3 things about my stroke that make me happy…


photo by motherdedia.com.au

I had a stroke almost 8 years ago.  Can you believe it?

As I think back, I marvel with how far I have come.  Of course, I am not where I WANT to be!  That is normal…right?  When I look at pictures of me in the hospital, I think about all the people who visited me during that time and I am grateful to all of you who visited me during those tough times.

I said it best in my talk:

After the stroke…

You might think those first few days after the stroke were tough, but they were EASY compared to the next 3 weeks at Rehab.  I was completely dependent upon others for all my needs… but really…. all I wanted to do was just sleep.  But they don’t let you “just sleep” at Rehab.  Recovery is the total focus.  Goals, instruction, repetition and discipline. These were the elements I had to embrace if I ever wanted to get up and get out of my wheelchair, and if I ever wanted to speak again.  That was my Everest, that was my Olympic medal — to get up…and walk and talk and think and function like the person I had been only a few days before.

It was so hard. I was so tired, and my brain was so scrambled – I couldn’t make sense of anything.  In speech therapy, I couldn’t point to a red triangle or a green square because I couldn’t make sense of those words.

In Occupational Therapy, I watched the therapist move my arm but I felt no connection to it.  In physical therapy, I couldn’t move my right leg because my brain didn’t recognize those muscles anymore. My whole right side slumped and sagged, forgotten by my damaged brain like a virus that has been deleted from a computer.  Everything I did or tried to do required all my attention.

How am I now?

  • My right side is at 90%.  I still can’t write, but that is my next goal.
  • Golf is coming back…slowly
  • I am still TRYING to get back to work.  That is more difficult than I ever imagined!

But why am I happy???

  • I walk 10,000 steps per day;  I have peaked at 16,000 steps per day!
  • I love my wife…even after 25 years together
  • I wake up and thank God I am still alive …and I truly look forward to the day ahead of me

I can look at  how I am now….or I can look at why I am happy just to be here. I am choosing number #2: why I am happy just to be here.

Regarding #1: I will eventually get there; it just takes time. Who knows:   When I do this again in another 8 years, I may be cured!  I am banking on it!

Focusing on the Bright Side

After Gordon and I speak to various audiences, I am always struck by the stories told to us privately by a few audience members.  People confide in us with their own difficult journeys, whether it be from illness or injury or whatever might have happened.

With each story, I am reminded to be grateful that Gordon has the opportunity to get better.  Not everyone has that chance.  Some must endure the long, slow decline of affliction, facing each day without the hope of improvement.  These people and the people who love them live with that reality.

Gordon and I have hope for a better tomorrow.  Rather than endure a long, slow decline, we persevere through a long, slow recovery, always optimistic that improvement is around the corner.  We remind each other how far Gordon has come in his recovery and talk about our goals for continued improvement.  We don’t want to squander this chance we have–a chance that many people don’t have.  We will focus on the bright side of our difficult journey.

Jill Viggiano