Jill offers her insight for another stroke family…

This is response to a daughter and her family learning how to care for her father.  So much struggle with a father early on in his recovery and a family struggling to hold together and deal with all the challenges.

I am sorry you and your family are experiencing such difficult times .I am guessing many caregivers who read your post will nod their heads in understanding .I can respond from my own experience:

– Life, as I and my family knew it, ended when my 51year old husband suffered a massive stroke. It took awhile to come to that realization, and it was a terrible realization.  However, over time it helped me to accept that fact.  I always say my husband’s is a story of recovery, mine is a story of surrender.  I am a Christian, and once I put my faith into practice, gave my fears and struggles to God, everything was better.  I learned to live one day at a time with the knowledge that I am not in control.  My job was to do my best.  That’s it.

– We learned to not listen to the naysayers. There is ALWAYS hope for recovery. We worked relentlessly on recovery and my husband has far surpassed all predictions. The key was the relentless persistence. He had lost his right side, his ability to speak, his memory, and his cognition was severely damaged. We are now 10 years post-stroke. He walks 5 miles a day, he mostly talks, his memory is much better, and though his cognition is still messed up, it is better than it was.  I count that as a huge win.

– My husband’s behavior was wildly out of control for about a year. He was mildly out of control for another year. He still has moments when he behaves erratically but nothing like it used to be.  Here is one tip I eventually figured out: with the stroke, he lost his sense of thirst. He would get severely dehydrated which impacted his behavior and ability. Watch his fluid intake.

– I cried for about 2 years. I just couldn’t let my kids see me cry so I cried in my closet.  It is normal.

– Sounds like your family needs some help dealing with the stress of it all. Turning on each other helps no one. Do you have access to counseling? A mediator? Even a life coach? You may not want to hear this but you are very early in the recovery process. Having a family plan that can grow and adjust with your dad’s improvement will help you all.

– I want to assure you that, although our life changed dramatically, it is good.  Different, but good. Your family’s life can be good too. It takes time and determination, but it is possible. Good luck!

How Did I Do???


During the preparation of this speech, I was getting nervous. I was forgetting some major points and I often forgot where I was in my presentation.

This made me quite concerned. Was I not prepared?  Or worse…was I forgetting things that I once knew?   These sort of things bother me know.

So I went into the speech with a LITTLE doubt.  I must admit: I was worried.

But the audience was great…and they gave me ANOTHER standing ovation!

As I was writing this, I received this email from one of the people in the audience:


Your story moved my soul!  What an amazing spirit you have and what a soul mate in your sweet Jill!  She should have received a standing ovation also – I am sure you agree.

I look forward to your weekly posts and seeing your continued journey.

That made me happy!

Here is one MORE risk!


Those with demanding jobs and little control seem most vulnerable, researchers found

Having a high-stress job, particularly one that is demanding but offers little personal control, may raise the risk for a stroke, Chinese researchers report.

An analysis of six previously published studies from several countries included nearly 140,000 people who were followed for up to 17 years. It found those with high-stress jobs had a 22 percent higher risk of stroke than those with low-stress jobs. Among women, the increased risk was even higher — 33 percent, the researchers reported.

“Many mechanisms may be involved in the association between high-stress jobs and the risk of stroke,” said lead researcher Dr. Yuli Huang, from the department of cardiology at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou.

Most important, high-stress jobs may lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise, Huang said.

“It is vital for people with high-stress occupations to address these lifestyle issues,” said Huang.

The studies that Huang’s team analyzed included one in the United States, three in Sweden, one in Japan and one in Finland.

Huang and colleagues grouped jobs into four categories based on how much control workers had over their job and how hard they worked or the psychological demands of the job. The categories included passive jobs, low-stress jobs, high-stress jobs and active jobs.

Job factors included time pressure, mental demands and coordination burdens. Physical labor and total number of hours worked were not included.

Those with passive jobs included janitors, miners and other manual laborers, who had little demand and little control. Low-stress jobs included scientists and architects, who had low demand and high control, according to the study.

High-stress jobs, which have high demand and low control, included waitresses, nursing aides and other service industry workers. People with active jobs, like doctors, teachers and engineers, had high demand and high control, the researchers said.

People in high-stress jobs were 58 percent more likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain — an ischemic stroke — than those with low-stress jobs. Those with passive and active jobs did not have any increased risk of stroke, Huang said.

The researchers said that more than 4 percent of overall stroke risk was caused by high-stress jobs. For women, however, high-stress jobs increased that risk to 6.5 percent.

The study has some limitations, the researchers noted. First, job stress was measured only once in the original studies. Second, other risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, were not accounted for in the original studies.

