Kevin B. McLean - The Story of Amour Caregiver of Myron
In Memory of my Father, Myron Ernie McLean
Kevin shares the story of his family’s experience with stroke and the dedication his mother offered his father as his caregiver. He writes in honor of World Stroke Day on October 29.
Both of my parents were teachers. My father, Myron, was an electrician and taught Electrical/Electronics Engineering at a High School in Jamaica, West Indies, called Holmwood Technical High Sсhооl. My mother, Amour, taught English at Spaulding Sесоndаrу High Sсhооl in Jamaica as well, both about 20 minutеѕ аwау from each оthеr.
My раrеntѕ wеrе hard-working folks, just аѕ mоѕt loving parents are. Thеу worked hard to provide a ѕаfе and happy hоmе for my brother Craig and I, and along with their teaching careers, both worked ѕidе jоbѕ аѕ well. Amour would tutor after school and on weekends, and Myron would take on electrical work as an independent contractor, аѕ well аѕ assume the role of the general nеighbоrhооd tесh genius who could fix еvеrуthing from cаthоdе tubе television ѕеtѕ tо old transistor radios. If уоu were born аftеr thе уеаr 2000, the chances аrе high that уоu hаvе no idеа whаt thеѕе dеviсеѕ are. But you know “Tony Stаrk” the fiсtiоnаl Mаrvеl сhаrасtеr, right? Wеll, my dаd wаѕ the “Tоnу Stаrk” оf the neighborhood.
In thе late ‘80ѕ, my parents dесidеd to build their dream hоmе, which iѕ now our fаmilу hоmе in Jаmаiса. Their budgеt and design mаdе it vеrу еxреnѕivе to source certain materials аnd tо соmрlеtе thе build, еѕресiаllу on tеасhers’ ѕаlаriеѕ. Aftеr mоnthѕ of building аnd construction paid for with what they had saved and whаt thе bаnk hаd lent them, funds wеrе gеtting lоw аnd рrоgrеѕѕ оn thе hоuѕе reached a standstill. Mу mother dесidеd to tаkе an extended lеаvе frоm tеасhing tо dо ѕоmе trаvеlling аnd wоrk in the United States to help with construction costs. She sacrificed a lot for this dream, sometimes working three jobs аt a time and traveling bасk аnd fоrth, sending barrels оf food, сlоthеѕ, and supplies back home. Shе wаѕ a bеliеvеr in thiѕ drеаm, and she was always my father’s number one supporter.
Fast forward a few years, and the construction of our home was complete. However, my mother was still away from home. Other expenses and life changes added to my mother’s extended time away. Craig and I both traveled yearly to the United States for the summer months and my mother would travel back home to Jamaica during the Christmas holidays. Craig eventually migrated to the United States first, leaving my father and I behind. My father and I migrated in the early 2000s.
My parents had sacrificed so much to build their dream home only to abandon it for yet another sacrifice. This time, that other sacrifice was Craig and me. You see, my parents, like most, wanted the very best for their children. My mother, being in the United States for so long, had foreseen opportunities which she believed was in our best interests. For her, this was a way for us to finally be together. She was right! We were finally together again as a family. But not for long. We ended up renting out our home in Jamaica and we traveled back a few times a year to check-in. Our home was safe and in good hands, and good neighbors and friends kept an eye on it.
Craig and I completed University and began working full time in Manhattan. I later migrated to Canada.
One summer, their trip home did not go as planned. A few days into their trip, my father experienced a hemorrhagic stroke in his sleep. My mother noticed a stiffness in his body when she turned the lights on, and it was clearly visible that he was suffering a stroke. She was frantic and unsure of how to get him to the local hospital. He was not responding. My mother called out in fear and grabbed her phone to call the neighbors for help. Soon after, a few neighbors and friends came to the house. They lifted my father out of bed and took him by car to the local hospital. My mother didn’t leave his side. She recalled how they tried to get him comfortable and stable, and how she was scared and worried as she knew this event would be life-changing.
I was at a birthday party in Canada at the time, not knowing what was happening in Jamaica with my parents. I had talked to my father the night before and he was excited to be home and had so many plans. I still remember receiving that phone call from Craig as if it were yesterday. It was the worst day of my life. I took a flight to Jamaica the next morning to be with them.
By the time I got to Jamaica, they had transferred him by ambulance to a University Hospital in Kingston for further treatment. He was later transferred to Miami, then to New York. During this eight-month ordeal, my mother quit her job and was his full-time caregiver. She was his rock and his cheerleader. She moved into his hospital room, vetted everything he ate, every medication he had, and took notes from the doctors. My mother went to all physiotherapy sessions and coached him on to recovery.
