Paint a clear picture

This is why now — after the W-2s are out — is the ideal time to reconnect with your clients. They’ve just seen a complete view of their employees’ current incomes, so gaps in protection for all income are easier to spot.

One way to paint this picture is plotting income and age on a scatter diagram, then looking how many annual incomes fall above and below the $200,000 line. We set our metaphorical Mendoza line there because the most popular disability plans cover 60% of base earnings up to $10,000 a month. That amount of coverage will adequately protect employees earning up to $16,667 a month, or $200,000 a year.

But higher earners will still have a coverage gap. Add incentive earnings such as bonuses, commissions and restricted stock units (often not considered by group LTD plans), and the underinsurance increases dramatically. If you have clients in fields such as financial, information technology, medical, legal or evolving industries such as biopharma, business services, energy or consultancies, they probably have employees who need more protection.

Paying for parity

Some of your clients may tell you they want to treat all employees the same, while others see value in differentiating based on job role, seniority or value to the organization. Both philosophies are legitimate, but you may need to ask more questions to determine what clients really mean if they talk about parity or an egalitarian structure.

Offering the same amount of coverage to lower and higher earners isn’t necessarily treating them equally. One group has a safe amount of protection, while the other is exposed to more liability. This unfunded liability and inequity is often brought to your clients’ attention at the time of claim — but it’s too late then to transfer the risk. Your clients can choose to offer coverage that helps close this income gap and treat all employees equitably.

Personal protection

Individual disability insurance is one solution to bring to your clients. It can be layered on top of the group disability plan they offer all employees and offer much higher levels of income protection with guaranteed rates on a guaranteed-issue basis.

An advantage of this solution over simply increasing the maximum amount of coverage on the group plan is greater cost containment and predictability for the group plan. The IDI coverage is essentially “walled off” from the group contract, so claims on the individual plan don’t affect the experience on the group contract.

And because the IDI policy is individual coverage, it’s 100% portable. That could be an important attraction point for some of your clients’ highly paid — and highly valued — key contributors, especially with severance and employment contract obligations.

Adding IDI coverage doesn’t necessarily have to increase the burden on your clients’ benefits budget, either. Look for a plan with flexible payment solutions that allow them to choose whether to provide it as employer-funded coverage or facilitate access as a voluntary benefit for greater parity.

In a perfect world, employees would own their benefits — not “rent” them. Unfortunately, they’re not always going to be able to access benefits on their own. So when they can, they need to get those benefits they can keep by accessing them through the workplace.

Disability Insurance

What Do You Know About Disability Insurance survey???? Here is what Life Happens says about that:

Think about it. What would happen if suddenly, due to an illness or injury, you were unable to work?  Without your paycheck, how long would you be able to make your mortgage or rent payment, buy groceries or pay your credit card bills without feeling the pinch? If you’re like most, it wouldn’t be long at all: 7 in 10 working Americans couldn’t make it a month before financial difficulties would set in, and one in four would have problems immediately, according to a Life Happens survey.¹

That’s where disability insurance comes in

Think of it as insurance for your paycheck. It ensures that if you are unable to work because of illness or injury, you will continue to receive an income and make ends meet until you’re able to return to work.

You don’t hesitate to insure your home, car and other valuable possessions, so why wouldn’t you also protect what pays for all those things—your paycheck.

Explore this section to learn more about the different sources of disability income protection and ways to get coverage.

Rick Warren’s message…

Do you ever listen to Rick Warren?  I have been reading his Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope and TODAY he really hit home with me.  It explains that  we should be HAPPY for everything we HAVE, rather than be filled with envy.  Rather than explain it (Jill would have to help me), I will include the info down below:

“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need.”

(1 Corinthians 4:7-8 The Message)

Instead of focusing so much on what we don’t have and what didn’t happen, we can be grateful for what we do have. This doesn’t come naturally to me, probably not for you either, and not even for the apostle Paul, who said, “I have learned to be content.” Being content is a learning process.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:7-8, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you aresheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need” (The Message).

Envy is based on the myth that you need more to be happy. Envy always looks at others and asks, “Why them? Why did they deserve it? I deserve what they have.” But gratitude says, “Why me? Why did God give me this? I’m blessed because I don’t deserve what I have.” It totally flips our perspective.

