Monthly Archives

March 2018

My Father's Recovery

Starting to follow commands

 

I visited my dad early last Tuesday and brought him some flowers. Prior to this, he always made sure to have flowers in a vase on our kitchen table and he loooooved to garden. 

I started to separate the bouquet of flowers and showed him how I was putting each stem in the vase. I urged him to take a flower from my hand and try to put it in the vase, and he DID! 3 TIMES! 

This was such a huge step for him in my eyes. It has been a bit of a struggle because of his Aphasia for him to follow commands. 

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My Father's Recovery

A new rehab

Almost two weeks ago my father transferred to a rehab closer to home, which our family was super relieved about. In a way, though, I was a little scared. When a patient is transferred from one facility to another it can be a huge set back for them. It means new evaluations, tests, nurses, aids, therapists, doctors, and the list goes on. Luckily, I feel as if my dad has stayed the same and realizes he is closer to home. He now has friends and family visiting everyday which is a huge plus for everyone.

I scheduled a day with the team to watch my dad in therapy. He gets an hour of speech, physical, and occupational therapy 5 days a week. We are four months in since the incident and the team keeps saying this is the “beginning beginning” of his recovery. After being in a coma for a month, it still took my dad a very long time to stay awake and be alert throughout a whole day.

To break it down..

Speech Therapy: Mainly the therapist is working on his chewing + swallowing. He currently is on a pureed diet (100% blended food). The therapist is starting to introduce some scrambled eggs + french toast. This makes me so excited. In my opinion, one of the reasons he is so weak is because he hasn’t been able to eat real food in 4 months. I am eager for him to start building up some strength from eating again. For right now he needs assistance with using utensils. BUT he is starting to take a cup of juice, bring it to his mouth, and drink it himself (which is sooo exciting!) As far as speaking goes, he will occasionally said “yeah” or “okay” out loud. Otherwise, if you put a phone to his ear, you’ll get some more out of him. All the therapists are working on getting him to speak by constantly asking him questions and talking to him.

Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy is working on getting him back to the basics. They work on showing him how to brush his hair, brush his teeth, get dressed, etc. They really try to get him to follow commands, which he struggles with due to his Aphasia. My dad know’s what we are telling him to do, but his brain won’t connect to his body to allow him to do so. In the past week we are starting to see him make more of an effort with focusing on what we are telling him to do. 

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy + occupational therapy over lap a lot. In both sessions they get him out of his wheelchair to sitting on a mat. My dad needs 100% assistance to do all of that. They are working on building up his tolerance for sitting. Right now he is able to sit with their help for about 15 minutes. No one knows what he will gain back physically, it’s something that is going to take a lot of time and work. The good thing is, he is tolerating it. He is always willing to participate and will smile at the end of his sessions. 

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My Father's Recovery

Physical Therapy

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Physical Therapy is something my dad will have to do the rest of his life. Right now at rehab, they are working on standing him up. They lift my dad from his bed with a harness, and lay him on a tilt table, strapping his body down. The tilt table allows them to see how far he can go without his blood pressure dropping.

The biggest concern + struggle is as they raise him more to standing position, his blood pressure drops, and they have to stop. If his blood pressure drops too low, they risk him passing out.

After a few weeks, his blood pressure stayed stable while doing the tilt table. Now, the physical therapists were working to stand him up. It takes equipment and a team to do so because my father is not able to hold his own weight. He has a harness around his body, a table in front of him, and people holding him up in order to get him on his own feet.

The team told me when they actually try to stand him on his feet, he starts to curse the whole time. The fact that his right side hasn’t moved in 3 months, and he has been laying in bed for that long, his body can’t handle the change of standing. One of the physical therapists said to me.. it’s funny how some of these patients can’t speak.. and then they start cursing up a storm in physical therapy. It’s just an automatic response to pain for them, or really for anyone.

I can’t wait for the day my dad will be able to stand on his own again. It could take a very long time, but he is dealing with the pain. As time goes on, I am hopeful it will get easier for him.

 

My Father's Recovery

His first words

 

After being at rehab for 3 weeks, the doctors prescribed my dad Ritalin to help him focus, become more alert, and stimulate his brain. When I visit him I call my mom + brother and have my dad listen to them on the phone.