Though my father survived this horrific event, it took a lot of effort and family support, through rehab and speech therapy, to get his legs back under him again. He had to learn basic things all over again, which changed our approach and, ultimately, our dependence on him. Roles had to be changed, and my mother became the one in the driver’s seat now. My father was neither physically nor mentally capable of various tasks so my mother had to learn a lot, and fast.
My father worked for several years after his first stroke and even drove himself to church and the grocery store. He was very independent. As he aged, we did notice that he was slowing down somewhat, and those things he was able to do slowly but surely became more difficult for him to do and for us to watch. My mother was there for him to help as much as she could while trying her best not to cause him to feel helpless. She created a good life balance.
Two days before Thanksgiving 2018, my parents were happier than ever getting ready for Thanksgiving festivities and worshiping at their church. That night my dad came home from a games night at church where he participated joyously. The morning before Thanksgiving my dad woke up with a pounding headache and he started throwing up. My mom had already left for work. Craig was still home and he immediately called the ambulance. Craig recalls my dad saying he thought he was having a stroke, and by the time the paramedics arrived, he was unconscious with visible signs of a stroke.
Craig called my mom and me. Mom left work immediately to meet them at the hospital and my wife and I headed to New York from our home in Toronto, Canada. Myron was admitted to Neuro ICU ward at the North Shore University Hospital in Long Island and spent three weeks there until he was able to move to the Stroke Ward and begin light rehab again.
This time, we all were familiar with this and knew it would take a while for him to come back around. My mother was devastated but held strong. In about a week he was transferred to Glen Cove Rehabilitation Center in Long Island, New York. He was doing well and my mom was with him day and night. She didn’t quit her job this time; instead, she was able to take extended family leave. I traveled back and forth a few times to visit dad, and Craig would stop by on his way from work to cheer him on. Progress was happening.
Just before Christmas holidays, Myron suffered a third stroke while at the rehab clinic. It was devastating and broke all of our hearts. All of that progress was erased and he was unconscious again, in a coma. My mom took it hard but still had faith that he would come through. Myron was transferred back to North Shore Neuro ICU where he had a series of brain procedures to alleviate the pressure from the bleeding in his brain. It was too much for him, and the doctors recommended palliative care. The brain was too damaged.
My mom was opposed to this advice and decided we needed to give him a fighting chance. So we did. My mom had a lot of faith and we prayed with our pastor and church, Pastor Shelby Clarke and Valley Stream Baptist Church, who to this day are my mother's support system. We decided as a family that he was not ready for palliative care, and began the procedures for rehab a third time around.
Myron began rehab back at Glenn Cove and he was a fighter. He tried hard and made good progress, and was later transferred to Franklin Hospital to undergo more acute rehab. My family and I visited him at rehab and he performed well. There was obvious progress, and though we knew it would be a long road for all of us we kept our spirits positive. My mom who was now working part-time so that she could cover the medical insurance for my father, and also have time to visit him daily. She was also to be by his side all the time. My mother inspired all of the nurses with her continuous presence and love for her husband. She would bring him breakfast and assist with speech therapy, then leave for work. She made sure to be home by the early afternoon to make dinner to take with her to the hospital and would spend every evening with him.
One Sunday morning in March, I woke up, worked out and made breakfast. Living in Canada has been such a nice change of pace for me compared to living in New York. You see, I moved away some 15+ years ago to pursue other opportunities. But in the back of my mind, I always thought about my parents and how to get to them as fast as I could in an emergency. And this day was that emergency!
My mom called, and the phone was silent when I picked up. Then a doctor came on, "your father has suffered another stroke and this one is fatal, he will not survive,” he said in a commanding but somber voice. He also said that my father did not have long as he had a continuous brain bleed which would eventually cause organ failure. I felt as if someone just driven a knife into my heart.
Craig was in Canada visiting his girlfriend and was scheduled to visit us that day for lunch. We called him over right away to discuss options and within an hour we were all on our way to New York City to be with my father and my mom. We arrived and found where exactly my dad was and his status; my mom informed us that he was in palliative care at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island. We knew that this was it; we just couldn’t bear the thought.
Myron fought for 5 days in palliative care before he succumbed to his illness. He gave up his residence on this earth on April 5th, 2019, at North Shore University Hospital. Myron was sixty-eight years old.
As for my Amour, my mom, she was lost with no one to care for anymore, and no husband to love. A big loss and a bigger hole in her heart. My mom is still grieving. She continues to get a lot of support from her church and pastor. My brother Craig is also feeling the loss as he lives in New York and spent a great deal of time with my father both at the hospital and at home before that final stroke. We continue to move forward with our lives the best we can because life does not stop even in death. My mother continues to work as a certified teacher’s assistant in Long Island, as she is so passionate about providing children with special needs the necessary care and education they need to be successful. Mom is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that is stimulating, encouraging, safe, and adaptive to each child's individual needs. My mother also loves spending time with her grandchildren and family.