Mostly Wordless

You’ll have to forgive me for not having much to say right now. It’s been a rough week. And other than baking some more chocolate chip cookies for a friend, I haven’t baked anything new this week.

I have written three posts since last Wednesday and all of them seem completely inappropriate given the situation. I just can’t put this into words right now, not well, not correctly, not yet. You see, one of my closest friends had a brain hemorrhage on Wednesday, just a few days after giving birth to her second daughter. What was supposed to be a happy time turned into something tragic. I spoke with her hours before and she was fine. Totally fine.

How does this even happen?

And so we wait. Everyone waits.

What I do know is that she’s fighting and doing really well considering. She’s showing improvement every day. She has a long road ahead of her, maybe, and I’m going to make sure that I’m there for her, her family (who mainly lives overseas) and her 3-year-old daughter (who is my son’s closest friend). That’s the only thing I know right now. And that I miss her. I miss her so much.

I will write more soon. In the meantime, I need to write something cliché in this spot because I don’t know what else to do: hug your family. If you have kids, hug the shit out of them. A husband or wife? Give him or her a noogie and a fat wet kiss. Hug your parents, your brothers, your sisters and don’t forget about your friends. Hug your friends.

Do you know a stroke survivor? Do you have stories you might like to share? I want to hear the good stuff. She’s strong, probably the healthiest person I know, and so I know she’ll pull through this and be on top again in no time. But I still need to hear something positive. Because if you search the Internet, the stories are a little less than uplifting.


  1. My grandfather had a stroke in his late 60’s which paralysed half his body. He did extensive rehab (and was a VERY stubborn and determined man!) and recovered to where he was able to talk again, drive again, and was running five miles a day into his 80s. I hope that gives you some hope. I’m so so sorry to hear about your friend.


  2. Life after strokes can be fine, maybe not great, necessarily, but fine, fine, fine. The fact that she is young and otherwise healthy will give her a huge head start when it comes to rehab down the road. Unfortunately, strokes seem to run in my family, so I have a bit of knowledge on this subject. Believe me, rehab these days is amazing.

    A friend’s mother, who is in her late 80s, had a stroke just a couple months ago, a very bad stroke, and they thought she was going to die. Even though she was already in failing health, she was still strong enough to regain speech and movement, and she is even able to walk, albeit with the aid of a walker.

    Your friend sounds like a fighter, and as stupid as it sounds, that really can be the biggest factor in helping her recover.


  3. I have worked in acute rehabilitation with many people who have had strokes – of all ages. My favorite survivor story is from a 50-year-old woman I treated who, prior to her stroke, was thinking about having breast implant surgery and so underwent a bunch of pre-operative testing, which revealed an aneurysm in her brain. She underwent elective surgery to remove the aneurysm and ended up having a stroke while in surgery. This left her with full paralysis of one side of her body and no speech. She couldn’t eat because her swallowing muscles were also paralyzed, so a feeding tube had been inserted. I saw her approximately 2 weeks after the initial stroke and she didn’t look great. Half of her head was shaved from her aneurysm surgery and she couldn’t speak, walk, or do much of anything for herself. The following week I returned and saw her again (I was filling in on weekends) and she was able to speak 2-word phrases. The following week I saw her walking in the hallway using a walker. The next week she was back to eating (almost) regular foods…

    I have to be honest in that I don’t know what state she was in when she returned home, but the point of my story is that she did get better. It took a lot of time, but she most definitely did improve. The younger a person is, the more likely they are to recover full function. Brains are somewhat plastic and there are different ways to get messages in and out. There will be an acute phase (now) followed by a subacute phase (in possibly 2-3 weeks) followed by rehabilitation and it will all be hard! The best thing you can do as a close friend is to offer your assistance – with childcare, with cooking meals, and with rides to/from hospital. Godspeed to you and to your friend. Patience and positive thinking.


  4. Hi there — a good friend of my fiance had a brain hemorrhage/stroke at the age of 30. A little over a year later he is doing amazingly well. It was a long road, and his life changed forever, but the love & support he got from his loved ones were instrumental in his recovery. My thoughts are with you, your friend and all impacted by this challenging time.


  5. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Brain trauma is so hard. These past few months have not been kind to young women and their brains. I know she can improve greatly and it will be easier with you around.


  6. I, too, had a friend who had some sort of stroke around the age of 30. It was touch and go for awhile (with diagnosis and cause) since it was due to a “habit” of cracking his neck and he could not remember that he was not supposed to do that anymore (they put a note on his bed so when he woke he would know to not crack his neck). But he is back to his life (it is now 6 years later).

    The brain is very good at working around damaged areas, right? Keep that thought.

    And I would think it would be frustrating for the person while recovering – be as supportive as you can. And having gone through other illnesses with friends, get your own support system. You will need to vent and bitch yourself (and it is ok to vent and bitch!) That will give you the strength to be there fully for her and her child.


