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Apr 7, 2017
Good morning family and friends - As you are all now aware, Dad had a stroke on Sunday, March 19, 2017. It was the morning after his grand-nephew's wedding in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My cousins, Leah and Drew, stepped in and helped Mom and Dad get to the hospital that morning and stayed with them as the doctors figured out what was happening with Papa. Julie flew down the next afternoon, threw around her (minimal) weight, and got him on a plane bound for Mayo Clinic in Rochester by the next day - Tuesday afternoon. He spent a day and night in the ICU before being transferred to the Neurology floor, and then was on to the Rehab floor by Friday.
They say the stroke was in the right side of his brain in the cerebellum due to vertebral artery occlusion. It did not appear that his heart issues and recent artificial valve implant surgery had anything to do with the stroke. The doctors spent a few days regulating his blood pressure, wanting to keep it high in order to keep up the blood flow to the brain but not wanting it too high because of his heart condition. Once that was regulated and he had passed several swallow tests and other neurological tests, he was cleared to move to the Rehab floor. His spirits and speech have been good throughout. The stroke has caused frequent recurring hiccups, esophageal spasms (both of which lead to stomach nausea and vomiting), severe headaches, double vision and vertigo. He also suffered from a condition that the doctors say there is no technical name for but what Mom and Dad have aptly named "Schimelflippin" - Dad would suddenly feel as if the whole room was falling away from him to the left, and would therefore frantically overcompensate physically by tilting and grasping to the right. It was not fun for him for a week or so, as even a small movement would trigger the sensation. The good news is that all of his symptoms are starting to lessen in severity or he has learned to control them. So, he is able to control the hiccups and esophageal spasms when they come on and has not had an incident inducing vomiting in several days. His headaches come on less frequently and when they do, they typically resolve within a few minutes and without medication. The Schimelflippins come on less frequently and less severely and he now knows how to focus, find center, and breathe through it. The double vision is still present, so he covers one side of his glasses each day or closes one eye and that makes him able to focus, but correction of the problem will just take time. His left vocal cord is also "stuck" in a mid-line position, causing him to sound slightly horse, but tests showed that when he drinks, there is rarely any liquid getting down the trachea and that when it did, he coughed and was able to keep it out. They say that with the left vocal cord, it can take a year for the nerves to regenerate.
Other than all of that, Dad's life hasn't changed too much from before the stroke. He spends about four hours "exercising" every day with Mom goading him on, warning him not to eat too much, reminding him of the weight he put on while in South Padre on their beach vacation, while he begs everyone to please let him take a nap. :) Kidding aside, he is working his Kirky off in rehab. He has at least four hours of therapies a day (Physical, Occupational, Speech and Recreational). And of course he loves every one who has worked with him. He is working very hard to become more mobile and walking on his own is his current biggest challenge. His left leg does not want to cooperate.
The strangest part of this stroke has been that it energized the Willie Nelson area of his brain - he thinks he looks like him with his long white facial "scruff" so he wears a red bandana now, had mom make him some "braids" out of yarn, got himself a Willie Nelson classics CD and an in-room CD player, and makes the nursing staff print out lyrics for him to learn. Oh Papa. A stroke may slow him down a little bit for a while, but nothing can take away his love for people, life and embarassing his children.