Struggle With Envy

Although we all struggle with envy, it’s hard to admit it because it’s such an ugly emotion. When you’re envious of others, you really want them to fail, because it makes you feel better that they don’t have more than you. That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? If we could only learn to be grateful for what we have, we could begin to get rid of these feelings of envy.

It’s important to understand that envy is not having a desire or a dream or a goal. It’s good to have those. Envy is not looking forward to something or hoping that something can happen in your life or even wondering if you should have some thing. Envy is instead resenting somebody who already has what you desire or has reached a goal you have yet to obtain. Envy says you can’t be happy until you get that desire or goal. Envy is not being grateful for what you already have.

Yet the Bible tells us that we already have more than we need and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God, and it is up to him to decide when and how he blesses us. It’s up to us to choose to be grateful and make the most of what we’ve been given.

As Ecclesiastes 6:9 says, “It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else” (GNT).

About Rick Warren

Do you have a problem thinking, problem solving, or memory issues?

I do!  Read the article that Mary Burns wrote.

Did you know studies have shown up to 72% of patients have some form of cognitive impairment after stroke? Even as a medical speech-language pathologist (SLP), I found this statistic shocking. It’s a common misconception that an SLP only helps people regain their ability to speak. One of the most meaningful ways an SLP can help someone after stroke is by helping them improve and regain cognitive abilities.

Because of damage to the brain, a stroke survivor may experience changes in thinking, problem solving, memory, or attention. Factors such as the location and type of the stroke will impact the presence and severity of these side effects. Changes in cognition can make it hard for people to communicate, control emotions, perform daily tasks, or return to work or hobbies.

Stroke survivors are often reluctant to seek out services for cognitive rehabilitation because they struggle with embarrassment, fear, or denial. In order to help break down these barriers I want to provide a window into what cognitive therapy after stroke may look like.

Step 1: Your medical team will send a referral to an SLP. Depending on your abilities, this may be for in-home or outpatient therapy. The clinic will likely check your insurance benefits and call you with details. Remember, just because your team sent a referral to one clinic, does not mean you have to go there.

Step 2: You will schedule an evaluation appointment with an SLP. This appointment will typically be 60-90 minutes long. Sometimes it is helpful for a caregiver to be present, so please ask about this when you schedule your appointment. During this appointment your therapist will ask you questions about your medical history, hobbies, and goals. After a short interview, your SLP will administer a cognitive test. This test may feel discouraging and exhausting at first, but the purpose of the test is to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and how to improve. You may feel very tired after this appointment so you may want to schedule time to rest after.

Step 3: After your evaluation, you will work with your SLP to form a therapy plan. This means deciding how many times to attend therapy weekly, how long therapy may last, and goals to address. It’s important to be honest with your therapist about what schedule is reasonable for you and what you want to accomplish.

Step 4: Therapy sessions may last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. During these sessions you and your therapist will work on different activities to help your brain heal and you achieve your goals. Ask your therapist questions such as “why are we working on this?”, give feedback about what doesn’t work for you. Let your therapist know if you left an appointment feeling exhausted. This will help make your therapy more effective. You will likely leave each session with exercises or strategies to practice throughout the week. You and your SLP should work as a team to help you recover.

Recognizing that cognition has changed and asking for help can be scary. But the services that speech-language pathologists can offer can help support your return to a full life after stroke. Please talk to your doctor and let them help connect you with the right provider.

Visit us on Facebook or Instagram to share your goals. Let’s work together to make 2020 a great year for all of us.  Check back each month as we help break down an overwhelming process piece by piece in our newsletter.

Special requests or questions? Email me today.

Mary Burns, MS, CCC-SLP has been working as a medical Speech-Language Pathologist since 2014. She specializes in working with adults with swallowing or communication disorders, especially after a stroke.

Working across the continuum of care gave Mary a unique perspective on strengths and needs in the rehabilitation system. This developed her passion for advocacy of person-centered care and the inclusion of patient and community education as a part of the recovery process.

Mary was drawn to Stroke Awareness Oregon because of their dedication to breaking down barriers that allow stroke survivors and their loved ones to access the services they need.  She can be reached at contact@overlandslp.com