Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Reading is Fundamental

Remember this?

Circa 1973

Okay. I apologize. Some of y'all are much younger than I am. RIF (Reading is Fundamental) is the largest nonprofit organization for literacy in the US and it was founded way back in 1966. Yes, I remember back that far too. Their goal was to put a book in every child's hand to encourage reading. It's a fabulous group. So what does this have to do with stroke survival? Well, I was getting to that.

One of the areas I was hit hardest by my strokes was in the ability to read written words and follow it through with comprehension. This may boggle your mind because I'm writing and editing this blog. The brain after a stroke or other insult injury is a curious thing. Yes, I used the word "insult" on purpose. According to my dictionary it means...

    1.   a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or action.
      2.   Medicine                                                                         
                       an event or occurrence that causes damage to a tissue or organ.
To me it also means an insult to my intelligence. I was a published author prior to my second stroke with hopes of being one again. So yes, I consider my strokes as an abusive action and a medical event also. So instead of calling my stroke a CVA (cardiovascular accident), I call my "events" CVI (cardiovascular insults). Make sense?

But I digress.  ((My poor, damaged brain. It's too young in recovery to be alone in the dark)) 

I've actual got it better than some folks living post stroke. I at least have my phonetic spelling. I can read a word list all day long. The problem is comprehension. I'm slow as a tortoise crossing the road. (I actually had to look up how to spell tortoise correctly) Comprehension comes when I read something written three times or sometimes more. That's an improvement over just a year ago when it was five or more times.

I have both receptive (comprehension) and anomic (word finding) aphasia in varying times and degrees. Even over three years after my strokes. I have to say that I work harder on recovering this skill than any other. Why? Because, it's actually easier for me to do than any other loss I have (physical). When I went from creating text at a rate of 50,000 words a week (pre-stroke) to  struggling to do 600 words (post stroke) is a hard blow for me. Typing (physical) one handed is secondary. 

My reading comprehension being what it is, is another hard blow. Since I was first old enough to read, reading was my best friend. It was communicating with the world around me. It was escapes into different lives (even just for a moment). It was educating my thirsty mind. It fed my soul to the point of me being a glutton.

Now, it affects every day of my life. Being the granddaughter of a librarian who instilled in me a love of reading, sure doesn't help. It also made people gifting me trouble too. Reading recipes to cook. There is a major difference between a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of salt. Even reading the newspaper, or letters (emails) is a major chore. I do it, but the joy of reading has simply died in me. This is cause for a major depression and grief to strangle me into asphyxia.  

Stranger to me is that my medical terminology is intact, but everything else I struggle with. Different part of the brain, I guess. Go figure. There is no rhyme or reason to understanding how the brain works. That's what makes stroke recovery so difficult to standardize. It's worse than an shallot with all the fine layers.

I  often say that, in regards to my stroke, I miss my mind the most, but let me fine tune that. I miss my reading comprehension But there's hope that I will recover what I lost, because...
Nothing is impossible.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Disabled, Yet Able. The Dangers of Living Alone.

I awoke at 2 AM Sunday morning and I'm gasping for breath. No, my cat isn't lying on my chest with her twenty pound bulk. It was a pretty frightening feeling. The fact that I'm alone in the middle of the night, and having what might be a serious problem slammed home with me. Being past medically trained, I started evaluating my symptoms and possible causes. A physician heal thyself type of things.

I grabbed a pulse/oxygen monitor out of the bed side table. That's a good thing about my beloved dying as he did six months ago. I have plenty of diagnostic equipment that I had bought over the years of his care. Both were fine. I took my blood pressure, again the numbers were picture perfect. "Okay, Jo. You're fine. Get up and make this trip to the bathroom and try to get some more sleep,"I said as much trying to convince myself and reassure myself at the same time.

