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 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.


Marsha said...

Amelia, I think of you all often. I am glad that he's making great progress! I'm sure you're still numb but you're gonna make it too! Hugs!

Marsha from Forever Families Board

Nicole Bullock said...

It sounds like it was a difficult, but informative visit. My brother had a brain injury a few days before my wedding (do you remember that?) and over the last 4 years, his brain has made significant improvements. I know a brain injury is much different than a stroke, but I can empathize with the illogical thinking and the frustration I'm sure Todd is experiencing. Our prayers are with you!

Anonymous said...

I still check this sit all the time, so just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to post. While I could just talk to you on the phone it would be a long conversation, and now I can call you and already know all of this, so it can be a shorter long conversation. :-) You know what I mean, thanks. I love you both and am always thinking and praying for you. Hayes

Amanda said...

If you ever need a sitter for Oliver I'd be happy to help out. . .I'm still teaching at West Valley Elem. and am over that way all the time. . . please let me know if I can help out that way. . . our thoughts and prayers are with your family!

Elder Fallick said...

A thalamus injury can have effects similar to deafness-- the brain fills in, but it might fill in a total non-sequitur! When I was having my brain problems, caused by medication, Jj would sometimes tell me, "Git fer home, Bruno!" (After an old cartoon about a deaf character) It was our signal that I'd missed something basic, and that the best thing to do was simply leave it and go on to something else. I can tell you from personal experience that that was a life-saver for me, to have someone I trusted helm me like that.

Cassie said...

Holy Cow woman! That's a lot to take in, and I can't imagine adding it to everything else you've been learning. Keep hanging in there, let me know if I can help you in any way. Oliver is always welcome to come hang out with Alyssa if you need a sitter. Or we would even come to your house too if he'd do better there. Love ya lady!

Camilla said...

i am glad that you got so much good information out of the visit. Todd is doing so well, and you are doing so well dealing with how your life has been turned upside down. Love you guys!