  7. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. My prayers are with her.


  8. Thanks for the stories. You guys give me even more hope.

    This has been an absolutely surreal experience. Like I said, I’m having a great deal of trouble putting it into words, saying it out loud. Some of the thoughts I have had feel completely crazy. It’s been an emotional week.

    At times like this, for whatever the reason, I try and turn off emotionally and look to the facts—make lists, whatever I need to do. Getting a hug or even giving one comes without thought or it doesn’t come at all. I am learning so much about myself that I like and don’t like and am confused by. Why is it with things like this, we turn into selfish fools? This isn’t about me. This is about her, her husband and her daughters. Yet I go down these reflective paths, lined with what ifs and self-pity. And I hate that. I want to remain entirely selfless through all of this.

    And then sometimes it hits me—the fact that she may be changed, that she may never be herself and I feel selfish for being sad for myself. Because I really like her. I really like being with her. I like knowing her. I have bragged countless times over the last year about how much she means to me and how odd it is that I found someone I am this close to so late in life. And now this? Fuck this.

    I need to realize that it’s either OK to feel badly for me, or that it’s selfish and accept and forgive myself for it.


  9. Our neighbor across the street had a stroke in her brain stem in October of 2005. I wasn’t there, but apparently the paramedics were sure she wouldn’t make it to the hospital.

    It was completely unexpected and left her husband and son totally out of sorts. Her friends and neighbors rallied around them and took care of everything so her husband could be with her in the ICU. We watched her son (who has a lethal allergy to anything with milk), did grocery shopping and kept their house up in the meantime. The end of the month was her son’s birthday, and we put on a party for him that helped him feel special and loved.

    It was very touch and go for a while, but she made a miraculous (and I mean that) recovery. She is now living life even more fully than before – photographing live music performances here and across the country, skating in a roller derby league and inspiring everyone around her to follow their passions in life.

    My best wishes to your friend, and kudos to you for stepping in and selflessly doing what you can to help. She is lucky to have you as a friend.


  10. Check out this blog:

    Anissa, author of this blog and many others, had a stroke about a month and half ago. Her husband and friends are recording her progress here- perhaps they can be of some help?

    Thinking good thoughts for your friend!


  11. So sorry to hear about your friend, I hope she makes a full recovery. All you can do is offer your help and love to her family.

    There’s a book written by a neuroscientist who had a stroke and recovered from it. It’s called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.


  12. I’m really sorry about your friend.

    All strokes and circumstances of course are different but I wanted to let you know that my father had a stroke a couple of years ago and he is fully recovered and in his 70s. The hospital gave him something to thin his blood as soon as he got to the hospital which apparently helps the stroke from getting worse if you administer it right away do you know if your friend was given this?

    I don’t know if your friend is based in Brooklyn as well but Long Island College Hospital has a top rate stroke unit. My father continues to receive care there even two years later and they are really excellent.

    Also the actress Samantha Morton had a stroke a couple of years ago and she is in her 30s and I believe she is fully recovered.

    Sending you and your friend and her family all good vibes.


  13. pinkbrain: I saw her speak with TED. I had tears streaming down my eyes. What a wonderful speech and person. Just incredible. I have been thinking about her often since this happened. (Actually, I think about that a great deal anytime. Her talk moved me.)

    88 Highbury Corner: I am not sure if she received it. I will have to find out when the time is right for digging. Apparently this was directly related to giving birth—that postpartum women are like 28% more likely to suffer this? I had no idea. You just never think that in this day and age childbirth can be so potentially life-threatening.

    Anyway, when I know more I will share.


  14. Hi, mihow. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through right now, and to what her family is being put through. Specially her daughter.

    One of my friend’s mom is a physical therapist and she deals with patients who have been through a stroke. People do get better, they do. Some take time, a few have a hard time, but when they are young and certain to fight to get better, believe me, it happens.

    One of her cases was of a single woman in her 40’s who used to take care of both her parents and she still managed to work outside their house. She had a stroke and for a short period of time she lost temporarily the moves of her left side of the body. That’s when my friend’s mom stepped in and started physical exercises with her, and that went on for some time. I can’t really say for how long because I can’t remember, but what I mean to say is that she recovered in full shape. Full shape. It took time but yes, it is possible. She’s all better and healthy now and back to work and all. But she always gets herself through doctors from time to time, just in case.

    Internet can scare the hell out of us. It’s like the worst case scenerios seem to have the most traffic while the precious cases and positive sides are way left behind. But they exist, and they happen.

    Keep up, and may she recover soon. Let us know how’s she doing. She’s in my thoughts and prayers.