I was huffing and puffing pretty hard by the time I got on my AFO and shoes to make the trip to the bathroom. I started with a dry, hacking cough with the exertion. Gaining the floor and making my way to the bathroom, I noticed I'd picked up a wheeze in my breathing and that I felt like as if someone was pushing on my left shoulder blade and rib cage. Grabbing my steroid inhaler out of the office as I made my way to the bathroom was only a matter of four extra steps. Was my allergies messing with my breathing? I did a double puff of my inhaler as the directions instructed while I emptied my bladder. I sat there waiting for the inhaler to loosen my bronchial tubes. That where the wheezing was coming from. It always did in the past.

I was hit by waves of profuse nausea and the room began a dangerous circular movement. I actually grabbed the vanity to steady myself. Something was definitely off. I grabbed the digital thermometer from the basket on the back of the commode. A hot flash from hell had engulfed me and I was sweating enough for it to puddle in the abundant creases and rolls in my aging body. No fever. In fact my temperature was a degree below normal for me.

I'm on the commode feeling like crap. Cool washcloth on the back of my neck, wastebasket standing by, my affected elbow balancing me with the back of the commode. I'm sitting there in my Wonder Woman nightgown which is now damp knowing there is something going on with me with no empirical proof that there is something physically wrong with me. Could it be a panic attack? It was six months to the day of my husband dying. No, I was actually okay with that. Well, honestly not okay, but you know what I mean. It didn't make sense to me. Boy, did I ever pick the wrong nightshirt to wear. It should have been a "Super Wimp"nightgown.

So where was my cell phone? On my nightstand, of course. I don't have pockets in my nightgown, Silly. I waited almost an hour waiting for whatever was going on to stop. It didn't. I'm still trying to run down a list of possible things it could be. As I passed the front door, I opened it. I knew outside was in the 30s, but I kept thinking that if the nausea would go away then everything else would stop too. Sitting on the wicker patio chair, I took in big gulps of cold, rainy air. Maybe some toxic gas was leaking in my house like carbon monoxide. It can cause those symptoms too. But I didn't even have my little space heater running.

Outside felt good. I wasn't cold. In fact I could feel heat pouring from the back of my neck with my cool hand. What in the devil was going on???? Were the symptoms vanishing? Easing up? Remaining the same? Getting worse? It wasn't worse, but it wasn't better either. The cold weather wasn't helping with everything, but I was no longer sweating. I thought about making the dozen steps to my cell phone and calling 9-1-1. This had been going on for three hours at this point. It wasn't a life threatening emergency. A funny thing about emergency personnel, me included, we don't call unless it's absolutely necessary. We know what are emergencies too. This wasn't one. Whatever THIS was, it wasn't killing least not quickly.

The sun had started its morning trek across this part of the globe. I decided to spare the neighbors the sight of a older woman in her pajamas sitting on her front porch. As I rose, gravity loosen a particular sphincter and my drawers were filled with warm morning muck. Great! As if I didn't feel bad enough!

I waddled into the bathroom for a clean up and a shower. It's a good thing that I have a sprayer head on my shower and a seat. With the vertigo, I never would have made it through a regular shower. The nice thing about my walk-in tub is that I'm surrounded on all sides. I can't fall anywhere. I opted to not fill the tub but let it drain freely just in case my bowels decided to unloose again. A smart decision on my part.

The steam from the shower increase my chest pressure and my coughing came in full fits now. I dried off, and donned a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The idea of putting on anything more was just too much work.

I texted my daughter, two towns over, stating I didn't feel well. In case she was asleep, a text message wouldn't wake her. She answered me back within a half hour. By now my shortness of breath had worsened until my words were now back to when I first started recovering from aphasia. It took a while to explain what was going on. She decided to come over and take me to the ER.

While I waited the hour it took for her to drive to my house a thought struck me. I could be going into congestive heart failure again. No obvious symptomatic swelling of the hands or feet, but I'm Abby normal like that. By the time my feet or hands swell, I'm in serious trouble. I can hold upwards of 13 lbs of harmful fluids in my torso before my extremities swell. That's a whole lot of pressure on my already damaged heart. I hopped on the scale for a quick weight check. Only a five pound gain of fluids overnight. Not really unusual for me and nothing 40 mg of Lasix wouldn't fix in short order. So another logical, medical reason for my distress was shot down. Now, I'd officially ruled out any life threatening conditions.

