Price Woodward – Gratitude
Price Woodward of Greensboro, Georgia had a stroke at age 52. Today, he shares his story of recovery as an American Stroke Association volunteer and writes in honor of World Stroke Day on October 29.
I’m not sure if it was Chuck Swindol or Lou Holtz who first said … that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to what happens to you.
I think easily one of the most important and valuable observations I have to share about stroke recovery is the importance of having a heart of gratitude despite whatever trials have come your way.
It doesn’t mean that you can eliminate or escape from your tragedy, In fact, for most of us, the daily struggles of our activities of daily living or our ongoing inability to do everything we could do before our health issues is a painful daily reminder of what we have lost.
But, it really is hard to heal and move on with life without a heart and focus on gratitude. I haven’t met one person yet that hasn’t had one or more things in their life to be grateful for. Sure, it may feel like the bad outweighs the good, but the bad would be so much worse without the morsels of good. So, grab onto what good you can and repeat them to yourself over and over every day.
This process doesn’t happen naturally for most people. This process takes intentionality and purposefulness, much like going to physical or occupational therapy appointments. Hope and emotional healing does amazing things for physical recovery and healing.
So, I am three and a half years post-stroke and still can’t use my left hand or left foot. I still get tired and fatigued easily. So, I can’t walk on my own or easily dress myself to go out to dinner. So, do I sit around and stew all day and yell at the dog or my wife? … No, because I don’t have a dog, and no, because if I yell at Tammy – well, I don’t advise it!
Shortly after my stroke, I started making a list of everything I had to be grateful for. Most days, I am either adding to the list or reading over and reviewing the list as a reminder. NOTHING is too small to write down or to acknowledge as something you are grateful for.
I’ll share a few examples:
- Despite being a marathon-running, healthy 52-year-old with no family history of heart and stroke disease, I am NOT a stroke victim! I am a stroke survivor!! Strokes kill a lot of people, but I survived - what a blessing, indeed.
- I walk with a leg brace and cane, but I am no longer in a wheelchair! I was in a wheel chair when I left in-patient rehab to go to Shepherd Center in Atlanta to do my out-patient rehab. Shepherd Center got me out of the wheelchair and upright. (FYI, wheelchairs aren’t the end of the world, but when you only have one functional hand and one leg that works, wheelchairs become a little more challenging - not impossible, just more challenging). Still can’t run, yet - but hey - baby steps. I’m moving in the right direction.
- After my stroke, I slept in a recliner for four months (I didn’t really sleep that well, then). Now, I sleep in a bed and I sleep much better.
- Eighteen months after my stroke, I walked my middle daughter down the aisle at her wedding and did the daddy-daughter dance (with my cane). I didn’t trip over her dress or fall during the dance. Believe it or not, that was a stressful day for me with not wanting to take a spill a my daughter’s wedding.
- I got to attend my youngest daughter’s college graduation.
- Next, I was still kicking and alive enough to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary.
- Next blessing, I got to hold my first grandchild. When it comes to our girls - good thing they took after their mother. We have been blessed with three amazing daughters who have stayed focused on the most important things in life and live happy, fulfilled lives. Tammy and I love our two son-in-laws and we are so grateful for them. Our oldest two daughters are in good hands, indeed. This is a BIG deal and a tremendous blessing (nothing like pressure for our youngest, still-single daughter).
But, wait, there is more (sorry, sounds like a TV infomercial). Let’s continue:
- I’m driving my car and my pontoon boat.
- Hey, I’m grateful I have a pontoon boat.
- My wife hasn’t left me and still loves me (for the most part), I still get on her nerves quite a bit.
- I am very grateful for the company I spent my entire 32-year working career with. What an amazing partnership.
- I am very grateful for the Shepherd Center Rehabilitation Hospital (Atlanta) and all of my healthcare providers and therapists along the way for their passion and personal care and attention. I wouldn’t be where I am now, without them.
- I haven’t had a seizure in over 18 months.
Is it sad that a very healthy, active 52-year-old person had a massive, debilitating stroke or that his very healthy, active spouse had her life derailed and rudely interrupted? Yes, I think so, but once the dust settled, and we had time to collect all the pieces and objectively evaluate our glass of water. It was indeed half full, not half empty, but which half of the glass will we choose to talk about and focus on was our choice. I think you know what choice we made.
After our three and a half years of slow, frustrating rehabilitation, we can choose to focus on what recovery I haven’t made yet or focus on the recovery I have made and the things we do have to be grateful for.
Yes, I do miss running and playing golf with two hands, playing tennis and being able to climb a ladder to change a light bulb for Tammy, and I miss my independence of being able to easily and quickly shower and dress myself.
Dwelling on all of the bad and negative things, always complaining and telling others how bad and hard everything is like walking into quicksand. It will suck you and others under.
Focusing on the positive is good medicine and reminds us that life isn’t over and that it is still worth fighting for.
I have found that my recovery and our sanity and happiness has been helped tremendously by having an attitude of gratitude and by our investment in and attention to what I call the 5 Fs.
And in closing, a patient can never say “please” and “thank you” too often. Whether your caregiver is a paid one or not, they have choices, too.
How about you? Do you have a running list of everything you are grateful for?
Want to help spread the word about resources available for life after stroke? Be sure to check out everything on offer for World Stroke Day.