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Lessons Learned

Its always surprises me how events in your life that you would never wish for can teach you important lessons.  Situations you would think you would never want to face can make you appreciate some of the amazing and wonderful parts of this life that you have be oblivious to, and still would, if you had not experienced the difficult situation. 

On a Tuesday night about a month ago I recieved a call from my wife.  Her mother had a stoke and she needed me home immediately so she could go to Salt Lake and be with her Mother and Father.  The stroke had occurred in the right side of her brain leaving the the left side of her body totally incapacitated.  She could not move her left arm or leg.  Her vision was totally gone on the left side as well.  Not only could she not see on the left, her brain refuses to acknowledge anything exists on her left side, a condition called visual neglect or hemispatial inattention is common in right side stroke victims.  As we were sitting and eating dinner with her she would only eat the food on the right side of her plate and did not know my oldest daughter, who was seated to her left, even though my daughter had been talking to her.  I had studied this condition in school but I am now coming to understand its impact.  Her face drooped and she no longer looked like or sounded like the woman I had known and loved over the last 25 years.  I am grateful that the facial palsy and speech problems have almost resolved now. 

You always hear about strokes but they occur to someone outside of your immediate circle, or you think they should anyway.  I only came to realize how devestating a stroke can be only when they affected someone very close to me.  Additionally I felt like I bore some of the responsibility.  You see I am her eye doctor as well as her son-inlaw.  I knew she had high blood pressure.  I had measured it.  I had seen her constricted blood vessels and hemorhages( mini strokes) in the back of her eye.( see images of normal eye v. eye withhyperetensive retinopathy)

Hypertensive Retinopathy

  I had strongly encouraged her to control it but had not insisted upon it.  I wished I had done more, I wished I would have driven her to an internist myself. 

As I have watched my in-laws deal with this my feelings have changed from devistation to awe.  Awe at how tough and resilient they have been.  I have never seen them get down, they have been positive and upbeat in a time when it would be very easy to be depressed.  I have seen they be thrilled as her left leg has progressed from being a lifeless mass of flesh to being able to move an inch.  She can now put weight on it which was cause for celebration.

Healthy Retina

What Have I learned from this experience?

  Appreciate what you have, people and physical abilities, right now.  More on this in a later blog. 

 A good attitude will make you more able to handle the difficult twists that life will throw at you.  Smiling is better then crying. 

I am going to take better care of myself.  My elliptical gets regular use ever since her stroke.  I’m working on my diet which for me is a hard thing but I am now motivated.

I am going to be more insistent with my patients when I see a problem.  I do not ever want to feel again that I could have and should have done more.  When you come see me please understand if I seem  firm about certain health isuues, its because I care.

As a further note on something I found helpful.  A book called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor Phd, a Nuero-scientist who experienced a stroke and has some unique insights and help full rehabilitation hints.

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