My cough worsened to match my now upright sitting labored breath. With the coughing spells had more trips to the bathroom with me seated and hugging the waste bin. I kept telling myself if I'd just vomit, I'd feel better. My daughter arrive and she checked me out. She works for Hospice. I gave her the benefit of doubt in mama's training and experience which is five times greater. She was as stumped as I was. We loaded into my van and drove to the hospital.

The hospital wasn't taking any chances. I didn't even make it to the triage room before I was whisked to the acute care section and put on a cardiac monitor. I was relieved to see my "normal" semi-sinus rhythm appear on the screen. An IV was started, multiple tubes of blood drawn, and a chest x-ray was completed in short order. I did two rounds of breathing treatments with respiratory which didn't help a bit. Well, maybe a little bit. We sat an waited on the blood cultures.

Eventually, three hours after I arrived at their doors I was released. The doctor said all of my numbers were good. In fact, my test results were better than his. I have a viral infection of unknown composition. It can take up to three days to grow the bacterial cultures. I was released with a new inhaler to use in conjunction with my steroid one and a heavy duty Z Pack (Zithromax) prescription. I wasn't running a fever because my body wasn't fighting the infection yet. The Z Pack is just in case any bacteria grows in the cultures.

Am I satisfied with my care? I dunno. I didn't get an answer to what is exactly wrong with me. In the mean time, I still feel like crap. Immodium has done its job once again. I had my daughter open a full box of the little suckers and place them in a small pill bottle for me. The nausea comes and goes but I've got some Phenagren if it becomes too problematic. The pressure in my left side of my chest is still present. The doctor did say that it may be a case of walking pneumonia in the early stages. My coughing fits have lessened somewhat for the time being.

Right now, I'm feeling a bit like a stroke survivor feels when they start or continue to ask questions about their stroke. It is all up to you. I know that feeling all too well. Nobody has the answer and I'm playing stump the doctors.

I'm relieved and terrified by the fact that I'm alone in this house. If I'm ever without my cell phone, it could be disastrous or deadly. I'm going to be sewing pockets in ALL of my nightgowns just for my cell phone. This whole scenario could have been worse. It all goes back to what I was saying a couple of posts ago. Being independent/able and being disabled is not a good place to be. Living alone, with the nearest neighbor half an acre away, is not a position I want to be in anymore. Too many things could/can happen.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: An another Six Million Dollar Word and Stroke Recovery

Okay, this week I'm starting this week with a song.

No, I don't have this phobia, but it seems to fit today's topic for discussion.

Science is grand for coming up with humongous words to describe something simple. Today's term is neuroregeneration. It's a six million dollar word for regrowth of nerves.

A few years ago, I talked about this here on my blog having experienced it first hand after a back surgery deadened all feeling in both legs from the calf down. It took two years for the nerves to start regrowing enough to regain the sensation back in my feet. It came back in quarter size increments until there was only quarter sized increments of no feeling. I'm talking about full thickness loss of sensation. Example-I stepped on a nail and it inserted clear through my shoe and out the top of my shoe, and I didn't feel it. Now I feel everything when it comes to my calf down after twenty years.

In 2014, I said that it was the year of my stroke recovery that I would start to show gains again after the six month window of greatest recovery past. I was right and wrong. It was also the year that my spasticity raised its ugly head into full force too. I knew the nerves were regrowing because I could actually do more in living post stroke. I made some amazing gains in spite of the spasticity. Mainly, I relearned how to knit and was trying to spin wool into yarn. I was branching out and learning new ways to achieve what I wanted.

Today is the beginning of 2016 and I expect even more regrowth and more achievements because of my neurogeneration. With each passing week, I can reach farther with better control of my extremities. My leg still goes berserk when places like my knee are tapped  for reflex, but not near as great as it once did. I have greater dexterity in my motions like lifting my foot and placing it exactly where I want to place it. It makes walking more sure footed a breeze. But it doesn't mean I won't misstep and fall. I still do that but not on a daily basis now. More like weekly or monthly.

