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, September 30, 2008


Someone recently commented on my personal blog that a remark I made to her in a time of need really helped, and it helped me to know that something I did/said helped someone else. To that end, I hope that what I have to say will help someone else in like manner.

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, and I have a lot to be grateful for. Recently I went to the credit union branch to deposit a check that was given to me, and when the teller handed me the receipt showing the current balance, I was amazed. It brought tears to my eyes to see the generosity that people have shown to our family. I know who a couple of you are, but I won't mention names or specifics on here because I don't know who to thank for the anonymous contributions. But I wanted each of you to know that I am grateful, and that it has helped us tremendously. As the bills have now started coming in, I'm flooded with relief and humility when I'm able to just write out the check. Well, I pay on line, but still. To know that I don't have to stress about where that money is going to come from, it's just there, thanks to you wonderful people, waiting to be used. Thank you, each of you, from the bottom of my heart.

I also have been aware lately that many, many people are reading this blog. Just the fact that you read means a lot to me, to know that you care enough to check the blog. I've added this site to my Google analytics, so in a few days I should have some stats to report. Should be interesting, and I wish I'd done it a long time ago. Ah well. However the point is that because so many of you read, including family, friends, coworkers, ward members, neighbors, etc, I wanted to publicly thank some people specifically, to recognize them, let them know that they really did help, and made an immediate impact on our family, and my ability to cope with the present (on going) Trial.

My sisters. Especially Tali and Halley. When the chips are down, there's no one I'd rather have on my team. They were my right and left hands when Todd was first hospitalized, fetching and carying, tending Oliver (for days at a time) watching the dogs, getting Todd's stuff from work, setting up the trust fund, and myriad other tasks that I just couldn't have done myself.

My mother-in-law Sue, without whom I would certainly have been shipped off to the funny farm long ago. For coming, and staying, and cooking and cleaning, and tending, and listening, and understanding, and advising and helping. 2

My Neighbors, Jan and Jim. Saints in the truest sense of the word, I'm telling you. Thank you for being allert to something being not right at our house, and caring for a couple you'd barely (if ever) met. For checking our mail, keeping our garrage opener, watering the lawn, and for sitting by me in Relief Society.

Our Hometeacher and former Elders Quorum President, Jason. For checking on us, mowing the lawn, and just being there.

Our dear friends, Misty and Jake. I couldn't ask for better friends. For pinning me down and making me take the time to go to the temple. For watching Oliver, letting the dogs out, and for listening to me complain.

Our wards, past and present, especially Anne and Kathy for organizing them, for all the dinners both at the hospital and in my freezer. "That there shal not be room enough to receive it." Very nearly.

And Everyone else, for the prayers, the fasting, putting our names in temples around the world, and the continual support and love. Please know that each and every night we pray for all of you, and ask for the choicest blessings in your behalf. Please know that you made a difference.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just a quick FYI

For the time being, if you need to call Todd, you'll have to call my phone, as his now out of commission, until we buy a new one. Side note, anyone have an old Verizon phone we could use so we don't have to buy a new one? It should be an old one that you really don't need back, as it's highly probable that it will one day meet the same fate as it's predecessor, that of Death by Dog Water.

The joys of Two.

Don't ask me what the draw is, but for some reason Oliver finds it fascinating to abscond with random articles (sometimes his own toys, books, shoes, sometimes random household junk, sometimes small electronics, i.e. cell phones, PDAs, PSPs, remote controls, cordless mouses...) and scurry stealthily up to our master bathroom, where the dogs water was safe for a blissful 3 seconds, and make like Michael Phelps. But here's the weird part. He then grabs the little swimmer out and pulls up his shirt and sticks it, dripping wet and cold, on his bare belly.


Yeah. Either that, or sometimes he just sucks the icky disgusting dog-backwash water off.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, if you're at our house, you might want to leave your valuables in your car. Unless they are waterproof. Or you are looking for an excuse to get a new one...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Marathon is over

I'll have to post a longer explanation later, when I'm not so tired. Please be patient. It was a Long day.

