The Stroke: Part III – The Venture

Introduction

The Venture that God had in store for me moved forward, and once again I was in a transport heading up I-35W. Only this time I was heading back north from Fort Worth Harris to Denton to a rehab facility there called Denton Select. Once again, night had fallen, and I arrived in time to find some rest and get some sleep. The unknown lay opened as to what this rehab facility had in store for me. But God’s providence emerges in all places. I would find that to be true in Denton Select.

Rehabilitation Work

Life as a Christian is still a learning process as the believer grows in sanctification. I would learn about three types of rehabilitation into which I would be immersed over the next eleven months, even after leaving Denton Select. My rehab work would include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My desire to get better collided with my impatience, which produced irritation, anger, frustration, and the desire to just give up at times. This fact presented me with the goals I had to reach to grow not only physically, but also spiritually.

Physical Therapy

Daily prayer was a constant. My eyes were still affected by the stroke, so I couldn’t read anything in book form. Two highly skilled and compassionate physical therapists worked with me. They engendered in me the desire to work hard. I discovered rather quickly the reality of what is known as stroke fatigue. Regardless of my desire to be up for the daily tasks presented to me, there were days I possessed little or no energy. My lethargy frustrated me to no end because I really wanted to engage the therapies. Each day the hospital staff would post on a marker board my scheduled therapies for the day. Some days my workout included four to five hours of work, which wore me out, In the long run, however, I realized how much small increments of progress contributed to my overall physical health. Talk about patience as a fruit of the spirit. God used highly skilled people to teach me some much needed lessons.

My two physical therapists were named Kenlin and Jenlin. I never thought to ask if they were sisters with such similar names. My physical therapy led me to the Denton Select gym where I would work on balance, standing, walking, and muscle tone and coordination. All of these areas had been hit hard by my stroke. I practiced walking on the parallel bars. This exercise, however, presented a couple of problems. The stroke brought on vertigo, especially if I stood up or turned to my right or left too quickly. I had to learn to approach my environment slowly, cautiously, and not “multitask” while walking. For example, if I turned to look behind me while walking, I would lose my balance and fall unless someone caught me. This fact challenged my patience as well. I suppose that anyone in my position would want progress to occur quickly. Secondly, I developed orthostatic or postural hypotension. When I stood up, my blood pressure would drop to the point of making me lightheaded so that I couldn’t keep my balance. When this occurred, I could not engage the physical therapy exercise for that day, which was usually the parallel bars. I had to learn through God’s grace that speedy recovery is not the case with the kind or stroke I experienced.

Speech Therapy

Melissa, another highly skilled therapist, worked with me to regain my ability to speak. As I stated in earlier blogs, I lost my voice to the extent that I could only speak in a whisper. As time progressed at Denton Select, I regained a rough and gravelly voice that was at least louder and more clear than a whisper. Melissa worked with e-stems that she attached to my throat. She would send a current through them at a volume I could stand. This work allowed me both to swallow better and speak with a clearer voice. The swallowing therapy was important work because I still couldn’t swallow food, so I was being fed through a feeding tube that had been inserted into my stomach at Fort Work Harris. By the time I left Denton Select, I could swallow water, ice ships, and some apple sauce. I still had a long way to go before I could eat solid food. This therapy also led to my being tested in what are called swallow studies. I learned that with certain swallows that I could asperate anything I was trying to swallow into my lungs.

Occupational Therapy

Rebecca and Audra were my OC therapists. Some of what we did overlapped with PT. Otherwise I worked on several exercises for coordination. This type or work entailed some of the most frustrating experiences for me. My left arm and hand had lost some of its strength and much of its coordination. Many of the skills that Rebecca and Audra challenged me to accomplish were tough sledding, as they should have been. More than once Rebecca had to remind me that my saying I can’t do something wasn’t going to get it done. I had to try these skills so as to know how much progress was needed. Talk about patience as the fruit of the spirit! Both Rebecca and Audra were fantastic in challenging me and being patient themselves with my frustrations. They also helped me accomplish daily tasks, such as moving from my bed to the wheelchair, taking a shower, and moving up and down the hallway in my wheelchair. I also developed some coordination with my left hand.

