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.