Neuroregeneration, continued therapy, dry needling, and Botox helps enhance these gains. My arm is coming along. It still has a way to go in pin point accuracy, but from what I understand, this is normal for the recovery process. The wrist and fingers are the last to respond. I'm still waiting and am hopeful. I'm already seeing gains with the reduction of spasticity. I can, on a low spasticity day, pinch my index finger to my thumb. That's a huge gain from a year ago when my hand was permanently clenched in a fist. It's amazing how the body will heal itself. The contratures in my wrist and middle two fingers stop actual straightening and full supenation and a full recovery. Surgery to resolve the contractures is useless until the spasticity is no longer present. So I have a long term goal of no more spasticity. It's never been done before but like I always end these posts, nothing is impossible.

I'd be dreaming if there was a way to resolve these problems with a pill, but who knows, science is always evolving. Maybe one day there will be. Take me and spasticity is history, or drink me and grow nerves back instantly. It was would be like Harry Potter fixing his broken arm with a spell or potion, but that's only fantasy today. Still studies are being made weekly on the possibilities so who knows.

I'm not really buying into instant gratification these days, but it would be nice, wouldn't it? Fantasy and Science fiction ring true with time. Not always the way we expect, but every day is forward progress. Maybe one day my great-great-great grandchildren will reminisce about how great-great-great grandma was paralyzed by a stroke but we don't have to suffer like she did now. How hard and long she took to recover from it. Thank goodness, it's not like that any more. We've got this pill that cures all the bad stuff that happens to the brain after a stroke. What do want to bet that scientists will come up with another six million dollar word to describe it's function too.

Nothing is impossible. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Moving On

I've had a good, hard look at what I cannot do by myself and what I can. I've scrapped the idea of living on my own and establishing a homestead. It's just taking too long to recover from my strokes. By the time I'm functional enough to do it all by myself, my dying heart won't let me. The latter part of last year and the first part of this year has been me being bluntly honest with myself. Isn't that what a birth of a new year suppose to be? Maybe it's just a "me" thing.

Ever heard, the more things change they remain the same? Well, I'm in for a big change in a couple of months. I'm leaving the only city I've ever had "roots" ( lived in for more than 5 years) in. I've gone back and forth on my decision for months. You've read it all here and now I've decided. I need a new start and some fresh scenery. It's another "what do I want to be when I grow up" move for me. I've already had to do this four times in my life. It will be my homestead dream also with a twist.

The situation isn't money related. I've got enough to live comfortably for the rest of my life... just as my beloved originally planned although not in the way we planned. Still God is good and faithful. God opened a window of opportunity for me. I have prayed long and hard about it for several months and come away with peace that I'm following Him.

Do you remember when I went up to north Georgia to buy rabbits in October? I met the woman (I've been talking to her for years) who had a homestead, but was building it with .no idea what she was doing? Yes, I'm talking about Mel. She offered me a place on her homestead. She had her prayer answered and found a job which meant she had less time for the homestead property. So I'm moving there in two or three months. The reasons behind and leading up to my decision are pretty plain. I need her and she needs me.

I looked at how busy my children and grandchildren have become. They no longer have much time for me...maybe every two weeks or so. And that's the only daughter I have living an hour away. The rest are hours away. I could actually be dead that long, long time before anyone missed me. Now that's a scary thought.  I miss the companionable chats or silence I had with my beloved. How much help I actually needed was examined too. Or at least it would make my life easier.

For instance, I've been on this peanut butter and jelly sandwich kick for about a week now. Well, it came time to open a new jar of peanut butter. I placed the jar under my affected arm and tried to open it. I love having my shoulder back! No luck. The jar wouldn't budge. I placed the jar between my knees. Again no luck. I was cursing myself for not buying one of those nifty jar opening gadgets. I finally got the plastic lid off by running it under the hot water tap. This was only a stinking, plastic lid! I still had the foil-paper liner to deal with but because I had put it in water, the paper came off in tiny pieces. Yeah, it's a tiny, kinda no nothing example, but still.

