Diff'rent Strokes is your source for information about Todd Thelin and his stroke recovery. Please feel free to add comments about posts, add new information in the comments, e-mail new information for me to post, or ask questions that we can answer. Keep in mind that posts are moderated, so they will need to be approved before they show-up. This helps fight spam.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello? Anyone there? I have a wee announcement.

I don't know if anyone even checks this blog any more, but as this is the most appropriate place for this announcement, I will post here officially and link back from elsewhere. Ready?

Eh hem.


Yes, the excessive punctuation is absolutely necessary. Maybe I'll add even more.

Todd has been interviewing as much as he can, applying for everything and anything that even remotely met his skill set. He had even had a few second interviews, but nothing was panning out, and he kept getting the "you've been out of the industry for how long?" vibe.

But he kept at it, while working at DI (He is now in Employment Resource Services (ERS) as a liaison between DI employees and ERS, basically finding other associates jobs) and working hard at school to finish his program.

He applied for a position with Fiserv, which is the company he worked for when he first graduated college, when Oliver was a baby. Ironically, it was the actual position that he left to go work for Mountain America Credit Union, where he was working when he had the stroke. But I digress.

He had a phone interview (with his old manager, Glen, who in no longer the manager of that position, and the new manager of the position) which went well enough to secure an in person interview the next week. He met with Glen again, along with the woman who replaced him, and had 2 more people on the phone. After each interview I asked him how it went, and his reply was always "It was great from my side, but I don't know what they thought."

Their biggest concern was not his stroke, or skills, or how long he's been out of the industry, but why he left last time (he had only worked there for around a year.) His response was honest, it was for the money, but that was the economy then. It's not, now. His goal remains the same: to take care of his family.

We had discussed several times that it will probably take a company willing to take a perceived chance on him to get him working, and this seemed like exactly what he needed; someone who knew him, his work, and most importantly, his work ethic, who he had a good relationship with. Glad he didn't burn that bridge!

Apparently they thought it went well too, because they called Monday and offered him the position, at a salary that he accepted without countering, because it was far (FAR) more than what we had determined that we needed to survive. And it was a fair offer anyway. Countering would have just been greedy.

Today we received the official offer letter. He starts January 3rd, so as another bonus, he still gets to spend tons of time with our family and extended family for the holidays without having to ask for time off from a new job, etc.

And can it get better? Why, yes it can.

Benefits start on day 1. So our whole family will have medical insurance again in 2011.

And there's something else. We have had the feeling for a while that it was time to get ready for more children, which, at the point we started feeling this, seemed more than crazy, (living on disability, no medical insurance...) but we couldn't shake the feeling, so we acted on faith and started pursuing becoming licensed as foster parents (with the option to adopt), as it appeared that was the only way we'd ever be able to add more kids at this point in our lives. We have completed the 32 hours of pre-service training and are waiting for our background checks so we can complete the process, all the while not knowing how we'd be able to afford more kids.

This is all just further proof that our lives as so carefully watched over and cared for by our Heavenly Father. I'm so thankful that He has our interests in mind, and grateful for the faith Todd and I have developed over the years which allows him to bless us. And I'm so thankful for everything we've been through, because it has brought us closer to each other, closer as a family, closer to God, and taught us so much that we really couldn't have learned any other way. I feel blessed beyond measure, beyond what I could possibly ever be deserving of.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Misty watercolored memories.

A week after giving my sister Halley plants and seeds for her garden, it was discovered that I had neglected to giver her adequate planting instructions, resulting in the seeds being sown "4 below the surface of the soil; about 3" too deep. We went to work carefully digging up the seeds, in order to replant them at the appropriate depth, with the hope that they would live, thrive, and multiply in the form of delicious and healthy crook neck squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. It was a joyous moment each time we found a seed, and even more so when we discovered one which had germinated, manifesting signs of life and the hope of the harvest ahead.

