Tracy Nelms: Take Me to the River

Every May, we recognize National Stroke Month. It’s a time for us to raise awareness about the impact of stroke not just on the individual, but on the family. This month, two people have shared their stroke story from two very different perspectives: survivor and partner. Each week this month, we’ll hear from Steve, a stroke survivor, and his partner Tracy. They have recounted their experiences at different stages of the recovery process, and provided a perspective that only someone who has been there before can.

These past weeks, Tracy shared what happened the first few days after Steve’s stroke, transition to rehab and watching Steve slowly improve. Today, in her final post, she shares what life is like today.

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Steve's first photo, post -stroke

Steve’s first photo, post -stroke

Tracy: “Get ready Steve.”

Steve: “Why, where are we going?”

Tracy: “We are going for a ride. Wow, look how gorgeous those trees look. Sycamores, right?  Look at all those beautiful colors! Here Steve, take the camera. Lean out the window and use the car door to help hold the weight of it. Take a picture for me, please.”

Steve: “This damn helmet is in the way. I’m having a hard time see.” 

Tracy: “Just do your best.”

Seven months have passed since Steve had his stroke. He was discharged from Magee as an inpatient, but Team Magee assured us that they were not done with him yet — there was so much more they could do for him. But before he could begin his outpatient rehab at the Riverfront, Steve had one more thing to check off his list: to get rid of that damn helmet.

Finally, the day came for Steve to have surgery to replace the half of skull they had to take due to the brain swell – they kept frozen in a freezer during his recovery. The surgery was a great success. Steve was home in less than 2 days, and he said goodbye to that helmet forever. No more helmet! And just seven days after this surgery and with 70 staples in his head, Steve was ready for Day Rehab. This program at the Riverfront Outpatient Center is very intense – it’s 5 full days a week. This is the next step of his journey to recovery.

Day in and day out, Steve is proving without a doubt he is willing to do his part in the recovery efforts. He has had to re-learn many basic skills (things we tend to take for granted) from the start. Walking, dressing, grooming, eating and even seeing (he has also suffered a left field cut deficit). I was told to stand to his left and make him look for me to help strengthen his vision.  And now the heat was really on. This day program is not to be taken lightly.  His therapist and care workers have great expectations of Steve and he is now working harder than he ever has before.

Steve and Al picking up little wooden blocks

Steve and Al picking up little wooden blocks

Yesterday, I sat in on a session of Steve’s occupational therapy with his therapist one whom is also named Steve and Al.  They thoroughly explained to me what they have been working on with Steve, his goals and what we need to do as a team to make it happen. These challenges include an exercise program, learning coping skills and adapting to his environment.  Today, they were working on Steve’s fine motor skills. First, Steve was instructed to “pinch” pick up little wooden blocks with his stroke-affected left hand from the left side of the divided box, and move over to right side of box and release. For the next exercise, Steve was instructed to lay back and hold a dimpled rubber ball over his head and move it back and forth over his body. The guys were constantly on him about holding it correctly and proper positioning of his body.  I was astonished at the results.

The Steves in therapy

The Steves in therapy

Steve has come so far since his first stay at Magee more than 7 months ago. After his session was over, I shared with his therapists Steve and Al what I have noticed since his start here at the Riverfront. I told them that just the other day, I caught Steve reaching for me with his left hand something I haven’t seen since before the stroke. And that the other night while saying goodnight to each other, Steve gave me a full body hug with both of his arms wrapped around me. It was a wonderfully warm feeling. If felt very healing and healthy. Steve continues to improve with each day that passes.

I would never wish anyone the pain and suffering we have gone through. But I do hope that if ever you are in need, you will be as blessed as we have been in the support of the finest people that walk this planet. I cannot thank my friends and family enough for their thoughtfulness during these days of challenge.  And as for Team Magee, we are indebted. They are the most dedicated, caring, knowledgeable and helpful medical professionals we have ever met. They see Steve as the individual that he is and strive to meet his needs. And without a doubt, they have greatly improved our quality of life, and they continue to help Steve cross milestones to this day.

Steve has the will and Magee leads the way. We believe!

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  • John Dix

    Beautiful!