Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘disabilities’

Thank You for Watching & Sharing

“I sometimes walk into walls.
I will never recognize who someone is.
Occasionally I still fall down
which only serves to remind me…
… that I am blessed.”

– Tara Fall, author, educator… and seizure, brain surgery, and stroke survivor




Keeping It Real

bruised but not broken

           Ten years after my stroke and I still fall down.  In this picture, you can see I even get hurt sometimes.  I average about one major fall every six months or so.  These stumbles are common for me.  I either do not see something or my left leg suddenly does not work to help keep me moving forward.

            Walking occasionally still causes problems but so does not recognizing faces.  I walk into a crowded room where I know I should recognize some familiar faces.  Because of prosopagnosia, I sometimes do get lonely.  Even in a room of friends I can feel as if I am all alone surrounded by strangers I don’t recognize.

            Life is not always pretty.  I won’t try to paint an unrealistic picture of only hope and perfection.  There are still times I have to face the hard reality of stroke recovery and the repercussions that come with a brain injury.  I’ve come to accept in this survivor’s journey there are bound to be intermittent setbacks.

            But, I will make sure you always know this:  I fall; I make a choice to get back up.  I get discouraged sometimes during a long day.  I am realistic in my remaining shortcomings.  Yet, each night when my head hits the pillow, I know I have completely succeeded in one more day of living a life well lived.  After family prayers were said the night of this latest injury, I continued on my own, “Thank you.  Thank you for such a wonderful life.”

            I fall down.  I will always get back up.


“You learn you can do your best even when it’s hard, even when you’re tired and maybe hurting a little bit.  It feels good to show some courage.”  Joe Namath

Happy Anniversary or Should I Say Happy Birthday?

                Ten years ago I found myself facing challenges I never could have imagined.  Ten years ago this week I woke from brain surgery learning I had a stroke during the operation.  I was twenty-seven.  What was it that allowed me to embrace the challenges faced while recovering from this event?  Where does that inner strength and determination come from?  I really can’t answer these questions.  Whatever it was, wherever it came from, is unknown, yet I am fiercely grateful for this drive.  I can walk independently now.  I can speak clearly without slurring my words.  I celebrate doing simple things in life most people take for granted.  I do all these things which, not so long ago, would have been unthinkable accomplishments if I had allowed myself to accept the speculated dismal outcomes predicted.

Each year I ask myself if the 25th of June should be celebrated as an anniversary or as a birthday.  Anniversaries are happy days set up to celebrate the joining of two lives.  Some might not understand why the date of my stroke would be considered a happy day.  It is though.  I have always believed it is only when life knocks you down beyond where you could have imagined that you really learn to appreciate all the beauty life delivers.  When you climb the mountain of challenges placed in front of you, this is really when you appreciate the beautiful gifts of life.  My life before was happy.  And, though it is different in so many ways, the life I live now is also joyfully celebrated.  So, rightfully, happy anniversary to me for the day which taught me the true potential to change, grow and appreciate the gift of living.  Each year is a happy celebration of joining my life as it is today and the years that helped mold the strength which allowed me to overcome challenges.

Or, should I say Happy Birthday to me?  No, it is not my true birthday in the traditional sense of the word.  However, the stroke changed who I am.  I know I am not the same person I was before my stroke.  I accept that.  I even rejoice this.  I recognize I am a different person in some ways.  I am stronger.  I have more empathy for the difficulties people face.  I am more attentive to the gifts life offers.  I am more grateful for each and every day I have.  Life now is never taken for granted.    Similar to an infant in many ways, the stroke forced me to learn developmental tasks once again.  I learned how to walk and tie my shoes.  I learned how to catch a ball, hold a pencil and hold my beautiful babies in my arms.  I learned these early lessons again with the coordination of an inexperienced toddler, yet having the eyes of an experienced adult.  In this perspective, happy birthday to me.

                Tuesday, the night of my ten year anniversary/birthday ended with my youngest, an eleven year-old, making a tent and sleeping in my room.  She was sleeping near my bed, and I reached out my arm to rub her back.  She turned over and grabbed my hand.  She was rubbing my arm up and down, up and down.  Constant repetitive touches on my left arm and leg have been painful since I had my stroke.  I asked her to stop and reminded her rubbing me like that hurts.  She said, “Give me your other hand then.”  I gave her my right hand.  She didn’t question it.  This is her norm.  This is just how her mom is.  On this night, we fell asleep with her holding my right hand.  I can only hope in the next ten years of our lives we can continue to grow and create as many happy memories of success stories as we’ve discovered this past decade.