Grace Upon Grace

I stayed in Denton Select for several weeks. I remember my release date: November 20th, 2020. The time that passed from the day I had my stroke totaled about six weeks. I clearly needed to keep that in mind because I wanted to progress much faster than I felt like I was. All together, six weeks is just not that long. If I could let go of my impatience, I could see that I was doing much better than I thought. The words from the Russian doctor at Fort Worth Harris returned to me. You are our super patient. We expect good things out of you. Well, I didn’t feel much like a super patient, but I did notice ways that my strength had returned to my body. Though frustrated at times, I did maintain some hope that was nothing but a gracious gift from God.

Then even more grace came my way. I had no idea, what my life would be like after leaving Denton Select. I had spoken with the doctor there about getting into a rehab facility called Day Neuro. The facility had been recommended to me by some of the staff at Denton Select and others outside of there. But God’s grace poured out upon me in another way. Two friends of mine whom I had known since the 80’s at Denton Bible Church, Paul and Jean Terrell, took me into their home so that I could rehab and recuperate. The blessings that flowed from their graciousness extended beyond any measurement that can be devised by the human spirit. Paul contacted the owner of the apartment I had rented at the time and received an okay from him for me to get out of the lease due to my stroke. Both Paul and Jean coordinated the moving and storage of all my belongings I had in the apartment. Paul made sure that my bank and other businesses had my change of address for mailing and billing purposes. For the next eleven months, this gracious family would put up with me while I battled through all the physical challenges of getting stronger so that I could eventually and hopefully live on my own. Once again, God’s providential care and grace fell upon me in ways that I could not even have imagined.

Conclusion

November 20th, 2020, 5:30pm: I checked out of Denton Select, sill wheelchair bound, unable to walk, having weak eyesight, snd a gravelly and whispery voice. But I felt the security of God’s grace as I was heading to live under the care of good, close, and loving friends. God’s providence had already led me to Denton Select and working with therapists like Melissa and Audra who were solid believers connected to Denton Bible. Once again, I didn’t know what the future held as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached in 2020. I knew however I was in good hands with Paul and Jean, and I was in the blessed hands of God’s providence that continued to unfold in ways I would have never even suspected.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./January 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part II – The Venture

[This blog article is the second in a series on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

October 11th, 2020: Night had fallen over 35W South. I was being transported from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital due to the neurological specialty unit in Fort Worth. The venture that God was taking me through had begun. I had no idea what my future held. Would I ever walk again? Would I lead a normal life again? As the days progressed, other questions emerged? Would I regain the ability to speak clearly? Would I regain the functions of swallowing and eating again? Would my eyesight return? Those early days in the hospital and rehab clinics presented many unknowns. As time passed, what I discovered is how little I knew about God’s sovereignty and providence. Such knowledge would come slowly to me, and it would be a difficult lesson to learn. Yet it would be a lesson as sweet as the drippings of the honeycomb.

Forth Worth Harris Hospital

I had heard of CAT-SCAN’s and MRI’s, but I was to become more intimately acquainted with them because I was going to undergo several over the next few days. Once again it was a venture of new experiences. When specialists placed me between two large radiation machines for a CAT-SCAN and slid me into a tube for the MRI, the seriousness of my condition couldn’t help but dawn upon me. Yet again, I was in the hands of skilled doctors, technicians, and nurses in a situation to which I had to submit and flow with as though I was on a river that makes up one’s life path. Both procedures verified that I had suffered a stroke that affected the cerebellum, pons, medulla oblongata, and slightly impacted the brain stem. Since the stroke occurred on the right side of my brain, it hammered the left side of my body. My balance and ability to walk were totally gone to the point I couldn’t stand up without help from a nurse or technician. I was bedridden and wheelchair bound. At first I could eat some food if I made an effort to swallow as much as I could on the right side of my throat. A nurse taught me how to do that by turning my head to the right as I swallowed. Over the next couple of days, I lost the ability to swallow and eat, and I noticed that my eyesight was becoming worse, especially in the left eye. Because I needed to obtain nourishment in someway, technicians place a feeding tube through my nose that ran down into my esophagus. Soon afterwards, I lost my voice and could only speak in a whisper.

