Wednesday, June 10, 2009


He built his retirement house with his own hands and looked forward to a leisurely life outside the city. Wiry and strong, decisive and capable, his outward appearance was deceptively invulnerable.

The stroke happened one night as part of the left brain was deprived of blood for too long. Weakness of his right arm and leg resolved in a couple of months, but he remained unable to talk, unable to comprehend, uncertain of what he was seeing, locked inside himself.

He walks briskly outside with me for 30 minutes on nice days. I have to guide him across the street as he doesn't notice things on his right side. I talk to him about what we see, pretending he can understand.

Other days he pedals the stationary bike ferociously, lifts weights and walks on the treadmill. He is getting stronger and stronger. His high blood pressure is now treated so he won't have another stroke.

But what is life without the ability to communicate? How can you use a vocabulary which consists of "what to do", "fourteen" and "sh*t"? Books, television, radio make no sense and cannot alleviate the boredom of days that blend into weeks and months.

He does what any of us might do...

lashes out angrily and unpredictably when frustration builds intolerably, when words are incomprehensible, when others do not understand him...

and paces... paces... paces.


  1. Oh Ruth, this is a sad and too often told story. After two mini strokes, my Dad just sits and falls asleep while watching TV and waiting for someone to wheel him to meals.

    Somebody shoot me if that happens, please.

  2. Ruth--what a terrible outcome. Is there no hope of eventual recovery? Or is brain matter destroyed permanently?

  3. I know this is a sad story, but if it gets one person to get their high blood pressure treated it is worth telling. Unfortunately stroke damage is often permanent and spontaneous improvement usually occurs in the first few weeks. Brain scans show areas of permanent damage after strokes like this and brain tissue does not regenerate. The book "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Taylor tells an excellent personal story of stroke recovery, but most people do not achieve this.

  4. I have seen one of my co-workers twenty some years ago who had a stroke. It affected his speech and had writing, and so he could not communicate in any which way and the mental anguish he suffered. I have high blood pressure and see my doctor for rechecks every so often.

  5. Ruth,

    Strokes can debilitate us and yes, I don't wonder that he lashes out in angry. He must be so frustrated with no way to communicate.

    But for the grace of God...

    Praying for him, my friend.

  6. I just finished reading May Sarton's journal "After the Stroke." She fortunately recovered well but left us another interesting insight into post-stroke recovery. My patients worry endlessly about cancer, less so about heart attacks, and really never about strokes unless they've seen a near and dear one go through it.

    Interesting post, thanks!

  7. Hi sad.....I cannot imagine how that would be....I do know I would not like to be here, if that happened to me. Although that is easy to say......

  8. It is for good reason that hypertension is called the "Silent Killer." While the story you share is terribly sad, it is true for so many people. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.

  9. Scary. I seek solace in the fact that I usually test well in this one area.

  10. Information on Hypertension is something we can ALL benefit from. Thank you for posting this; very helpful. Thank you, Stacey


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