Waiting until after Thanksgiving to write this column, I wanted to share what has happened in the Schrader family these past eight months.
To start from the beginning, my wife, Kay, suffered a major stroke in April while we were visiting a classmate in New Glarus, Wisconsin. She was rushed to the University of Wisconsin Medical Center where a team of stroke specialists treated her with the latest technology. Two blood clots were removed from the brain, but the damage was extensive. The doctor told me at the time Kay probably would survive but not be the person I knew, because of the damage to the left side of her brain. This wouldn’t sink in until many weeks later as we struggled with her slow recovery and complications that brought more challenges.
After a week at UW-Madison she was transferred to Marianjoy in Wheaton, an acute care stroke rehab hospital closer to home. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, Rick Amato, we chose that hospital. This turned out to be one of the finest facilities for treating strokes and other brain injuries one could find. Two weeks later, she was ready to move into the sub-acute care nursing facility at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, where we have lived since moving back to DeKalb from California
10 years ago.
This was a blessing for me, as I had spent long days with her since April 14 and needed some respite from the daily round trips. It also meant Kay could be visited more readily by family and friends, plus be in familiar surroundings.
I cannot begin to thank all the people who helped us along the way, from the surgical team at UW-Madison, the specialists at Marianjoy, and all the medical and support staff around her at Oak Crest. Also I must mention the neurologist, cardiologist and psychiatrist at Kish-Northwestern, clergy and our family physician, plus other specialized therapists in physical, occupational and speech restoration. Kay’s sister, Carol, as well as nieces and nephews, also have been of great help and comfort. Others I will thank personally.
Kay’s greatest challenges have been to recapture some of her memory and speech. The long-term recollections are coming back, but the short-term memory still is a concern. Along with the stroke came aphasia (garbled speech) and apraxia (loss of comprehension) that affect many people. Fortunately, we have Northern Illinois University specialists close by who are working with Kay to regain some of her speaking ability.
She suffered a second, but less severe stroke in August, so more MRIs and CT scans were needed. This time, they found she had an atrial septal aneurysm (small bubble) in the inner wall of one chamber of her heart that apparently was causing small blood clots to move up to the brain. A blood thinner has now been prescribed to prevent that, but only time will tell whether this is the single cause.
Kay had her first overnight visit home Thanksgiving week to help make two pumpkin pies and share in our family dinner at her sister’s house. And she cherished every moment of it. We all gave thanks for her progress and cheerful spirit.
Having learned so much about strokes, recovery strategies and caregiving, I welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone who has this happen in their family.