Thanks, Mom

When I was growing up in the early 1960s in Washington, D.C., it was nearly impossible to find a Mother’s Day card for my working mother.
MANUAL TYPEWRITER NEXT TO SEPIA PHOTOGRAPH OF WOMAN

FOTOLIA

The cards all seemed to be written for moms who did not work outside the home; but my mother didn’t have a choice whether to work or not.   At 43, she became a widow with five children, ranging in age from 12 to 3 (I was the youngest). And, as my sister said in her eulogy, our mother was no saint.

 

When my father died suddenly from a heart attack, like far too many in this world then and now, she self-medicated her depression with alcohol.  In 1957, AA was just 18 years old and women a rarity in the rooms. But now we live in a world with antidepressants and 12-step programs of recovery for any addiction or obsession, from eating to work.

After my brain injury, I remembered something my brother once said to me, “No matter how bad things are, I just think about how our mother woke up the day after Daddy died, with five kids,  no savings and a Grade 4 government job; life will never be that hard for any of us.” And he was right.
After this slow-motion brain injury gradually sent me from healthy to wheelchair-bound in five months, I realized that my mother had modeled a kind of strength that I had never really appreciated when she was alive.
As a child, I had compared her to housewives on TV, like Donna Reed and June Cleaver. They were total fantasy. 
My Mom, on the other hand, went to work every day and sent us through parochial schools and then we paid our way (mostly) through state college. She was determined that we would graduate from college, and 4 out of 5 of us did just that; my oldest sibling chose to work full-time after high school graduation.
No TV mom could hold a candle to this stubborn first generation Irish-American.
So once I beat the odds and survived two rare diseases, I was determined to get my life back and enjoy each day of it as much as possible.
I have set and achieved many small goals from being able to stand, then walk, and then being able to stay home alone safely. 
But the changes are so gradual, it often takes the reaction of a medical professional who hasn’t seen me for months to make me realize how far I’ve come.

So when they say my progress is amazing, I reply, “Thanks. My mom instilled a great work ethic in me  …  and I have never worked so hard in my life.”

Thanks, Mom.

 

About me

Hi, I’m Suzanne…

I’m an editor, writer, mother and grandmother. In the fall of 2013, I began to suffer stroke-like symptoms.

After months of misdiagnoses (you can read the whole story here) I was diagnosed with ICL and PML and could begin my road to recovery.

This blog is for anyone who has survived a brain injury,  and for their loved ones and caregivers. I hope it might help anyone who is struggling to keep a positive outlook when things look their bleakest.

From Survival to a New Normal

Today is Brain Injury Awareness Day, so it seems like an appropriate day to officially launch my blog, ournewnormal.support.

After I was diagnosed with my brain injury in December 2013, I heard a radio program detailing how many advances had been made in neurology in the last 25 years. MRI technology brought neurology into  a “golden age” with more discoveries than had been made in the 200 years before its invention.

One of the most exciting discoveries was neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself after it’s been damaged, to make new neural pathways after the injury–to detour around it, basically–to allow the brain-injured person to regain some ability to overcome the deficit.

Take it from me–this isn’t easy; and progress seems so slow and incremental.

I’m still in therapy three years after my diagnosis,  and I remain on the lookout for any treatment that might hold some promise for any improvement. (I’ll let you know if my current  course  of acupuncture helps.)

Through visual therapy, neurofeedback, CIT ( constraint-induced therapy) and electrical stimulation to improve muscle function due to disuse or damaged pathways, these newer therapies give me hope that the future is much brighter today for survivors like us.

New technology has advanced to the point that with smartphones and  speech-to-text software, I can write this blog despite my left hand’s incalcitrance.

So that’s why I feel it’s a great time to have a brain injury; I wouldn’t have had much of a chance of recovery without all these advances.

Tell me what therapies have helped you in the comments below. We all need to support one another.

The Washington Post: Medical Mysteries

Medical Mysteries: Like a slow-motion stroke

This article details my nightmare in the fall of 2013. Please feel free to comment or share it with anyone you know who is disabled or struggling in any way. The reporter and the Health staff did a fabulous job!

And they included the only decent picture of me since the spring of 2013 that includes Jim and me with my sons and their families, all of whom continue to be my motivation to get better!

suzanne-and-family

I carry the latest photo of all of them (minus Jim and me) from January 2015 wherever I go to remind me how much I have to be grateful for!

After seeing the article published, I had an epiphany and decided to start a blog for all of the other folks who have struggled and survived. I hope the story of my struggle will help anyone who is disabled or struggling to keep a positive outlook when things look their bleakest. NEVER, EVER give up!

The best is yet to come.