Stroked

I am a Pediatric Stroke Survivor. Today marks the 13th Anniversary of my left pontine ischemic stroke (I.e., brain stem stroke) which resulted in right side paralysis. Science and medicine can’t explain why it happened nor my 99% recovery, but the Grace of God and His mysterious plan for my life explains the rest.

Survivor

Life has thrown me curveballs that irreversibly changed the course of my life. Having a stroke at 15 years old during my first two weeks of high school certainly caused the ebb and flow of my life to alter.

Some of My Stroked Lessons:

1. Life is beautiful in all its forms and functions.

2. A person’s utility doesn’t make them lovable or not. A person is lovable because they are human.

3. When you loose control of your utilitarian purpose in life and become completely dependent on the goodwill and charity of others, develop a deep sense of purpose not based on external factors.

4. Develop a good, clean sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself and life situations. Not only is humor therapeutic but an invaluable coping mechanism.

5. You can either fight your mortality or not. Either way you’re still mortal.

6. Medicine = people helping people to help people. Not perfect people perfecting people to perfect people.

7. Be kind to yourself and others. Suffering a traumatic brain injury will close doors but even if a window doesn’t open look for a transom window. A little light is better than no light.

An Anniversary Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life and the gift of healing. Grant increased healing of body, mind, and soul to those that suffer. Grant them peace. Grant their caregivers’ wisdom, quiet strenght, and compassion. Allow them to experience a transcendent hope. Help me to always be grateful, to cultivate joy, to suffer with purpose, to persevere through adversity, to know my limits, and rely more fully on your love and grace. May my life reflect your light to others.

Amen.

The Double Edged Sword of Looking Good

Appearences aren’t always indicative of reality. A conversation after Sunday Mass with my friend’s family reminded me of the deceptive nature of appearences. We can exude a reality that doesn’t exist. Easily.

I cringed when she said, “You look great!” People need to understand appearances can be deceiving. A smile can mask a multitude of ailments. Supernatural joy can hide deep rooted pain and distress. We are masters of distortion for a variety of reasons, usually either selfish or selfless reasons. All the world is our stage and we act out our illusion of control.

For a person with multiple chronic and complex health conditions, acting the part of a healthy character has become an artform, a tool of discretion, a mask of fleeting normalcy, and a shield from narrowmindeness and hurt. This act can come at a heavy price- the double edged sword.

A smile can hide a multitude of ailments. When the doctors banned me from replying I was “okay” to pertinent medical questions, I wasn’t being coy or manipulative. My internal joy of my miraculous pediatric stroke survival trumped any discomfort and uncertainty I faced. Therefore, I was okay in the grand scheme of God’s plan. Maybe I wasn’t medically okay, but I was providentially okay.

Occasionally my loved ones or I haven’t received the medical care we needed in as prompt of a manner because we’ve smiled or laughed in the ER or Urgent Care. I’ve had clinicians diagnose me as a healthy young women when I was only a few hours away from severe metabolic imbalance and potentially cardiac arrest. This is an extreme example that illustrates my point.

Appearances of a person’s physical, mental, and emotional state of being may not be as it seems. I may smile and engage while looking healthy and vivacious in-person. But I may go home and curl up in a fetal position in a cool dark room moments later dead to the outside world for the next week.

I take for granted the fact my parents and immediate family are intuitive and perceptive people. A subtle change of skin tone, subtle change in breathing patterns, a distortion of posture, or the sheen in ones eye can be enough to alert them of a medical concern. Learning the subtleties of the other produces a keen sense of awareness, a responsibility to others wellbeing, and an avenue to break from selfishness.

Strength and defiance of visible weakness can become an extension of pride, a mark of valor, and a mark of extrodinary courage on the battlefield of chronic illness. The real battle is not to loose our ability to feel and express emotions, allow others to serve us in our moments of weakness, and honestly share the reality of our precious lives.

I guess either I need to practice acting ill or others need to practice being perceptive. Or both.