  15. My mom suffered a brain aneurysm and it was an extremely rough time for us. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital with her. It was a very rough and rocky road…but the good news is that in the end she was just fine. She survived. And so will your friend. If you ever want to talk about it please feel free to contact me. Ill keep your friends in my prayers…


  16. Hi Mihow, I’m sorry you and your friend are going through this. Some practical advice (if you’re interested) to help the family: offer to sit in the hospital with her, watch the kids, bring food over, pick up the mail, watch their pets etc. I’m sure you’re already doing all of those things.

    I found your blog through dooce. You’re very supportive and comforting on that site, you and your friend don’t deserve this. Yes, take some time to feel badly for yourself and I hope you have some support. It’s very hard to go through things like this alone.


  17. Mihow, I am so very sorry to hear that. What a horrible situation.

    My paternal grandma had a stroke when my dad died which almost completely paralysed the right side of her body; she was 60 and still in quite good shape before it happened.

    Over the years, she’s had many ups-and-downs but going through intense physiotherapy/rehabilitative exercies helped a great deal, to the point where she could walk with a ‘walker’ quite well, etc.

    She’s now deteriorating again, but don’t be disheartened, that’s just because of old age.

    Wishing your dear friend a speedy recovery with as little pain as possible.

    Hang in there.


  18. Oh, how frightening. I’m so sorry. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you and, by extension, her out.


  19. So sorry to hear this, Michele. Thinking of you and your friend and Emory and his little buddies. Hope to hear some good news soon!


  20. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family- the waiting game is the worst part- I hope you get through it.


  21. Michele,

    This isn’t exactly a good story so please forgive me. My mother had a brain hemorrhage when she was very young. I was three and my younger sister was only a few months old. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t survive. I still have fleeting memories of her, even at my age of 53.

    I just wanted to say that the fact that your friend survived is in itself a good thing. I hope she makes a full recovery.



  22. StFamer: I just sent you an email. You’ve always been so super kind to me. Anyway, I sent you a personal message.

    Everyone: thank you so much for your words of encouragement and understanding. They mean a great deal to me and hopefully one day I can share your stories with her too.

    I will update what I can when I know more.


  23. So sorry to hear this news. My friend said that she used pictures and flashcards with her dad when he had a stroke and it helped with rebuilding language and helping to alleviate some of the frustration he felt when trying to communicate. You can use your imagination (and hers when she’s ready) to make your own cards. I would think that having some special cards just for mommy and daughter would be a good way for them to help each other and communicate as well.

    Flash cards help the person to read, say aloud and build the blood-brain pathway which is the bridge to their stored memories. Pictures do the same kind of thing but allow more vivid recollection of memories. Here are some examples:
    Privacy please
    My friends/family adore me
    I like you
    We’re beautiful
    I’m still me inside
    I love you
    Let’s celebrate my wins
    Please be kind
    Slower please
    Let’s take a walk
    I get that
    I need a break
    I’m a survivor
    Let’s cuddle
    Got a joke for me?
    Hug me
    Let’s move on
    Focus on abilities
    Need to rest
    Try again later
    Thank you
    I can do this
    Please repeat
    I’m trying!


  24. I’m so sorry this happened to your friend. I hope that her recovery goes well. Meanwhile, try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s totally understandable that you would be upset! Also, I second the recommendation of My Stroke of Insight. It’s both an inspiring story and filled with information.


  25. Hey Michele,

    I am so sorry to hear about this.
    I just wanted to chime in with one story. I do know a stroke survivor (she is a close friend of a friend); she is in her mid-thirties and she suffered her stroke not long after the birth of her first child.
    The great news is she made a full recovery and is now pregnant with her second child! She is healthy and doing very well.
    I will be thinking good thoughts for your friend, her family, and you. Hang in there.


  26. Hi there. I’m a little late with my response to this. My father, a vigorous, chatty, healthy man in his sixties, had a stroke in July 2009. It was classed as “minor” (on a scale of mini, minor, major) because whilst he suffered substantial brain damage, his mobility wasn’t too badly affected. When I travelled from my home half way across the world to be at his bedside, he couldn’t speak or understand anything – the doctors told us that he would probably need to go into a nursing home. It was horrible. 8 months later, including 4 months in hospital-rehab, and he has recovered very well. He’s living at home with my mother and communicates well with all of us – he even answers the phone. There have been some really difficult times, but if someone of that age can recover so well, I’m sure that there must be hope for your friend, especially if she has a good support network.


  27. I’m even later, but felt compelled to tell you about our best friend’s older brother – in his fifties, a gynaecologist – who had a stroke last year. He was completely paralysed on one side, and could not speak, and we were all so very concerned. Now, these dozen months later, he is back at work (not operating yet, mind) and doing very well indeed, and is an example to all who might doubt the power of perseverence.
    You’re in my thoughts, all.


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