Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Year Ago - Why am I Here?

One year ago today, my life as I knew it had shattered. My parents were backpacking in the Grand Canyon (not unusual) when my young, healthy mother had a stroke. My dad was able to get help from young campers nearby, and they ran out of the canyon to the nearest call station. A helicopter was sent to airlift my mom out from the bottom of the canyon. My dad had to hike out by himself and meet her at the nearest hospital. It took 4 hours for my mom to get rescued.

I went home to Phoenix 3 days later. My in laws picked me up from the airport, I dropped my luggage at home, and drove myself to Saint Joseph's hospital, at the Barrow Neurological Rehabilitation Center.  The first time I saw her is an image and an experience that I will never ever forget.  Seeing my vibrant mother lying helpless and confused in a hospital bed was heartbreaking. I burst into tears and squeezed my body onto her bed as much I could fit. She couldn't speak or make any noise. She kept touching my hair, touching my face, and playing with my jewelry.  I still don't know if she recognized who I was, or if she was just confused as to why or how I got to Phoenix.  I had brought only a carry-on bag with 4 days worth of clothes.  I ended up staying 4 weeks.

My mom spent a month living in the rehab center. I would visit her in time for breakfast and stay until we tucked her into bed at night.  I would watch her physical therapy appointments where she struggled so much to just get any limb on the right side of her body to move. I would stay for the occupational therapy sessions and watch as she tried to comb her hair with a toothbrush.  The worst part of the day was speech therapy, where I would sit behind her quietly crying as she was unable to tell the difference between a penny and a flashlight.  I helped her eat her food at every meal, where she didn't know the purpose of a spoon or fork.  She was paralyzed on the entire right side of her body, and had severe aphasia and severe apraxia.

This was the most emotional month of my life I have ever experienced.  The next 11 months were not much better. I had to leave my new graduate program (masters in mental health counseling) because I had missed too many classes.  I struggled between wanting so badly to help my mom in every way I possibly could home in Phoenix, and wanting so much to just be with my husband and animals back in Connecticut.

I started this blog simply for something to keep me busy. My days were long and lonely in Connecticut. This blog gave me something to look forward to, my etsy shop kept me busy, and it gave me a hobby to have interest in.  I know the title of the blog doesn't make sense to most people who visit.  'Prescription: Craft Often' was very fitting for the time it was created. I was attending therapy sessions twice a week.  Crafting was my medication. It kept me sane through insane periods in my life.  I needed it.


Today my mom is doing so much better than any of the doctors ever expected.  Her and my dad just returned from a backpacking trip last night.  She was not expected to walk again, but she hikes miles in the mountains on a weekly basis.  She is very independent around the house and can take care of herself, clean, water the plants, and she still checks the stock market on the computer.  Her speech is the main concern, and probably always will be.  She is understanding others now, and can respond in simple one word answers. I know it is frustrating for her that she can't talk over the phone or join in a conversation at church.  But I do see progress (even when she does not) and I do have hope that she will at least be able to type me long emails someday like she used to.  I really really miss my mom.

my mom and i at a Cinco de Mayo party this year in PHX. :)

my mom and dad. We walked up hundreds of stairs to the top of Saratoga Monument

I need to thank all of you for all that you have (most likely) unknowingly done to help me through such a hard year in my life. Your comments, your posts, your inspirations have truly been the bright part of my days. I really love you all for embracing me into your paper blog world, I would not have gotten through this year without you.

Thank you. Much love-

<3 Rachel w k

For more information on the warning signs and effects of a stroke please go here
For more information on the neurological disorder Apraxia please visit here 
For more information on the extreme speech disorder Aphasia please visit here
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  1. I am so glad to hear your Mom is doing better! I hope things continue to improve! I can totally relate to craft (and blog) therapy!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so happy to hear that your mom is doing better. You are both very lucky to have each other.

  3. This post brought tears to my eyes - so glad that your mom is doing better these days. I always wondered what the title of your blog meant and it's a wonderful meaning. Thanks for sharing Rachel :)

  4. Wow- thank you for sharing your story with us- How scary--and how very strong you were for being there for your mom. I am so happy she is doing better!

  5. I am welling up reading this, but am so pleased you have shared your story with us, and so glad your mum is making progress. I started my blog around this time last year after my mum died, and I felt I wanted to have something creative as an outlet, and have found great blessing in doing it, and made lots of friends along the way. I very much enjoy coming over to your blog, and hope you keep taking this medication! Bx

  6. I'm new to your blog and your story and I have goose bumps. HIS blessings work in so many ways we will never understand. Your mom looks great as do you! Celebrate her life not her losses and you'll be just fine. lovely post and thank you for sharing. Tammy... gentle hugs.

  7. Your mom certainly has one wonderful daughter! Thank you, Rachel, for sharing the story of what happened to her. I think you've handled it beautifully. I'm sure your support and love is part of what helped your mom recover the way she has. I'm new to your blog but I can totally relate to why this hobby of ours is so important. It also helped me during the difficult months after my mom died, a little over a year ago. It's so amazing how close we can all feel, and yet we've never met. Continue creating always, sweet girl - it truly is an outlet for so many wonderful reasons! Hugs to you!

  8. Rachel, such a moving post to read. I am glad that your mom has been improving. I'm sure that this past year has been really difficult and it shows that you're a strong person to have made it through! I hope your mom continues to make improvements!

  9. What a sad but moving & positive post! I've just started following your blog a few weeks ago and I loved the title without know any back info. You are very strong, thank you for sharing! I hope the rest of this year and the new coming year, bring your mother much more success! Hugs :)

  10. It is devastating to see our parents suffer. So glad your mom is doing better! I'm sure it helped her recovery to have you there.

  11. What a touching story. I can't imagine how hard this journey has been on you and your family. What a blessing you are to them!

  12. Dear Rachel, your blog is a beautiful place to visit. I am so touched by your story how you helped your mom to recovery! I hope little by little your mom will be functioning more like she used to. It is a hard long journey, but with love and patience, anything is possible! Your blog title is perfectly fitting for your journey in blogging! Keep creating,Rachel, you bring to the follower more joy than you can ever imagine! HUGS!