We got up at about 8:00, and I'm thrilled to report that after Monday's fiasco, which I will not go into other than to say that Yours Truly is utterly ashamed and contrite after her two-year-old behavior, Todd got himself up with no nagging on my part, got himself ready to go, and then asked what he could do to help me with Oliver. I was (am) very proud of him, and this was after we both stayed up way too late talking to one of my sisters.

We didn't have anyone to watch Oli, so we had to take him with, which was... not ideal. None of us, Oliver and the doctor included, were happy with the arrangement, so Oli ended up at another sister's house, while Dr. Cain took Todd through his paces.

The point of today's testing was to determine how Todd is doing cognitively, as compared to the testing that was done when he was an inpatient at IMC. Again, sorry to leave you hanging, there's really SO much that went into it, but suffice it to say that Todd is very much improved. No real surprise there though. He started at close to normal in a couple of areas, including his reaction time, but in other more complex, or "executive functions" he was well below normal, and the testing today revealed that he is now within the range of normal. He's still not yet up to par to where he probably was pre-stroke, but as he didn't do the tests before he had the stroke, that Todd Normal is pretty much an educated guess.

The Dr. said that based on the reports that he got on Todd before meeting him, he expected him to be "much worse" than he found him to be. So that was really good to hear, for both of us. We're both there, in the trenches day in and day out, so it's nice to receive that kind of feedback. Incidentally, the sister that we were up too late talking to hadn't seen Todd in about a month, and she, too, commented on how vastly improved he was in that time.

We learned an aweful lot about the brain, and more specifically, Todd's brain. How it works. How it doesn't work, and how it tries to compensate. Very technical stuff that I found terribly fascenating, and I think Todd found terribly frustrating and discouraging.

I was left with a profound sense that as sucky and crappy as things are now, they won't forever remain that way. I found an incredible amount of Hope in the things that we discussed, the things that I learned, and if finally. Finally! understand what Todd means when he tells me, on a daily basis, that he "hates this." Essentially, it's very difficult for people, (raises hand) to remember that though Todd appears fine in so many ways, that he's not "better" yet. That his excessive sleepiness (15-is hours a day?) is not an indication of apathy, depression, or laziness. The location and type of stroke that Todd had is rare. The rarest (that's my guy! When has Todd ever been typical? We scoff at typical!)

And this was a huge wake-up call for me (as I know it has been for many people.) For me it was the reminder that my role is to be Todd's wife, not another therapist. He has enough therapists, but I'm the only one who can be his wife. And it's going to be really, really tough for me to take that hat off. I mean, I've been wearing the Therapist hat along with my Mommy hat for Oliver for two years now. And I was just lumping them all together, but it's really not the same at all. Oliver's learning things and making connections for the first time, where Todd already knows this stuff.

As you have probably read previously, the Thalamus is the brain's message center. So where typically a stroke survivor has some paralysis, or speech affectation, because of the location of Todd's stroke, the affects are much more far reaching, but minute in detail, much less noticable to the casual observer.

Mostly the messages aren't getting to the frontal lobe completely, or correctly. The frontal lobe deals with the mind's executive funtions, or the more complex reasoning and decision-making. Messages come in from the eyes and ears (mainly) and the brain then makes decisions, judgements, and connects meaning based on that information. Well, when the information is not relayed completly, the brain automatically fills in the gaps by making educated guesses. If it's a small gap, it's pretty easy to form an educated guess and be pretty close. The further the gap of information, the less educated the guess is. As the Dr. explained, a person could say something and mean X, while Todd understood Y. And everyone else around got X, and can't understand how Todd got Y, and why he just can't understand X. And they get frustrated and upset because they think he's being "stuborn" or "unreasonable." And Todd gets frustrated, because he know's he's missing X... You can see where that could cause problems.

It made a lot of things that have happened in the past 2 months very clear, and I finally get it. I hope I've been able to make this make sense to you all. Because as you who know him and have talked to him have probably noticed, he makes some pretty weird comments, and you're left wondering... "Huh??" Yeah, it makes no sense. To you. To Todd, it made perfect sense. So please be patient with him.