Memories are sometimes like those seeds. As humans, we typically enjoy reminiscing, particularly with a loved one, about the past, reliving the good times, commiserating and reflecting on the bad. Once in a while a memory, long lain dormant, will be brought to the surface, bursting into the light of our thoughts, exploding with that spark of joy, like when you find a $20 bill in the pocket of the jacket you haven't worn since last winter, or finally going through the box at the back of the closet labeled "Misc. Junk" from when you moved X years ago, and finding that certain important something that you had completely forgotten about. Sometimes those memories will spark a chain reaction, self-propagating into more and more forgotten memories to reflect upon and enjoy, accompanied with the "oh my gosh, I had completely forgotten about when so-and-so did such-and-such!"

Now, stop reading, and think for a moment about what it would be like, what it would really be like, not to have those memories? Are you reflecting? Now you may continue.

I recently made a startling and frankly traumatic discovery, resulting in the time of this post. See that? Somehow, in focusing on trying to fix the issues that Todd has had since the stroke, the ones that affect his day to day living here and now, I missed the fact that Todd's garden of memories has been laid fallow; nuked with the industrial strength herbicide of brain injury. I don't feel like horrifying is too strong a word to describe it.

I first began to realize it when we recently discussed his class work. I was curious to know how he felt about his ability to learn since the stroke; what difference he felt in relearning old concepts versus learning things that were completely new to him. I was somewhat startled when he said that they were both equally difficult, and both more difficult than before.

It was then that I began to understand just how empty his memory is. I supposed I had had clues before now, little things here and there, more a source for light-hearted teasing than something to be concerned about. Or so I thought. Like needing assistance coming up with Oliver's age (they do grow up so fast, don't they?) or how lone we've been married (it seems like it's been forever! ) or repeatedly telling him about what happened while he was in the hospital, or what it was like just after he came home. (He'd had a traumatic brain injury and slept for a month straight, who would remember?) But it is becoming clear that it's so much more than that. He doesn't remember important times in his life, like graduating (all three times) or our lives together, like the day Oliver was born. Being sealed as a family, or being married.

He doesn't remember meeting me.

There are snippets here and there; fractions of memories associated with the whole, but not much on their own. A red couch. A familiar name. A car. Pictures can trigger pieces of memory, jog recollection here and there, but still in bits and pieces. Then again, they also remind him (and me) how very much he has lost.

We all look with wonder and joy at "Todd 2.0", as his brother Brett has coined it, and see how he has changed so dramatically, and in many ways, for the better. But it isn't any wonder: he has also lost memories of the negative or painful things that shaped that former person, and shaped our relationship. Like my losing our long desired baby to miscarriage on Christmas Eve, the year we lived with his parents ("That must have been a bad Christmas... Wait, we lived with my parents?") Our failed IVF cycle ("What is IVF?") His grandpa's funeral. The bad experience of his mission. His parent's divorce.

While this is an opportunity for Todd to essentially start his life over, as the person he wants to be, and we both think of that as a good thing, it does raise more questions. Will it come back? Can it come back? How much? When? Will he remember experiences he is having and information he is learning now, down the road?

It is necessary to experience pain and sorrow to appreciate the happiness and joy. And sometimes the pain is so unbearable that we wish we could just forget it. But if it came at the cost of forgetting everything would you make that deal?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yesterday was a great day. To catch you up, Todd is still working at Deseret Industries, and going to school at Salt Lake Community College, doing their media design certificate through the applied technology college portion of the school. It's been difficult for him at times, but he's done it completely on his own. He is doing his school work at home, with his teacher's permission, and has kept up with his work, and works at it every day. I'm really, really proud of his dedication and follow through.

He is still very much struggling with fatigue and his vision trouble. He has an appointment with Moran Eye Center in March to see if there is anything else he can do to improve his vision. He still has trouble looking down, and has gotten "lazy" about using his eyes because it is so difficult. He will just feel around for something that fell, for example. He also complains about his eyes going blurry, and when reading, that the words on the page don't stay still.