It amazed me how he right away knew to grab the phone and put it to his ear. You could see him listening and his face lights up at certain times during phone calls. After being on Ritalin for a few days, my father started to say a few words on the phone.. we all freaked out! We could not believe we were hearing his voice for the first time in months.

My father rarely talks in person. When he has a phone to his ear, it triggers his brain a bit more to remind him to talk. Sometimes he says nothing on the phone, sometimes he says a few words, other times he blurts out gibberish. Regardless, you can tell he is listening and he is trying. Often times he lets out a big sigh of frustration. It is crazy seeing what the brain can do.

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I started a GoFundMe for my father’s recovery. Although he is progressing, the progress is coming slowly. He will need to be in rehab for as long as possible. When he finally returns home he will need an aid and outpatient therapy. His journey will take at least a year+ long. To see where donations go, the link is below, anything helps. <3

https://www.gofundme.com/carmines-stroke-recovery

 

My Father's Recovery

One of my favorite moments so far


 This has to be one of my favorite moments yet. My dad taught Mike, my brother, how to play guitar when he was super young, (which is now Mike’s career!) My family grew up with my dad playing guitar every morning at breakfast. He would always have music playing at all times of the day, no matter what.

It gives me a peace of mind knowing how helpful music is to stroke patients… it’s even better that it is one of my dad’s passions. This night he looked so at ease listening to my brother play guitar.

Music down the road will help my dad enormously with his speech. One of the ways patients with Aphasia learn to talk again is by singing. Here is the interesting thing.. Your language is on the left side of the brain, (where my dad had his stroke). The right side of the brain has…

  • Creativity
  • Intuition
  • Imagination
  • Facial recognition
  • Emotion
  • Music
  • Arts
  • Thinking in images

I am eager to see how creativity and music will help him through all of this. <3

 

 

My Father's Recovery

Beginning rehab

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While my dad was in a coma at stony brook, he had a breathing tube inserted through the mouth for a while to help him breathe. As my dad became more stable, the doctors replaced the breathing tube with a trach tube. This is a small hole they make through the neck below the vocal cords. The trach allows air to enter to your lungs (and is a lot more comfortable for the patient).

One of the first goals in rehab was to get the trach tube out. You gradually have to downsize the tube, and eventually it can come out and the hole will close up on its own. They wanted my father to have it for a while to make sure he would be able to 100% breathe on his own with no issues.

February 12th he pulled out the trach at night! (Which the doctors surprisingly thought was a good thing!) They said he was ready to have it out and it was great he was annoyed with it. Now that the trach was out.. we were waiting for him to talk.

The problem with talking is that the stroke caused my dad to have aphasia. To sum it up..  Aphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. Aphasia has nothing to do with your mental status or intellect. For example, if we tell him to give a thumbs up, he knows what we want him to do, but there is a barrier making it extremely difficult for him to do so.

Aphasia fades slowly over time. Some ways to help aphasia are speech and occupational therapy, which he will be in for a long time.

In the photos above, I’m trying to get my dad to give a thumbs up. I first have him open his hand and then we go for the thumbs up! At first he would just make a fist, but now he tries to put up the thumb as well!

My Father's Recovery

When his eyes opened

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Music is an enormous part of my dad’s life. To get him to wake up we were playing music nonstop, in addition to talking to him. He loves to garden and sit outside, so we used essential oils with different floral scents to help stimulate his smell.

The doctor started to give stimulates to him to help wake up his brain. Eventually, I had to get back to work and could only visit on the weekend. After five days of not seeing him, I visited him early with my mom on January 13th, a Saturday morning. It was the first time he was hearing my voice in a few days. I leaned over to him and said “Dad, it’s Ali, please please open your eyes for me, I miss you and want you to wake up!”

A few seconds later his eyes opened!!!! 26 days after the stroke, almost a month!! My mom and I looked at one another and instantly started to cry, we could not believe it. For the next week, his eyes opened periodically, every time they did, the whole family got so excited. All we did was stare at him, waiting for him to do it again.

Because the bleed was in the left side of his brain, his right side was compromised, the side he has to fight to get back. This affected his face too. The photo on the left was his last day at Stony Brook hospital (January 26th, 2018), and the photo to the right was after a week or so at Rehab (where he still currently is!)