Dr. Jennifer Majersik, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said the study “shows what people have thought for a long time — that certain kinds of stress cause negative effects on health.”

Previous studies have shown a connection between work stress and heart disease, but this is the first research to show that association for stroke, she said.

However, the new study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between work stress and stroke.

Majersik thinks that lowering the risk of stroke may mean having more control over your work.

“There are ways in your workplace to increase control,” she said. These might include flexible hours and more power to make decisions. “These may not work, but I’d love to see them tried,” Majersik said.

In addition, people can change jobs to find one where they have more control, she said.

“I view job stress as another modifiable risk factor,” Majersik said. “We don’t yet know what to do about it. But I counsel my patients that this is something they should look at.”

Patients often ask if stress caused their stroke, Majersik said. “I haven’t known what to say, now I feel I can say, ‘You know, maybe.’ ”

SOURCES: Yuli Huang, M.D., department of cardiology, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China; Jennifer Majersik, M.D., associate professor, neurology, University of Utah, School of Medicine, Salt Lake City; Oct. 14, 2015, Neurology, online
Last Updated: Oct. 14, 2015

We are answering your questions…2


How did you get started with public speaking?
Early in Gordon’s stroke recovery, when we knew nothing of the journey ahead of us, we naively thought he would be fully recovered in 1 year.  We thought we would have a party for all the wonderful people who helped us and we would all celebrate the end of a horrible year.  At the 1-year anniversary of the stroke, Gordon was nowhere near recovered so we decided to postpone the party until the 2-year mark.  He had to be recovered by then, right?  At the 2-year anniversary, Gordon was still in terrible shape so we agreed we would celebrate full recovery at 3 years.  At the 3-year anniversary, we finally understood that recovery was probably going to be a lifetime pursuit and that maybe we should just have the party anyway.  Gordon agreed but he said he wanted to talk about the experience at the party.  It took 6 months to write “My Brain Has A Hole In It” and 8 months for Gordon to practice enough to deliver the speech.  On the 4-year anniversary, we had the party and Gordon spoke.  The overwhelming feedback was that Gordon needed to tell more people—and here we are!

How are the kids?
When the stroke happened, Rachel was 14 years old and Tommy was 12.  If those years weren’t hard enough, adding the chaos and devastation of their dad’s stroke pushed them in ways I never wanted for them.  The threat of losing their father and their home as well as the loss our lifestyle and routines was life changing.   It was painful, scary, and de-stabilizing.  The good thing is that the kids were able to see their parents stay committed to their marriage, be supportive no matter the circumstances, and rely on their Christian faith in good times and in bad.  Our kids are young adults now and are choosing their own paths.  We are proud of them and the choices they are making.  I don’t think we really know all the ways the stroke affected them.  They don’t like to talk about it.  Our hope is that they are able to move past the sad memories, have strong, stable marriages of their own, and appreciate the blessings of family and faith.

If 100% is full recovery, how recovered is Gordon?
I would rate Gordon as 80% recovered at the 7-year mark.  His memory is quite good.  We continue to see improvement in the right side of his body.  While his right arm has movement, it isn’t useful, controlled movement.  Language and cognition are the real problem.  He has dramatically improved his ability to converse but extended thought and expression are still out of reach.  Add any stress to the conversation and his language stops.

Jill Viggiano

Post-stroke PTSD is real!

ptsdA stroke is a traumatic physical and emotional event.

And it may take time for a stroke survivor to adapt and cope with all the changes they are experiencing.

Feeling anxious, afraid, and depressed are common experiences for stroke survivors, especially in the year following a stroke.

Some stroke survivors even experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stroke Survivors and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.

According to a study led by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center:

• Each year nearly 300,000 stroke survivors develop PTSD as a result of their health scares.
• One in four stroke survivors suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within the first year.
• One in nine stroke survivors experience chronic PTSD more than a year later.

Support from family members and counseling with a mental health professional can help stroke survivors regain a sense of calm and normalcy in their lives after a stroke.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you believe a stroke survivor may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD after his or her stroke.

Reaching Out for Help

Let your stroke recovery team know if you suspect a stroke survivor may be suffering from PTSD or is experiencing bouts of depression or anxiety.

A doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help with depression or ease anxiety.

And a strong social network may be able to aid in a stroke survivor’s emotional recovery and guard against PTSD.

As a caregiver, encourage a stroke survivor to tell you how he or she is feeling each day.

Be sure to reach out to family and friends for emotional support. Visits and phone calls can make a big difference for caregivers and stroke survivors alike.

Joining a support group where a stroke survivor can share their feelings and experiences with others who are further along in their recoveries may also help to ease anxiety and lift a stroke survivor’s spirits.

Source: Posted by Lucy Lazarony of StrokeSmart