The fatigue has been addressed by his psychiatrist multiple times, and we have tried everything from getting more sleep, to not using his CPAP consistently, to just pushing through, to homeopathic medicine and herbal supplements, to drinking caffeine, to taking high-dose caffeine tablets, to the latest: Amphetamines. They started him on a low dose, a pediatric dose, actually, which did nothing at all. Then they upped it to the maximum dose (which wasn't that much higher than the pediatric dose, scarily.) It is a medication that is similar to Ritalin. The dr. got the idea when Todd was talking about medications he's been on in the past, and had tried Ritalin for what we thought was ADHD, and his reaction to it (WIRED.)

He's been on the high dose for a few days now. To be honest, I was half hoping it wouldn't do anything, not because I don't want him to feel right, but because dude, it's amphetamines! It's real drugs! Serious stuff. With serious potential side effects. It made him jittery, but initially said it didn't seem to be doing anything for his fatigue. Until...


Fridays are our Saturdays, since Todd has the day off. It was really nice weather, so Todd decided to spend some time out in the yard, doing some work that has been on his mind, including poop-scooping, and raking up leaves that fell through the winter. Oliver wanted to go outside too, so we spent the afternoon as a family out in the yard. Todd and I worked on tidying up, while Oliver ran around and played with the dogs and found pine cones.

Oliver got tired, and hungry, so he and I came in. Todd kept working, and moved on to demolition of some old fencing that was left by the previous owners. He got out the power tools and everything. I kept reminding him not to over do it, and wear himself out, but he said he felt fine.

When he started to lose his light, he came inside and started working in the garage. We still have tons of stuff out there that never got moved in when we moved here, and he's had the goal, since he came home from the hospital to be able to park both cars in the garage (we are borrowing one from Todd's Grandma Drexl, since Todd is unable to drive his scooter anymore.) He made some major headway yesterday.

When we were getting ready for bed, I told him how proud I was of him for all he accomplished that day. He was proud too, and said that he went back out into the garage a couple times just to look at his work. It's funny; I do that too. And then he said words I've been wanting to hear for almost 2 years:

"Today I felt normal."

I about started crying right there. It's been so hard to have him so tired ALL THE TIME, not in the least because I see how hard it is on him. We have had some really great discussions lately about the "reason" for this trial. He's coming to see that his stroke was not punishment for something, and that we have received a lot of blessings in this trial. He's starting to see the positive things that have come from this experience, and the things he, and we as a couple and a family, have learned. I've maintained from the beginning that this experience is necessary to teach something that either he or we couldn't have learned any other way. I'm not one to put words in God's mouth, but something hit me last night with the force of personal revelation. I had the thought that considering his high blood pressure, stress load, and family history, that a heart attack was almost inevitable. And perhaps he wouldn't have lived to tell the tale, like he did with a stroke. Perhaps the experience we are looking at as a trial was actually protection. And perhaps the residual effects he is experiencing now, especially the visual trouble, which I believe will never be fully resolved, are there to serve as a reminder of the things he's learned. To slow down. To be more patient and understanding. To pick his battles. To enjoy the present. To have and show gratitude.

I can honestly say that I am grateful for the things I've learned from this experience, and if this is what I had to experience to learn these things, then so be it. I wouldn't have chosen this, but there is so much in my life to be grateful for. I have a family who I adore. I have a warm roof over my head, food to eat, cars to get us where we need to go. I have an amazing husband who adores me. I have a sweet, amazing son, who brightens my day and keeps me on my toes, and teaches me so much, and gives meaning to my life.

In the words of one of my (current) favorite singers, Paolo Nutin:
I got a sheet for my bed,
And a pillow for my head
I got a pencil full of lead,
And some water for my throat
I've got buttons for my coat; and sails on my boat
So much more than I needed before

Truly we are blessed beyond measure.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Your prayers are needed

The disability management company who pays out on Todd's claim is getting ready to do another review. This entails reviewing notes from doctors Todd is seeing, paperwork completed by us, phone conversations I've had with his case manager, his RTW (Return To Work) plans, and any earnings he's made. I'm always nervous, nay, terrified when they do a review, that they are going to suddenly decide that he's fine, and kick us off disability with no warning. Even though his case manager has reassured me that they won't do that. But her job is to look out for the company, not her clients, as much as they both may claim otherwise. Or maybe it's just my inherited paranoia of "the system." IDK.