Right Where I Should Be

This morning I left to go to the gym and noticed a white car driving away from our street.  Before it reached the next stop sign, the brakes were applied; a woman jumped out from the driver’s seat and started yelling, “Call 9-1-1!  Someone call 9-1-1 quick!”  She was screaming like a woman who suddenly had no control only an intense filling of fear.  A girl jumped from the back seat and started running knocking on doors.  The lady continued screaming and crying out like an injured person.  I heard her yell at the end of a breath, “My son is having a seizure.”  I reached the car as quickly as I could.  Another adult was already looking into the vehicle.  The boy in the car was twelve and just had a tonic-clonic seizure.  He had never had medical problems before and was now unresponsive which placed tremendous fear into this mother’s heart.  I asked the bystander to help this mom change the boy from a slumped position and have him lie down in the seat.  I explained her son was postictal.  He was in the third phase of a seizure.  I asked the other family member to speak to him with kind and calming words.  I told the little boy an ambulance was coming to check on him, and I knew it probably seemed all really scary and confusing.  I assured him everything was all over now and his body just needed to rest.

I told the mom again and again resting like this after a seizure was normal.  Her son was tired.  This was the path to recovery.  His brain and body were just relaxing now.  The girl who had fled the back seat was his little sister.  She had been the one to identify the onset of the seizure.  She was scared and had no comprehension as to what she had just seen.  I asked if she had ever seen a lightning storm.  We talked about rain when it sprinkles and then when it drops so hard you beg your mom to run outside and splash in the puddles.  The little girl smiled as she heard about puddles.  We said how it isn’t a good idea to play in lightning.  Her brother just had the coolest lightning storm that started just in a little space in his brain and then spread all over.  We talked about how cool it would be to see lightning spread like that.  We talked about how cool it was he had a sister as great as she was.  She hugged me, wiped away tears and hugged me again.

The paramedics came.  I told them this little boy was postictal and the length of time since the movement stopped.  We talked about his response of blinking a few times.  It seemed as though he was coming to.  I told his mom again and again how much harder this was on her than it was on her son.  Before the ambulance drove away, the girl hugged me again and whispered “thank you”.

A few hours later, I drove my daughters to listen to my youngest play in her second band concert.  There is something beautiful, yet painful, about listening to fourth and fifth graders playing a mix of Queen songs.  Leaves me wishing I could not hear if instruments are out of tune.  Yet, I can and I help my daughters each practice their instruments.  I am able to iron clothes and drive them to these performances.  I’ve come a long way from only dreaming I could push down piano keys again.

I returned home to a neighbor waiting to share a glass of red wine and entertaining conversation.  We had tears to clear up first.  She found out today one of her eyes is losing sight and the eye doctor expects all sight to be gone within a short while.  The other eye has macular degeneration and will progressively get worse over time.  I told her about the neat devices I learned about while in a low-vision support group.  I told her ways to cope that had helped me get around.  When I first had my stroke, I was nearly blind.  It was a slow process to get as much as I have back.

I told this neighbor one of the best lessons I learned: You don’t have to see a picture to realize the beauty it holds.  You don’t have to see the sunset to recreate the splendor in your mind.  We grieved the loss she will soon experience.  Yes, there were tears.  It’s healthy to cry for what you are losing and to fear what might come.  Yet, it is also healthy to hold onto hope and rejoice what you still have.  As I told her, when you lose a loved one, there are seven stages of grieving.  When you face a serious illness, these seven stages are usually present and just as important.  We lightened the mood and laughed more at what amusing things it might be good not to have to see.  I left after a big hug.  As I walked home, I was slightly confused whether we still had tears of sadness or these were tears brought on by humor.  Sometimes, as in this evening, they are so beautifully intertwined they are hard to differentiate.

Days like these once again reaffirm my belief that life does not prepare us for the current moment, but prepares us for moments yet to come.  Someday you will find yourself understanding why the hard and trying lessons you learn today are so important for tomorrow.  On this day, today, I found myself remembering this important lesson.  I have no doubt; I am right where I should be.

After the Storm

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