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Cheryl E.

Family & Caregiver

Surviving Stroke - A caregiver's side of the story

Looking back, August 2003 became a nightmare for me. My husband Tom had a brain stem stroke. I was out at a garage sale and came home to find an ambulance in our front yard.

Tom felt dizzy and nauseated. He pulled out his wallet and his health insurance card to call the nurse line. In turn she had him call the emergency squad. His symptoms were double vision, short term memory loss and problems with his speech and balance. That's how it all began.

I thought I would become the best caregiver. Well the day I brought my dear husband home, I knew I had to get out of our home at any cost! Tom had been home 1 1/2 hours and I left and went to McDonalds. I had to just sit there and try to sort things out. He had to get better be the husband I married.

Inside of me I was quite angry, not at God, but at Tom. Before the stroke, he was easy going, kind, considerate, understanding, always called me his sweetheart. I wanted my husband back.

A year and a half later, we found out through a counselor (trying to save our marriage) about a stroke group in the area that met monthly. We went to our first meeting. They divided into group: survivors and caregivers. I listened to people much worse off than myself. I burst into tears and talked. I monopolized the group with my problems. I told them about how Tom had changed. I wanted him back whole living like he used to be. We could not go to Sunday school and church. I had to choose one because Tom can't even sit one hour at a time and his tic in his legs and head moving would drive me nuts.

In my journal, I wrote the stroke group had really helped me. I wondered what was wrong with me? Was it me? Could it be me? This thought hit me 10 years later. The real problem was me. I hadn't changed at all. I hadn't accepted Tom as he is today. Maybe I'm the one who needed to change?

I have dyslexia, but with Tom's short term memory loss I had to take over the checkbook. The vice president of our bank branch understood our situation and has been there for me (us) all the way. She has even come to our apartment to help us.

Today if you asked me what's going on my goodness I'm so blessed to have a wonderful stroke group, someone to help us with our finances, and most importantly, my husband.

I thought I loved my husband 36 years ago today I'm deeper in love with him. He's still my best friend, lover, confident. Why I'd even share a fox hole with him!

Yes, it's never too late to start over. I just had to look at my survivor in a new way; for me it just took longer.


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