I believe this will be the one year review, in which they determine whether or not Todd is able to return to his former career path with less than 40% pay loss. Which at this point he is not. What makes me nervous is that he's not regularly seeing a doctor any more, other than the psychiatrist who is managing his psychiatric medications. All the other doctors and therapists have released him, to be contacted again on an "as needed" basis. And thankfully, they haven't really been needed. Except that it's going to look on paper as though he's back to his former self, which, while he continues to make great strides, is not the case.

At this point, what keeps him from working full-time are first, his fatigue, and second, his sensory reception. If he still had his old job to go back to, he could maybe go back if they were very willing to work with him on his schedule and make adaptive changes to his working environment (like allow him to arrive at work at a later time, take a 2-3 hour lunch so he could rest, give him an office, so that ambient noise wouldn't be such a problem, and allow him to gradually build up to being back full time...) but he doesn't have that job, and trying to find a job in this economy is hard enough without going into it with special circumstances like that.

Perhaps what I'll do is have him make some appointments with his doctors, just so that they have up-to-date opinions of his condition and deficits. While it won't be cheap, it's probably a better alternative than leaving it to chance and getting kicked off disability. Cause getting kicked off disability now would not be a good thing. At all. While Todd is working, making minimum wage 16 hrs a week wouldn't pay the bills. And while Oliver will be starting school, I'm still his (much needed) primary care person, and day care for a kid with special needs would probably cost about what I could earn, not to mention that I don't have the earning potential needed to pay our house payment even in the best of circumstances.

The other thing that we need your prayers on, is our insurance situation. We are currently on COBRA, and while the disability plan and the government have combined to make it affordable to us (Can you believe it? I used COBRA and affordable in the same sentence! There's a win for you, Obama), you can only stay on COBRA for so long, and I believe our coverage will end in Jan or Feb. And I don't know what we are going to do then. Because of Todd's and Oliver's preexisting conditions, I don't know if they are insurable through a private policy. And they are the ones who really need it. The cost of Todd's medications alone without insurance would bankrupt us in a matter of weeks. Not to mention that fall and winter are coming, bringing with them the colds and bugs that can cause ER visits for Oliver.

I'm waiting to hear from Oliver's teacher to find out how many hours a day he'll be in school, so that I can look into finding a job that won't take me away from him too much, and will provide insurance. If anyone know of something, please let me know. He'll be in school Mon-Thurs mornings, but that's about all I know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First day of school

After a breakfast of smoked sausage, eggs, and wheat toast, and with sack lunch in hand, Todd was off for his first day of school. But first he has to put in his time at work, which means that today is his first day back to 8:00-5:00 since his stroke. We are cautiously optimistic.

He is entering the Visual Media program through SLCC, formerly the Applied Technical College. We don't have many details yet of how the program is run, if it's a "go at your own pace" thing as has been described, or if it's more like a standard 2-year degree. We'll know more this afternoon.

He chose this program after much thought and prayer on both our parts, and we are betting against the odds here. His doctors have told him that because of the nature of his brain injuries, his mind doesn't work the same as it used to, and in his case it affects his ability to think creatively. That's the short version. And that he will probably not be able to be successful at his old job. I, on the other hand, being no expert in the brain as they are, imagine that it could prove to be very good for him to get back to what he did before, and that in relearning his former skill set, that new pathways can be established, prompting further healing, and feeling that much closer to "normal." I suppose only time will tell, but your prayers in his behalf would be much appreciated.

As to working, they moved his hours to all mornings, starting at 8:30. Or it might be 8:00, he couldn't remember. I advised him to assume this morning it was 8:30, in order to get that little bit of extra (much needed) sleep, and take the "it easier to get forgiveness than permission" approach. And be on time from here on out. The great thing about this program, run through the LDS Church, is that their goal is the same as ours. For Todd to be able to support his family. Therefore, they have told him that he only has to work a minimum of 8 hours/week to remain in the program. As Todd said, we're not married to the money he's making there (though it's been REALLY nice) and the important thing is for him to get the training and get back on his feet. So for now we're giving it until the end of next week to see if the 8-5 is going to push him just enough, or burn him out, before he has them cut his hours back.