Think of how hard it is to open Immodium pills, after a painful, time consuming,and energy draining session on the 'mode with business and clean-up. Knowing that if I could just take these two little, blast pills it could stop another session. But before the next bout sends me scurrting to the bathroom again, I have to take the pills. No, but  first, I have to pull off the paper backing and then push the plastic on one side to get the pill through the foil backing (if the pill doesn't disintegrate). Or when a new pharmacist doesn't reads the instructions on his computer about using non-child proof lids on my prescriptions. It leaves me to put the bottle in my mouth to manipulate it to open it. Wet teeth does a fantastic job of ripping the prescription number that I have to call in for refills with. Child-proof I understand, but really! Having someone around who actually HAS two working hands would make all this unnecessary. Of course, I'm listing only mild irritants, but think if it were one of a thousand other things I cannot do or easily do?

I take pride in myself for a never give up attitude, but it gets extremely tiresome. Nothing worth having comes easily, is true, but does the same thing apply for picking a hill instead of a mountain? I mean if it gives you the same results? In this case, I've tried doing everything totally alone for almost six months.  Lord knows, there are plenty of mountains I'll have no choice but to charge up to achieve success. I think I'm capable of doing that if I conserve my energy for the summits. I sure ain't getting any younger.

So my physical location may change but the Murphey Saga continues.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Ya Gotta Love Those Mini Tropical Vacations

I keep telling y'all, it's all about attitude. How you perceive things in and around you can make or break whether you are content and happy, or miserable and unhappy.

The way you function after a stroke is no different. You are more likely to be more productive and successful with a positive attitude than a grumpy, discontented, and negative attitude.

It's a fact of life that, if you are female, the change of life (menopause) will occur if you live long enough. One of the side effects of this is hot flashes. I look at these as personal global warming events or mini tropical vacations. They are absolutely miserable in the height of summer or a welcome burst of heat in the winter. Everybody and their sister touts a "fix" for this condition. It's that big of a thing. A huge multi billion dollar industry is devoted to relieving them.

My conjecture is... why bother? Yes, it's a physiological body reaction to the end of the productive cycle of your life, by why try to fix something that is natural and unbroken. Just like the real global warming, be it man made, or a natural occurring cycle... it happens. Accept it and move on. It's all about attitude.

For me, I look at them as mini tropical vacations. Let me grab a pineapple juice, my sunglasses, a fan, and lie back in a lounge chair basking in the heat of the sun. It's  an honest to God, me time. Nobody else can enjoy these moments with me. It's all about me. How many times can women actually say that!

It being winter in the northern hemisphere has it's advantages. When one of these moments hits, I can grab a t-shirt or tank top to wear. It could be freezing or below outside, but I'm in my own tropical paradise lounging on the beach. How cool is that? Wish I could take y'all with me while you are crouched beside a heater, in your heavy sweaters trying to get warm. My internal heater is working overtime.

I'm lying on a beach in 80 degrees weather basking in the sun. While you are turning various shades of blue because of the cold, look at the rosy, sun kissed glow on my cheeks. Your hands are cold and going numb with it? Grab hold of my arm, your hands will be toasty in no time. Have blankets up to your nose in bed and still cold? Come on over for a snuggle.

Yes, there are definite advantages to hot flashes in the winter. But summer is a different story. Everyone else is basking in a tropical sun while you are walking on it. They can be pretty intense during the summer. I take time out during these times. I lazily lounge on a deck chair with a glass of iced tea. I found citrus juices go a long way in putting fluids in your steaming radiator of a body. I'll don my swim suit (mentally) and sunglasses. If you keep running a car on a overheated car you'll kill your engine. The same goes for your body.

Fortunately/unfortunately these are not constantly occurring events. They stop as quickly as they start. Everything is cyclical in life. What goes around will come again. So enjoy the cycles in between and during.
Be Victorian
Be Mysterious
Be Sexy
Nothing is impossible.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Updates and Therapy

So I'm a day late and a dollar short this week, sue me because you can't get blood out of a stone. You will understand after you read this. I've had a week from hell.

