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Local Column

Schrader: After you pick yourself up off the floor

Each day, Kay Schrader visits the chapel at Marianjoy Hospital in Wheaton, where she and her husband, Barry, attended Protestant services Sunday.
Each day, Kay Schrader visits the chapel at Marianjoy Hospital in Wheaton, where she and her husband, Barry, attended Protestant services Sunday.

My column title last week, “When you hit a brick wall in life,” couldn’t cover all the unfolding events and emotions one experiences after a life-changing event no one could predict.

The CT brain scans my wife, Kay, underwent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospital showed that before she suffered a stroke April 14 in New Glarus, Wisconsin, other earlier stokes had occurred, but small in comparison and often called transient ischemic attacks.

I had noticed some quirks in behavior, such as her freezing up when playing the piano during chapel one recent Sunday at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center. Another time, she forgot where she was, but chalked it up to the aging process.

Now, I realize one should seek a doctor’s advice if these unusual episodes occur. 

Last week, Kay was transferred from the Madison hospital neuroscience stroke unit to Marianjoy Hospital in Wheaton, an acute stroke care facility where she is undergoing evaluation and intense therapy.

When I say intense, I mean six sessions a day working on speech, memory, mobility, eating and swallowing, occupational, psychological and physical therapy. Two doctors in and out, along with many other staff members checking on her multiple times a day. She now has a heart-monitoring device to signal any unusual activity. 

I am exhausted just following her from floor to floor in the hospital.

But it is so important for family members to stay involved and to learn about aphasia and what it means when helping a person heal over the long haul.

They even have a full-sized car inside a room on the third floor for patients and family to practice the safe way to get in and out of the passenger seat. Shower cabinets duplicating what people might have in their homes is another tool they offer for people to learn how to bathe safely.

There is little time to feel sorry for yourself or your loved one, just a crash course on how you must respond to this and preparing you for what might lie ahead.

For Kay, the major problems are loss of memory, speaking ability and comprehension, as her physical strength has returned quickly, except for some motor skills on the right side that need tuning up.

The most emotional and uplifting moment for me came when we attended a chapel service Sunday, and as we sang “Amazing Grace,” I suddenly heard Kay quietly singing a couple lines of the chorus along with the rest of us.

You cannot imagine the joy that brought to my heart, knowing her memory of things past wasn’t totally erased, and more will be coming back in the days ahead I am sure of it.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at barry815@sbcglobal.net or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His past columns are posted on his website at www.dekalbcountylife.com.

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