He works until 12:00 today (or maybe 12:30?) and class starts at 1:00, so if you want to call and wish him well you have a very small 30 min to 1 hour window in which to do it, but I know he would appreciate the well wishes, and knowing that people are behind him and rooting for him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy Survivalversary

One year ago I got a call that Todd was very sick, and had been taken by ambulance to Jordan Valley Hospital. Oh, you mean VERY sick. I had no idea how sick until I arrived, and learned that he was unable to communicate, open his eyes, etc. Todd's dad met me there, and someone came eventually and took Oliver, the first of many times that I can't remember where he was or who he was with. Thankfully I knew he was safe and loved and cared for, and at that time, that was all the thought I could spare.

One year ago I truly didn't know if Todd was going to live or die. And the hospital staff wasn't super helpful either. I remember asking one Dr. "He is going to wake up eventually, isn't he?" And her response was "I hope so." They didn't even know what was wrong with him, and we heard everything from pneumonia to meningitis to epilepsy. But not stroke, because "he didn't meet the typical picture of a stroke" in that he was young, couldn't communicate, but could squeeze with both hands.

One year ago I was faced with the definite possibility of my life changing very drastically and very tragically. One year ago I didn't have the faintest clue how I was going to get through the terrifyingly unknown future.

If you could have told me one year ago where our family would be today, I'm not sure I would have believed you. I don't think I would have dared hope. From the darkest time in our lives, we have come through to an increasingly bright future.

Todd lives. He is here for me to hold and love, and to raise Oliver and teach him. He can eat. He can swallow. He can talk and communicate. He can understand. He can bathe and dress and shave and brush his teeth. He can stand, he can walk, he can drive. He can take out the trash, mow the lawn, vacuum, make the bed, clean up after Oliver. He can get himself out of bed, and get himself up and moving. He can WORK!

He still struggles with fatigue, and with his vision, and therefore, sometimes, with his balance. He still has difficulty in communication, both expressive and receptive. There are still glitches in his brain. He still has trouble integrating his senses, and thus they can overwhelm him. It has been a long road back, with big leaps at first, then smaller and smaller steps. There have been many dark times, with regressions and plateaus, but he has continued to improve.

Things happen for a reason, and some changes have been for the better. Even he realizes that some of the changes in him could not have come about any other way. He has been tempered in every respect. He is slower, more careful, thoughtful, and deliberate. More considerate and kind. More prayerful. The important things remain intact, like his loyalty, his work ethic, his love of others. He was always a good husband, but now has become a great one.

Today my heart is filled with gratitude. For the many prayers and fasts and works that were performed in our behalf, which carried me when I couldn't cope on my own. For good neighbors, good friends, and great family. For the doctors, nurses, therapists and aids who work tirelessly in their professions. For my faith and testimony which got me through the hardest moments. For the many, many blessings which were in place long before we knew we'd need them. And most of all, for Todd. For not giving up when that would have been the easiest thing. For his hard work and endurance. For his love, his strength, his companionship, his courage. I'm so grateful that, for what ever reason, Heavenly Father didn't see fit to take him Home last year. I, too, have grown over the last year, and we have grown together.

I love you babe. Truly, madly, deeply, and forever.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Family vacation, attempt #dos

We took a little trip, the three of us.

After making it through a week of hell, in losing one of our dear friends (my best friend) to a pulmonary embolism, and the ensuing funeral, we hurriedly packed up our crap and headed out as one car in a five-car caravan to a family reunion in Yellowstone.

Attempt #1 at a family trip was back in Jan, when we went with Todd's family to southern Utah for his niece Kamry's baptism, which was successful only in that we all made it back alive. It was not fun, relaxing, or enjoyable. Todd had melt downs, didn't get enough rest or quiet, I was single-parenting a kid who still needed naps and wasn't getting them, (and refused to sleep in the car) and we were packed into a condo (albeit a nice one!) with 9 other people.

