What It’s Like to
Care for a Hemiplegic Stroke Victim

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In Short: Frustrating, overwhelming, exhausting.

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“I’m not having a stroke! I’m fine!” These were my husband Roger’s somewhat slurred words, as his left arm hung lifeless at his side and his left leg sprawled in front of the chair.

We lived in a remote area with limited access to medical care. It took more than an hour to get to initial medical treatment and another few hours for a plane to fly him to a large hospital with a neurosurgeon.

Because it took so long to get medical attention, the brain damage was deep. He was paralyzed on the left side (hemiplegic — one-sided paralysis) and was confined to a wheelchair. Instead of working on restoring function to his left side, the therapy staff focused on teaching him how to be “safe” so he could be discharged. This goal is not determined by the staff — it is dictated by insurance which is apparently unlikely to support inpatient rehab longer than 60 days. This was frustrating, as I believe he might be walking by now if the staff had been able to concentrate on actual rehabilitation.

Photo: stevepb on Pixabay

When he was discharged, I transported him three hours from the facility to an apartment I had found close to therapy services. Every day I got him up, fed him, set up his meds and administered them, took him to therapy and back, folded and threw the wheelchair in the car and took it back out many times, gave him showers, put him to bed, got up several times a night to get the urinal…and cried a lot, declaring “I can’t do this anymore!”

We’re luckier than a lot of people in our situation, as the Veterans Administration came to the rescue, providing home health for showers and med setups, some equipment, some out-patient therapy, and some actual time off for me (up to 6 hours a day for up to twice a week — until Covid hit) The alternative would likely have been long-term care where he would not be able to get the personal attention that will help him achieve maximum recovery.

I have learned a lot! I did not realize how many kinds of strokes there are. Roger’s was ischemic (blood clots in the brain — in his case thrown from his heart due to the atrial fibrillation he didn’t know he had). Hemorrhagic is the opposite — instead of clots, a blood vessel ruptures and pours blood into the brain. A TIA or transient ischemic attack is caused by a temporary blood clot and is considered a warning stroke. Cryptogenic strokes are those for which a cause cannot be determined. And brainstem strokes affect both sides of the brain and are harder to diagnose because victims don’t exhibit the classic one-sided symptoms caused by most strokes.

It’s been two years and a few months now, and things are gradually improving. I often get enough sleep, sometimes with no interruptions, and I hope the stress-induced eczema on my fingers will soon fade. We sold our farm and bought a house close to our kids, so we have some help, which is very welcome.

Not everything has been bad. We’re closer to our kids and grandkids. I’m more deeply involved in musical activities, as they are more accessible in our new location. That has been a major stress reliever for me and is helping me fulfill a lifelong dream. No matter what happens, beneficial outcomes are always possible. I’m trying to focus on that.

Vicki Morrison Goble retired after 30+ years in administrative support positions, and is currently realizing her lifelong dream of being a singer songwriter.

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6 thoughts on “Care for a Hemiplegic Stroke Victim”

  1. The same thing happened to me. My wife is blind and I had no clue what was happening. It took 45 minutes before I reached a hospital, but I got great care. The Neurologist who was assigned to me started me on therapy right away. He was honest about my chances of ever recovering movement again but being hard headed I never gave up. After 6 months most people could not believe what I was doing. I was 50 feet from the gym as they called it. I would tell the nurses I was going and I would work all my routines at all hours. When I was released I could walk by myself, climb stairs etc. In less than a year I was driving again.

  2. As a retired Occupational Therapist I worked through the changeover from therapy for however long the patient needed it to therapy as dictated by the insurance. You are so right! We went from whatever therapy would enhance the patient’s recovery to only being allowed to work on self care skills and only for about 6 weeks maximum. It was nearly as frustrating for us therapists as it was for you on the receiving end of these dictates.

  3. Vickie, as i read your strength came out so well, and your choices of caring not only for your husband but for yourself, that by the time i was halfway through this is the music that filled me, and i pass it on to you as part of your heart therapy:

    Sing, sing a song
    Sing out loud
    Sing out strong
    Sing of good things not bad
    Sing of happy not sad
    Sing, sing a song
    Make it simple to last
    Your whole life long
    Don’t worry that it’s not
    Good enough for anyone
    Else to hear
    Just sing, sing a song

    (And i wish Karen Carpenter had had your strength.)

  4. The comments on this article are as eye-opening as the article itself. If I had a stroke, I would have to be as hard-headed as Mike and never stop pushing. Debbie’s words — “We went from whatever therapy would enhance the patient’s recovery to only being allowed to work on self care skills and only for about 6 weeks maximum.” — are simply frightening.


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