First of all, my father survived his heart attack has now been moved out of the CCU. He's still on heavy doses of Heparin to reduce the chance of another heart attack and the possibility of having a stroke. Physical therapy has been in and they are walking him short distances. Needless to say, that the blockage and the subsequent death of part of his heart muscle limits what he can do. It's a rough adjustment he'll have to make and he doesn't like it at all.

This past weekend (Friday through Sunday) felt like it was ten days worth of activity for me. In between visits to the hospital, I have been the go between for my father and his condition for the rest of the family. Although I didn't see them at Christmas, this weekend made up for it. I saw and talked with each one of my brothers and sisters, my children and everyone's children and grandchildren that are old enough to be on their own. Not to mention my aunts, uncles and cousins. That's a passel of of phone calls, text messages, and emails. My unlimited cell phone plan got a work out for sure.

My twelve spoons of daily energy took a beating also. I think I borrowed enough spoons of energy into the next two weeks. I seriously paid for it last Sunday by not being to get out of bed for almost the whole day. My Fibromyalgia decided to yell at me and make its present felt too which didn't help. It was a day of a locked door and just answering the phone. I put peanut butter, jelly, and bread in a basket by my bed, and had four quart size bottles of water by my bed. I didn't move more than I had to. It just hurt too bad to do so. I haven't had an attack like this is a very long time. Even with the round the clock care of my husband didn't set one off this bad.

I finally was able to get the mail from my mailbox. I'VE BEEN APPROVED FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY AND SSI!!!! It's only taken almost 4 years and losing my spouse. Yippeeeee! I won! This was my only bright spot.

By Monday, my fibro had settled down to a dull roar. I was in physical therapy bright and early at 8AM. I desperately needed the dry needling to make the residual pain go away. Of course with the fibro flare and the stress, my spasticity worsened a bit, but all it took was a few needle sticks to straighten that out. My arm is comfortably at my side now and my wrist is back to a 30-45 degree bend. My range of motion of my shoulder steadily increases with less pain. So on a whole, I live for and get a giddy excitement on therapy days, because once again I'm making forward progress.

While my physical therapist is Bobath trained (not certified), he uses anything and everything to get results. He spends his weekends (when not with his wife and children) reading of new ways to help his patients. Now THAT IS DEDICATION! I love people like me that think outside the box. My neuro responses, since my strokes, is opposite of what they should be. The normal response of needling the tricep should be the tightening of the bicep. If my bicep is tight, he has to needle my tricep to stop it from being spastic. If he needles my bicep, it will go into spasms. I'm even more Abby Normal than I was before my strokes. Go figure. Talk about crossed signals in the brain. I really do have scrambled eggs for brains.

My dry needling with working Botox sessions have resulted in almost normal tone in my upper arm, elbow and forearm down to almost the wrist within a year. That's with a reduction by half to none of the three muscle relaxers at maximum strength per day I was taking with Botox alone. My arm no longer draws tight against my chest. At the most my arm will bend at the elbow to 45 degrees. My wrist has play in it that will allow me enough movement to stretch it almost to neutral on most days. My fingers will open to a cupping position instead of a tight fist. If it wasn't for the contractures in my wrist and fingers, I imagine I could get better extension. I can almost fully supinate my wrist all but about 15 degrees now. Again the contractures keeps it from going farther. The spasticity in my leg only needs treatment once a month to keep it in check.  I'd call this experimental treatment a huge success for my post stroke spasticity. And, as awesome as all this is there is more...I'm pain free!

Therapists that keep an open mind are few and far between. Most do the same as they were originally taught in school for their whole career. The ones who excel and win the praises of their patients /referring doctors are even fewer especially when it comes to treating problems that are neuro in origin. Most therapist shy away from neuro patients because it's frustrating. Think what it's like for the patient.

Remember doctors and therapists are your employees. You can expect even anticipate positive results or fire them because...
Nothing is impossible.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Life Isn't Fair

Happy New Year everyone!

So how did you spend New Year's Eve? Was it spent partying and drinking with friends? Did you quietly watch the ball drop on the television and all the fireworks afterwards? Did you thank God that this year was over because it's been such a bad one for you? The new year has got to be better than the last one! I fall into the latter category as you can imagine.

