Brittany Richards - Communicating After My Mom's Stroke
When Christine, an award-winning teacher, had a stroke, her children Brittany and Dustin and husband Loren began a CaringBridge.com journal. Brittany – with input from her family - shares their experience in honor of World Stroke Day on October 29.Born in 1986 and raised in Laramie WY, Brittany enjoys working with horses and began competing at age 4. She was named Miss Rodeo Wyoming in 2011. She enjoys traveling and currently works in Denver. Dustin is currently an attorney in Laramie. He also is a musician, playing guitar with local bands. Loren is an attorney, currently serving as the trust officer for First Western Trust Bank in Laramie and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
A single event can change the course of your life and you may never see it coming. On April 4, 2014, just three days after her 56th birthday, my mom suffered a stroke. By the end of that day, what started out as a single ischemic stroke with left-side paralysis turned into a shower embolic stroke.
For the next two months, my Dad, brother and I took turns being with her as she recovered and retrained her brain to bypass the damaged areas. Three hospitals later, she returned home to Laramie, Wyo., able to perform basic tasks alone, but still needing some assistance.
Her aphasia-effected speech was, and still is, her biggest obstacle. Today, she continues speech therapy to address her aphasia, has daily workouts to regain her strength and improve her heart condition, and still writes CaringBridge posts.
Soon after my Mom’s stroke, we started a CaringBridge Journal to help keep our friends and family all over the world up-to-date and informed of her condition. While we started the Journal for informative reasons, something special happened on the other side of the computers that we could not have expected!
“Team Chris” (named for my mom, Christine Richards) was forming with every person that commented, expressed words of encouragement, or even just pressed the heart icon to show their love. As my Mom became more alert and aware of her surroundings, the support from “Team Chris” encouraged her to keep trying by setting and achieving new goals, and to never give up.
To this day, she writes a CaringBridge post about once a month, but continues to re-read the comments weekly. Of course, there are still hard days and difficulties she faces, but knowing there are people on “Team Chris” who care about her, including those she hasn’t even met in person, gives her the hope to keep fighting with a smile.
When I think back on the day of the stroke, I am extremely thankful that my Mom’s friend noticed something unusual about her that morning and acted so quickly. Mom’s speech was slurred and she wasn’t making sense, so her friend ran to get help. When the school nurse arrived, my mom was on the floor in her first-grade classroom and her left side was completely paralyzed. As my Mom’s experience shows, it is vital to recognize the signs of a stroke and find medical attention as soon as possible, increasing chances of survival.
Caregivers need three things to help stroke survivors maximize the recovery: education, patience, and love. It’s true that life won’t return to normal after a stroke; instead, there’s a new normal. Accept and encourage your loved one’s changes and challenges and offer support when emotions are low. According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke changes a life every 40 seconds — you probably already know a stroke survivor or caregiver and can play an important role in their “new-normal.”
Tell us: How did you rally friends and family after a heart attack or stroke?