Oh, the other thing is that with this kind of stroke, it can create a lot of "psychological" symptoms, like depression, anxiety, etc. that are not truly psychological. Meaning that in that respect, the problem is not metaphysical. Damage to that area of the brain affects emotion and mood. So Todd could seem depressed, but mentally, at least psychologically speaking, he's not. Ten you add in the complication that he's been (is going) through a traumatic life experience, and you get the situational stuff... Ok, that's a much more abstract and confusing concept, so if that makes any sense, great. If not, forget I mentioned it.

And I just realized that through my sleep-deprived fog, I've pretty much written about everything. If I remember anything important later (i.e. tomorrow, after I've gotten a little sleep) I'll post again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Life rolls on

Saturday we celebrated our 11th anniversary. Todd took me to Wingers. Don't laugh, I know it's not all romantical, but it's good food, man, and it sounded good to both of us, and that's rare!

We had a great time. As we were finishing and getting ready to pay I ordered us a last round of drinks. The hard stuff. Vanilla Coke for me, and Cherry Coke for Todd. As he reached for the bill he inadvertently clipped his nice full glass, which in turn clipped his plate, broke into smitherines, and flooded the table, his lap right down to his Crocks. But don't fear, it somehow managed to miss the wings!

I insisted on photographic evidence. Contrary to how he looks, he wasn't mad, we had a good laugh, and the waitresses all probably thought that I was a horrible person. But it's for posterity, people!

We finally got Todd's contacts prescription. Thanks to a very kind secretary we didn't even have to pay for a contact fitting in addition, and she faxed it to Coscto the other day. Today Todd put his contacts back in, and while it will take some time to get readjusted after wearing glasses (and of a slightly different prescription, no less) for so long, he said that it is helping his vision. It didn't fix the looking problem, but at least now when he moves his eyes he can focus, and things in his periphial vision are not blurry.

Sunday we had a meeting with the bishop. He wanted to check on us and see how we were doing. I learned a lot about how Todd's mind is working in listening to him have a conversation with some one else. We talked about it after the bishop left. It's like his mind or his mouth doesn't know when or how to stop. So he gets to a point in what he's saying where normally you would pause, and the other person would interject something, but since his brain doesn't know how to stop, he just says "um" and then continues talking. And if he's exhausted what he's talking about he just starts talking about the next thing that his mind jumps to, and then he gets distracted and says things that he doesn't really mean. Or they come out wrong. So we talked about him noticing when he says "um" and just stopping there. We'll see how that works. It's pretty interesting to have to analyze the nuances of conversation dynamics. To borrow what someone else said, it's like Todd has to think about himself like he's on the outside, and at the same time, multi task that with actually having the conversation, finding the words, keeping on topic, organizing his thoughts, making eye contact, etc. All the things that we do normally without thinking about it. He has to think about it. Try it for a minute, or the next time you have a conversation with someone, and you'll get an inkling of how difficult it is, and how easy it is to get side tracked and distracted.

I wanted to bring this up today in his Speech therapy (which we have renamed Cognative therapy) but we took Oliver with us since it was only the one appointment, and we were running too late to drop him off at Auntie Tali's house. Next time...

The office staff there had a blast with Oliver. The secretary Dianne let him play with her resin frog, which he promptly broke. Then an OT brought out some of the therapy balls.

Oliver loved this planet-sized orange ball best. He pushed it clear down the hall, around the corner, and all the way down the next hall. Then I chased him back with it.

Dianne found some grahm crackers for Oliver to eat, since his mommy forgot not only toys and entertainment, but snacks too.

Oliver playing ball with Dianne

We ate lunch at Mickey Dees, then jetted home to drop off Todd, pick up the dogs, take Oli to preschool, take Doggies to the vet for shots, jet back, pick up Oliver, and finally return home. Exhausted. Cause in all of this running around poor Oli didn't get one speck of nap. He muscled through, getting punchier and clumsier as the day went on.

Phew. And now I've spent WAY too much time on the computer getting some "me" time in. Tomorrow is more therapy, and we have some guys coming to measure and give us an estimate on windows. Fun fun.