It's amazing what a difference 6 months can make. Oliver has grown up a little, and can get by for a few days with no nap (because he still stalwartly refuses to sleep in the car) and Todd has by now had several important improvements which made it far more possible for all of us to enjoy ourselves, including:
  • his medications being stablized
  • getting quality sleep using his CPAP consistantly
  • reduction in needed sleep down to a manageable amount (around 12 hrs)
  • increased attention span
  • ability to see his limits before he reaches them, and give himself breaks/time outs (usually)
We stayed in a cabin with one of my little sisters and her family. We had a bed. We had electricity (which was vital for running the CPAP so Todd could sleep, so I could sleep, and a loud fan so Oliver could sleep.) We had a bathroom. We had a refridgerator. Yes I know, not technically camping, but it was the closest I think this family will get for the time being. And maybe ever.

We drove through Yellowstone, saw some buffalo (and did not approach them or get gored), watched Old Faithful errupt, oogled some construction vehicles (Oliver's favorite part) and broke some federal laws (in our defence, though apparently it should be obvious, there were no signs posted about not walking on white sand.) We rode our bikes, and toasted marshmallows, and threw rocks in the lake (I skipped one 5 times, a personal record) took Oliver on a motor boat (LOVED it) ate a lot, talkied while we walkied, and celebrated Todd's birthday with a heart attack on the cabin and surprise brownies and ice cream.

I took very few pictures, and even less video. I wish I could have, but life is what it is, and at this moment in mine there isn't much room for documentation. So hopefully we made some good solid memories.

We planned on staying until Saturday and rolling out after breakfast, but an unforseen storm threatened to blow some of our group's tents into the lake. So they packed it up Friday night, and as we were planning on caravaning with them the next day, and were already mostly packed thanks to a mix up in reservations, and as we had by that time had all the fun we could stand, we headed out as well.

We got to Pocatello, which was about the half way mark, by about 1:00 am. Todd had driven the entire time, and was doing well, but I didn't trust either of our abilities to stay awake for an additional 3 hours, so we wound up in a Best Western room with another sister and her family, and can I just say....

Best $50 we've ever spent.

We had a lovely comfy bed with a poufy comforter and feather pillows, soft water, AC, Bath and Body Works toiletries, and best of all, a decent night's sleep. For most of us. Oliver woke up at 5:00 coughing, wheezing crying, screaming, and threatening to perfom his own special version of Old Faithful, so I was up with him for an hour or so sitting in the bathroom and doing breathing treatments. Everyone else was so dead to the world they didn't even hear him.

The next morning we woke up late, had an amazing (free) breakfast of waffles, doughnuts, cereal, juice, hot cocoa, buiscits and gravy, eggs and bacon. Best continental breakfast ever! Then we went swimming in the pool, which was great, since I hadn't had a chance to use my brand new bathing suit. Oliver loved it like a fat kid loves cake. He wasn't scared of the water at all, and it was nice and warm. He held on pretty well while Todd and I swam him around, he didn't cry when I dunked him under the water, and even put his own face in the water several times, without crying. He drank more than his share of pool water (just don't think about it) and got some great exercise and balancing practice standing on the steps up to his shoulders in the water. And even loving it as much as he did, he didn't cry when we told him it was time to go.

After we checked out we went to find a shady place to eat our picnic lunch (pita sandwiches and all kinds of camping type goodies) and ended up on the lawn of an LDS meeting house. We felt right at home. Especially when Oliver threw up all over the picnic blanket. Just like at home.

We made it home just in time to drop off some stuff, unload bikes and head out to Herriman for briskett and smoked beans and the most delicious ultimate strawberry tall cake at Todd's brother's house, when Oliver started wheezing again, and we had to pack it up early. We picked up the pups, who were having a sleep over at Papa Al's, and got home in time for bed. Thanks to a dose of steroids and the inhaler, Oliver seems right as rain, though behind on sleep, today. Todd is putting him down for a nap, and if I'm not mistaken, is probably taking one himself. Which is precicely what my plans are next.

And that, my friends, is that.