A three word story: Our life changed.

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything. Life… To catch up:

1) I got a job, 30 hours per week at a non-profit agency that aims to help our community be more active and healthy. My role engages with sports clubs mostly, to help them build capacity so that they can thrive. It keeps me busy, in between the time when I’m busy with the kids/family. Some perks of the job:

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posing with the Webb Ellis Cup, aka the Rugby World Cup when it came through town.

2) We built the house. It wasn’t straw bale, but it followed the same floor plan and was as eco as we could make it, which was pretty eco. And it came out pretty well, I think.

house-interior

Life was pretty perfect. Maybe a little too perfect. Because a month after this guy’s 46th birthday…

sean-46-birthday

… this very fit, clean-living man, shocked himself and everyone he knows by having a stroke. Two weeks ago, he was at work, on call at the hospital in fact, when it felt like his left leg had gone to sleep. He’d just gotten a call from the Emergency Department to come check in on a lady who needed a ob/gyn consult. But when he got up to walk down to the E.D., he couldn’t walk. After a few minutes of waiting for the sensation to go away, he tried again. His left leg wouldn’t move. So he called down to the E.D. to let them know that he wasn’t going to be able to make it down there, and in fact, they might have to come get him. By the time they got him down to the E.D. and hooked up to monitors, he’d lost the function of his left arm and hand.

We endured the next two days as anyone does when they’re fearing the worst medical outcome and helpless to do anything about it. The CT scans showed that he’d had a hemorrhagic stroke, sort of a spontaneous bleed of a blood vessel in the brain. It had stopped bleeding, but we were unable — beyond our hope, praying, and bargaining with the universe (e.g. “If you don’t take him, I promise to never be annoyed by his sniffling ever again”) — to keep the bleeding from starting back up.

While we were terrified and shocked, and feeling like we were suffering an unjustly cruel turn of fate, we were also feeling so incredibly lucky. Sean was still breathing, and on top of that, he had lost no cognitive, speech, or other motor functions from the neck up. We are thankful that he suffered the stroke while he was in the hospital, and not say, out running in the country, or while driving with the kids in the car. We are thankful that his dominant side was the unaffected side. We are thankful that the bleeding stopped when it did, and didn’t put pressure on the parts of his brain that control his speech, or his ability to swallow, or his personality or sense of humor.

We got through the first 48 hours without a subsequent re-bleed, while adjusting to the reality of our new life. Sean was paralyzed on his left side from the neck down. I got through the initial denial and anger (“Why does this happen to someone like Sean, one of the most selfless, good-hearted, capable people in this community, when there’s an asshole out there who beats his wife and kids, who does nothing to help anyone, and he gets to keep the use of his whole body?!?”) and we started getting on with days ahead of us. Generously, Sean’s mom traveled to Gisborne as quickly as she could. She’s been spending each night looking after the kids so that I could spend more time at hospital with Sean including sleeping there over night. Friends have been amazing, making us meals, looking after the kids, while I stumble into my new role as supporter, and mood-brightener, and hand-holder, while trying to keep life good and stable and normal for the kids. Life is hard, but we’re getting through each day. And it’s cliche but it’s true. Each day we endure, we’re stronger for it.

Now for some good news: I’m writing this at 15 days post-stroke, from our tv-room couch with Sean sitting next to me, watching the All Blacks v Wallabies. He’s looking at a 2-3 month hospital stay as he engages in twice-daily rehab. But he was given a long-weekend furlough. We’ve seen some regained function already, mostly in the left thigh and trunk. But there’s a big hill still to climb. Sean’s spirits are high and we’re keeping our goal square in our sights: 100% recovery.

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Stay tuned, as I document Sean’s fearless and determined recovery…

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