Morrigan McLane – My mom had a stroke
Morrigan writes in honor of World Stroke Day and shares the story of her mother’s experience of stroke.
On June 18, 2014, my mother, April McLane, suffered a massive stroke. At just 17 years old, I had just witnessed my mother lay convulsing on the ground, and then, only 90 minutes later, I had to see her in a medically induced coma, strapped to at least a half a dozen pieces of equipment. I thought I had experienced the extent of the trauma this tragedy offered until our parish priest arrived to perform the sacrament of the Last Rights.
But, the sight of the surgeon in the doorway was a vision of hope. The team of doctors and nurses had an idea of something that could potentially save my mother’s life: a Hinged Craniotomy. The surgeon thought it was pointless; after all there had been pounds and pounds of pressure built up on her brain already. More than likely it would be unsuccessful, but the doctor insisted that there was a slim chance of a miracle. My grandparents and step-dad unanimously decided to proceed with the surgery.
In the early morning hours after her surgery, my mom was back in her room on the ICU floor. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the horror of what I was able to see – my poor mother’s face, completely swollen, and a mass nearing the size of a cantaloupe protruding out of her now half-shaven head. Her eyes were bruised; staples shone in the florescent lighting closing the half-moon shaped incision on her scalp. It was like this for days. My younger brother, 9 at the time, was not allowed to see her in this state. But, then the swelling went down, and April McLane opened her eyes for the first time in 5 days.
My mom had lost the use of her right arm and most of the flexibility of her right foot. She could get out words, sometimes just sounds, but no sentences. We were looking at a long road to recovery, but my mother looked at these obstacles with determination. Suddenly, she was off to the Rehabilitation Center to learn to walk and speak.
When I think of summer 2014, all I can see is my mother lying unconscious and I hear the constant beeping of the equipment. The smell of rubbing alcohol still makes me tense; my blood turns to ice with the memories of inevitable death. Mom remembers surviving; I remember her dying.
My mom’s stroke did not affect her the same way it did her family, for obvious reasons but also for reasons not so clear. She does not remember anything before her time in the Rehab Center. She never saw herself after the surgery, bruised and swollen. All she saw were her obstacles that needed to be overcome, and she defeated them. She took what was dealt to her in life and worked hard to get to her new version of 100%.
My mother still goes to therapies. She still cannot use her right arm, and she still has trouble making sentences due to Speech Aphasia and Speech Apraxia. But here is what she can do: communicate with the barista at her favorite Starbucks in the Charleston Town Center Mall, drive her Jeep using a special device that helps her drive left-footed, walk without a cane, and sing her favorite songs while snapping to the beat.
All of these things seem so trivial, but you must remember – not long ago, she was considered dead.