July 6, 2010 is a date etched in my memory. At the zoo, I received a phone call from my devastated Mom: Dad was in a coma, in the hospital, and not expected to live. Fortunately I was at the zoo with my mother-in-law Dee Ann. She was able to watch my children and zoom me over to the ER to be with my mom. The doctor sat us down in a little room. Just Mom, Mike (a great family friend), and me. The ER doc was surprised Dad had survived the stroke and informed us he would need immediate brain surgery if he were to have any chance at survival. Without hesitation Mom said "yes" to which the doc replied "I don't want to sound grim, but the truth is he may be blind, paralyzed, and unable to speak or communicate. This is a massive stroke".
My brothers Daniel and Ammon arrived, followed by my husband Matt. Our two other brothers Sam and John were out of town at the time but got to the hospital as soon as possible (and thankfully without any speeding tickets!). Slowly people from the Ward and neighborhood made their way up to the hospital as we numbly waited for any news.
Thankfully he made it out of surgery. We still had no idea what the extent of permanent damage would be. We all were frustrated to learn the only way to learn that is to wait and see. The waiting made more difficult by the comatose state he remained in for weeks.
At first we were told to make very little noise around him. That too much would cause his brain an overload of activity. Those days we were all anxious to stand around his bed all day and pray.
Eventually the doctor told us to play music on headphones for him. I figured music meant noise so I brought my iPod with "What About Bob" up one day to play for him. This movie is a real favorite of everyone's and my Dad and I almost daily would text each other some line from that movie. Maybe it was the "terrets syndrome" that did it, but it was that day that he followed the "commands" I gave him to wiggle his thumb and move his arm! There was a big celebration! (And actually I always skip the terrets scenes!)
On and on this story goes. Today my Dad is incredible. He is amazing. He is loving, charming, sensitive, intuitive, and talkative even, at times. But he lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). We are all dealing with this real loss. Dad is here, but everything has changed. I will never forget those moments when I learned what happened. Over and over I realized that life would never be the same. Not for me, not for my brothers, children or husband, and especially not for my Mom and Dad. Though his mind does not work as well, and he can't recall what was said seconds ago, I remind him often that what is most important hasn't changed. My Dad remains a great man. He remains a faithful man. He remains a man who loves and gives and helps and serves in the capacity that he is able to. My Dad can't read. He can't find the fridge sometimes. He can't paint. He can't play games. He doesn't enjoy movies. But he can love. And he does love. He freely gives his love. He is still the great man he has always been and we all love him more than ever!
I don't know if anyone will read this, but I will keep it as my way of honoring my Dad. Of honoring his life that he has lived and the life he now lives. I intend to make this a positive reminder to myself and others of the gift of family. The gift of health. The gift that every day is. I thank my Heavenly Father for giving those gifts to me. I hope that I will be able to post messages of hope and joy and that others will share theirs with us also.
I don't pretend to be the only one with struggles or difficulties to face. I don't pretend to be the one with the worst of them either! If I were to ask any person their history I know I would learn things that would make me glad to be me with the trials I have. This is just one person's blog of one event that, although common, has changed our lives.