New Year's Eve started just like any other day for me. I forgot it was the last day of the year. I really haven't exactly been in a celebratory mood for months. Sure there have been some happy moments that I'll cherish but nothing totally lifted me out of my grief. But I've put on a happy face and continued on.

I didn't even realize it was New Year's Eve until my physical therapist told me and asked if I had any plans or a special meal I fix for the occasion. All the while, he was searching for trigger points to deaden with dry needling.  I actually felt pretty good. The autumnal slump with my Botox was history and the new series was working as advertised. My shoulder which had a torn rotor cuff was healing, or at least wasn't painful when stretched. I'm actually 15 degrees away from full rotation again which pleases me to no end.

My cell phone in my shorts pocket rang. Yes, you read that right. It was around 80 degrees here today. I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. Nothing interrupts my therapy unless someone is dying. Of course, if anyone I cared about was dying, I'd have their number in my phone. Makes sense, right? Whoever it was left a voicemail message so I didn't worry about it.

During my therapy session my phone started signaling a low battery so I turned it off. We finished the session an hour later and I drove home to charge my phone. As soon as it had enough of a charge. The unknown number showed up as a missed call. I called my voicemail to get the message left.

The one number I didn't have was my stepmother's cell phone number. Her voice was on the message. My father had been admitted to the hospital for chest pains. He was having a heart cath done, but his cardiologist assured her he'd be just fine. My father had had a heart attack and had quadruple bypass done a dozen years ago. I knew this was serious.

I kicked myself for stopping at the drug store and grocery store before going home from therapy. I should have spent that time at the hospital. I kicked myself all the way to the hospital. My stepmother had told me his room number in the message. It did not register in my mind that he wasn't on the surgical or regular telemetry floor until I got off the elevator on his floor. He was in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit!

I walk into his room and was jovial offsetting my fear. I asked him how he was doing and told him it was obviously my turn to visit him in the hospital instead of the other way around. He chuckled and told me what his cardiologist had said during the heart cath procedure. He couldn't bust through the clot to open it up. In other words, he was still in his heart attack phase with the clogged artery denying blood to the lower half of his heart. Just like with a stroke seconds equals brain cell death, a clogged artery equals heart muscle death.

They started him on some potent blood thinners, were giving him nitroglycerin, morphine, and ativan. That hopefully, this would dissolve  the clot and return blood flow to his heart. Because of his advancing age (80+), the degree of coronary artery disease, his diabetes, and the scarring from his previous bypass...another bypass was out of the question. There are a whole lot of risks managing a MI this way. The clot could dissolve from its 100% blockage state and he'd be fine again (best case scenario), the clot could break free and could possibly go to his brain giving him another stroke (moderate case scenario), or the clot could be stubborn and not dissolve, and kill him (worst case scenario). I should mention at this juncture that I've never heard or seen the best case scenario happening. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen. I'm just saying.

Later, I texted my physical therapist about what had happened and his wife (my old speech therapist) called me. They are both head of my stroke group and I count them as friends. 

She exclaimed, "It just isn't fair! You've already had so much go on!" 
I retorted, "Whomever told you life is fair? Life isn't fair. It just is."

Life happens. Good, bad, happy, or sad. All we can do while living it is hang on the best we can and adapt to the changes. Living is adapting to changes, accepting them, and moving beyond. So once again, I'm awaiting another life change. One that comes to all of us if we live long enough.
       O God, give us the serenity to accept
        what cannot be changed,
        The courage to change what can be
        changed, and the wisdom to know
        the one from the other.
                                           --Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)
Bet you were wondering where to Serenity Prayer came from. Now you know. But more interesting is the rest of the prayer...
         Living one day at a time,
        Enjoying one moment at a time,
        Accepting hardship as a pathway
        to peace,
        Taking, as Jesus did,
        This sinful world as it is,
        Not as I would have it,
        Trusting that You will make all
        things right,
        If I surrender to Your will,
        So that I may be reasonably
         happy in this life,
        And supremely happy with You
        forever in the next.

Now you know where this principle in my life comes from.

Nothing is impossible.