“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I went to Austin last week to visit my favorite subscriber. Surely Mom needed a visit from son number five to cheer her up. As it goes with moms, the sacrifice was all hers and she was the one delivering the cheer to number five.
At one point in my visit, mom looked up at me and formed a perfect sentence.
Physically, she gets more and more frail every time I see her, though her body is not twig-like. She still looks like she could hold her own with any other 84-year old, that is, if her right arm and leg were operable. Even so, my money is on her.
The stroke she suffered over a year ago at first seemed insurmountable.
When I visited her immediately following her stroke, she couldn't feed herself, couldn't swallow and relied completely on others. She had to be strapped to her wheelchair. She couldn't form two words together, if she could find one word at all.
Worst of all, she cried. Uncontrollable bawling. It was so hard to see someone who, frankly, I can't recall ever letting a weakness get the best of, be so immobile that her only response was to cry. It was truly the first time in my life I had ever seen my mom vulnerable.
And yet, for a woman who was pregnant for eight years out of 13 and brought eight children into this world, recovery to some degree — as slow, long and painful as it would be — never seemed out of the question. If anything, it's called faith.
Time counts when someone is having a stroke. Every second delayed not treating someone who is having a stroke means tens of thousands of brain cells lost.
My sister and Mom were on their way to church that day when my sister noticed something wrong with Mom, who was in the passenger seat. They had recently moved to Austin and their surroundings were new. My sister, who is deaf and whose cognizant skills are not fully developed, did what she knew to do. She texted her brothers. Amazingly, she diagnosed it as a stroke. Don't ask me how, but that's how the text came through: "Mom can't talk as stroke or something. I am worrying (sic) her. What is wrong with her."
I responded within a minute, and other brothers were responding, too. Problem was, the conversation wasn't quick and it was difficult to understand where they were. How could I send for help if I didn't know where they were?
Whether she was answering texts, tending to Mom, confused or all of the above, it had to be difficult for her. Add handicap hurdles to the mix and coordinating a plan of action becomes a miracle. Only one brother who responded was in Austin, across town. There was a lot of silent confusion. My brother called for an ambulance to meet everyone at my Mom's house, which meant my sister had to drive my Mom to the house to meet the ambulance.
By the time I received a text from my sister that they were at the hospital, an hour had lapsed.
In retrospect, it was quite an accomplishment getting Mom to the hospital when we did. Twenty years ago and my sister wouldn't have had a cell phone and been able to communicate or respond that quickly.
Mom has come a long way. She now eats on her own. We played Solitaire last week, with me handling the two-handed tasks like shuffling the cards. We talked about family, weather and anything else that came to mind. She also reads books, propping them up against a small table and handling novels one-handed. All her off-hand.
My sister is her caretaker, except for some in-home nursing care that visits three times a week. Mom's not self-reliant at all. She needs to be lifted in and out of chairs and bed. Her food needs to be fixed for her. And most other needs require assistance.
On top of it all, Mom doesn't hear well these days. Sister turns up the television so Mom can hear it. She has no idea that it's so loud, and it's probably contributing to Mom's ongoing hearing loss.
I leaned down to Mom last week during my all-too-short visit, and told her I was going out to get a haircut. She just looked at me.
I wasn't sure she heard.
I leaned down again to speak a little more loudly, and Mom stopped me and said:
"You're going to get your ears lowered?"
She may not be able to do cartwheels, as I warned her against before I left to get my locks snipped, but she is regaining her form. Slowly but surely.
Thanks to one of our loyal readers who is a long-time volunteer extraordinaire in the county for calling us this week and commending us for all we do for non-profits in the community. Admittedly, it's difficult to juggle all the requests. We just hope we can serve half as much as what all the volunteers accomplish throughout the year in efforts that go unseen.
Alan Todd is Co-Publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer and Ouraynews.com. He can be reached at 970-325-2838, or firstname.lastname@example.org