Conditions

Family Defines the New ‘Normal’ After Stroke

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Stroke survivor Christine and her husband Loren

Stroke survivor and CaringBridge user Christine and her husband, Loren

Three years after a shower emboli stroke left her in a non-responsive state for 10 days, followed by two months at three different hospitals, Christine Richards’ health journey continues. She speaks with what she calls a “stroke accent,” and her grammar and penmanship fall short of her standards as a longtime—and beloved—first-grade teacher. But she says, “My life is not over.”

Christine, of Laramie, Wyo., credits her life to the classroom aide and school nurse who called 911 when they noticed her words had stopped making sense.

They acted F.A.S.T., precisely as recommended by the American Stroke Association.

Quick response by paramedics enabled speedy treatment, including clot-busting medications to limit stroke severity. Eventually, it was a physical therapist who helped point Christine toward home: “She got me up to walk, and the exercise was good for my brain.”

A Family of Caregivers

As Christine continues reaching milestones—writing the letter “C,” then her full name, staying home alone for short periods, driving, shopping, lunch dates, back to the classroom—she draws strength and support from family and so many friends. Her husband, Loren, said, “The whole family has taken on the role as advocate for Christine, and that makes a difference in recovery.”

Christine advocates for herself, too.

“My old life had died, and I had to go through the grieving process,” she said. “It was hard for me to see my family go through it.” But they did, and they came out stronger. Her son, Dustin, said, “Lots of things changed, but our family dynamic did not.”

Dusty said at one point, he could identify with the role of family caregiver. “Mom was our caregiver for 30 years, so of course I could do this,” he said. “Mostly, we tried to not let her get ahead of herself.”

Christine’s daughter, Brittany, who lives in Denver, two hours away from her parents and brother in Laramie, said her caregiving specialty was—and is—emotional support. “I am the only daughter!” she said.

The New ‘Normal’

As the Richards family continues defining its new “normal,” Christine remains motivated by messages of hope and healing on the CaringBridge website set up by her daughter, Brittany, in the early days after the stroke.

“The comments make me strong,” Christine said. “I still need the strength and motivation. It is like hugs through the internet.”

It was in the blur of days immediately following the stroke that Christine’s family benefited from “hugs through the internet.” Updating her CaringBridge Journal became their nightly ritual. Husband, Loren, said, “Instead of having to respond to all the calls, we could cohesively put something together. It helped us decompress … it was a summary tool.”

Christine’s wish is to return to the classroom soon, albeit with fewer responsibilities than she previously managed. “My passion is teaching, and that is one thing I can’t achieve,” she said. “Not like I want to.” An effect of the stroke has been aphasia, an intermittent loss of ability for Christine to find words. But she vows to keep going, just one foot in front of another.

And in honor of American Stroke Month, celebrated during May, she offers a message to other stroke patients and their families: “Never, ever give up.”

May is American Stroke Month

In the United States, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. American Stroke Month, annually observed during the month of May, underscores the serious nature and high rates of stroke, raises awareness of the prevention and treatment of stroke, and highlights the importance of better care and support for survivors.

Since 1997, CaringBridge has helped hundreds of thousands of patients and families give and receive support during all types of health crises, including stroke. Now, CaringBridge is partnering with the American Stroke Association, whose mission is to teach the globe that stroke is treatable and support from family and friends is vital to recovery.

Learn more about stroke detection, prevention, treatment and recovery at www.StrokeAssociation.org.

Here When You Need It

Are you or a loved one caring for someone on a health journey? If so, start a CaringBridge website, where you can share updates and receive encouragement and support from your community.

Comments

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Joan rayburn Nov 05, 2016 1:07pm
Love caringbridge. When my husband was ill, it was a wonderful way to keep in touch with everyone.
Randi Schmechel Nov 28, 2016 1:15pm
Thank you for sharing this story. My husband had a major stroke in April 2016 and we are still working on recovery. It may take us longer than we thought to achieve our post stroke level of normal, but your story is so encouraging! And yes, the comments by friends and distant family are like hugs through the internet. They have kept me going during these difficult months. Best wishes to you, Christine, and your family!
christine richards Jun 15, 2017 10:03pm
My name is Christine Richards also and I had a stroke on October 7,2015. I had a lot of health issues starting in May of that year. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital because I had an abscess burst on my colon, I got sepsis from that and that is why I stayed 2 weeks . Then in August I had to have a colon resection and part of my small intestine removed. Recovered from that and had no idea what was next. That morning in October I got up went into the bathroom and came back to bed for a while, I was feeling fine however I sat on the bed and my whole left side was suddenly paralyzed. I knew I was having a stroke. My speech was slurred but my Stepdad heard me and called 911. The Arvada Fire Dept paramedics responded quickly and I got to the hospital , and was able to have the clot busting medicine that needs to be administered in a certain amount of time from the onset of the stroke. They took me to a room in ICU and in a short time I was able to move and speak . I recovered very well but I still have the times when I can't think of a word when I am talking ,my writing is good most of the time , and sometimes I have trouble trying to think of the simple things . I do consider myself very blessed. My advice to everyone is to act quickly if you think you or someone may be having a stroke call for help fast. Time is very important! To everyone that has had a stroke I wish you a quick recovery. Even when things go well after a stroke it is still a process you go through. You just keep on going emotionally and physically, sometimes getting your strength from within as well as from loved ones.