Our story-Calvin and HobbesMy husband Andy’s favorite cartoon strip is Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. The story line revolves around the adventures of a little boy named Calvin and his beloved stuffed toy tiger Hobbes. The two are inseparable and share many, many adventures and philosophize on life all the while finding great humor, magic and wonder in all that the great wide world has to offer. Calvin is the one preoccupied with predestination and dreams of grandeur, Hobbes is the realistic thinker; focused on the present and the simple pleasant things in life. For the most part, Calvin and Hobbes converse and play together, reveling in what is ultimately a deep friendship.
Not long after Andy and I met and had shared many long distance conversations (we met at a Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) conference and we lived 9 hours apart) did he start calling me Hobbes. That was 10 years ago......
On January 2nd, 2015 we were on our way out of town to celebrate the job offer I had been expecting. . It was a new adventure, a true blank page, a new life, a new adventure, a new beginning.
We had just received the formal offer letter two hours before getting in the car. Andy agreed to drive the first leg of our trip. We were about a mile from home and I was chattering away to a friend on the phone, when Andy started veering to the right side of the road. I started to panic, thinking is the car failing? I kept asking Andy what was happening and he would not answer me. He finally said “floormat” . He simultaneously pulled the offending floormat, gave it to me, said floormat, and managed to stop the car while I witnessed his right side shaking uncontrollably and he was sweating buckets. He could not talk, could not look, could not talk to me - could not do anything. I called 911 and the paramedics arrived within minutes. Within a half hour we were in the ER and they were pumping Andy full of medicine to get his blood pressure under control. A CT scan was shown to me of the massive hemorrhagic stroke Andy suffered in his left hemisphere. The doctor, who had on a Star Trek badge, said to me: “This is a life changing event.” I could not even fathom what he meant. The neurosurgeon met with me and said they would operate within 24 hours to remove the blood clot that had formed over most of the left side of Andy’s brain. He could only give me best and worst case scenarios of outcome, but said likely he will be dependent. Once again, I could not begin to comprehend what that meant.
Andy remained in a medically induced coma for a month in intensive care. He was not covered by insurance and not eligible for any type of government aid. While Andy was being stabilized, I decided to still take the job . A lot of change happened quickly: transition from current job, prepare for new work responsibilities, find a new home, and move to a new town.
My new job afforded us with immediate insurance coverage, but the HMO was an entity difficult to deal with and my sweetCalvin was shuffled from one nursing facility to another. My pleas to send him to an inpatient facility fell on cold, deaf ears. Andy missed a big part of the recovery process. He was removed from the hospital too soon (being out of network) and because he was placed in a nursing home, it was not deemed necessary for him to go to inpatient rehab. Not until he was sent home to me did I finally have the attention of the medical group and they finally approved him for inpatient care - but the designated facility said he was now too healthy to be admitted. We were finally approved for outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy.
June 9, 2016 marks 1 year since Andy was released after 100 days in a nursing home and some 40 days prior in the hospital. I'll never forget my prep for his homecoming: rent hospital bed and bedding , test wheelchair around house , stock up on diapers and bed pads, figure out meals, blood pressure readings and medicines , showering him and transferring him from here to everywhere , toilet and bathing ( is it toilet training ? No - neurological connections being restored ....) multiple new doctors visits in 110 degree plus, fighting for therapy with the insurance and desperately trying to read everything i could for understanding bringing someone in Andys condition home- with zero experience and no sleep or family or friends nearby for support.....and all in the midst of a new job/ house/city: people/ situation beyond comprehension....
Wow..... And then to see his look- when in the car: double the effect of my nervousness yet excitement that we are going home. He managed to say that day: I like it. I was beyond thrilled then double determined to do this thing called stroke recovery!
Zoom forward to today: occupational therapy sent us home with a huge list of new goals involving my teaching him to learn to get his weak arm involved with the good arm- he's slowly getting some movement so it's time!!! It's a full time objective: I've gone from : do everything for him to now try to teach him to help fold towels and help him get up and walk over to come make toast- then spread whatever on it and plate... Or hold with both hands a bottle and pour contents or hold the glass both hands and teAch your affected hand how to do things....
Down to one OT visit per week with those achieved goals with me at home ......
And ...... physical therapy is also putting us on major home goals so a reduction in visits to the hospital to see our favorite Julia. Today, Andy walked only 60 feet with the hemi walker and needed breaks- the goal to achieve by a month from now is 150 feet - no breaks - plus other objectives to get him back into a regular PT schedule. PLUS other goals!
Speech therapy continues as usual and he is doing really good - it's still so hard to get out the first word and even the the first number or letter, but he is prompting himself now- like showing him the letter "c" and he will say A,b,c then stop to indicate that's the letter he sees........ Huge progression we are all hearing. Vocals getting strong with the program Songshine we attend every week and practice regularly. Kudos to Peter Harris, Juilliard trained , leading Songshine - look him up! His dynamic personality brings out the best efforts from Andy- he makes me feel good seeing Andy respond to him and try his best ! This program sets the tone for the rest of our day.
Humor- ahhhhh- without his Calvin and Hobbes sense of humor, I'm not sure where either of us would be!
Timing for my having lost my job ( a month now too!) is a mixed blessing - as the timing for activating Andy is NOW - and I've been blessed with the challenge and opportunity of helping a true angel get his wings back.
It takes constant devotion, determination and selflessness to help restore someone's life. If you think for one moment you are miserable having to do all these things for someone, think about how that person must feel. Their beautiful, independent life was snatched away in a blink of an eye. I hope our story helps you realign the new priorities in your life. Is it easy? Hell no... but the small progressions and gains make every tear of frustration turn into tears of joy.