Neurological ICU

For the first day at Fort Worth Harris, I was in an ICU or some kind of ER unit for patients with neurological damage. The thing I remember is how the doctors and staff went beyond the call as to how helpful and encouraging they were. One particular nurse gave me sponge tips to dip in water so that I could at least quench some of my thirst which was heavy duty. The problem was they didn’t want me swallowing too much because the stroke had affected my ability to eat and drink. Thirst weighed heavily on me, and I wanted water all the time. But it was not forthcoming. My prayers took on a life and death theme. I actually prayed that if I were going to be bedridden and wheelchair bound and unable to eat or drink, I wanted God to take me home. I think about those prayers these days. Were they right or wrong ways of praying? They were honest.

Neurological Floor

After only one day in the ICU/ER unit, the doctors transferred me to what I think was the third floor for patients with neurological damage. I went through another series of MRI’s to verify earlier results and to check if the stroke had gotten worse. Again, the nurses and technicians displayed their skills and compassion in amazing ways. During this time, I had a feeding tube that ran down my nose into my esophagus. I soon lost my voice all together and could talk only in a whisper. I would remain in that state for several weeks. Things began to add up in my mind. I couldn’t walk or get out of bed without assistance, my eyesight had gone awry, and now I couldn’t speak. The left side of my body had lost most of its coordination. My prayers continued to be for healing or to be taken home.

After a few days, I was moved across the hall, same floor, but out of the neurological unit to a general unit. I got to know the nurses real well in that room. They were highly skilled, compassionate, and would converse with me every chance they got. We had a running joke where I would try to trick them somehow into giving me water to drink. But they held their course. After a few days, I was glad to hear that the feeding tube was coming out of my nose, and I would actually have a small operation to place a feeding tube in my stomach. I hoped that my voice would return after the removal of the nose feeding tube, but it did not. My daily prayers were for continued and total healing. I would like to claim that my faith prevented me from having any doubts about my future held. Alas, I had doubts and worries, especially about being bedridden and my regaining my abilities to walk, swallow, speak, and see. To say the least I was scared. But I continued in prayers day and night.

On Display

I had seen movies and television shows where a doctor and a team of residents or interns observed patients. I never thought of going through such an experience. Nonetheless, a Russian doctor and her team of residents came to see me several times. The doctor said, you are our special patient because you are doing so well. And we have high hopes for you. I had been told by the other doctors that I was doing well, but I knew I had a long way to go. I didn’t feel like a special patient. It was interesting, however, to witness the doctor and residents observing me. In fact, I kept asking doctors if I were going to remain in my present state or get better. Obviously they couldn’t offer any guarantees, but they believed I would regain my functioning. or at least some of it. But it would take time. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and one I haven’t developed that well. But with the kind of stroke I experienced, patience is a must. During this time and even now, I’ve had my share of frustrations, anger, temper tantrums, and impatience. To develop the kind of patience needed to work through a stroke is a learning curve to say the least.

The Screaming of the Fallen

I had tried my hand at writing some poetry about a year or so before my stroke. Needless to say, I’m not a poet. Nonetheless, I was pleased with some of the things I had written. I coined a sentence, I hear the screaming of the fallen in a poem I titled DarkLand and another titled The Calling. As a Christian, I believe we’re all fallen human beings. On the neurological floor I heard other patients screaming, sometimes for help and alleviation of pain, and other times calling out people’s names who never showed up. I thought about the phrase, the screaming of the fallen. We are captured in these bodies, and our inability to shake them really comes home when we are injured or undergo a serious illness like a stroke. Every time a patient would begin to call out, I would pray for him or her silently in my room. Prayer is a force that something like a stroke will bring home to you in a hurry. For the believer, the comfort and hope come in knowing that one day we will see Christ face to face. Our bodies will be fully restored.

Conclusion

I learned all the nurses’, techs’, and doctors’ names who worked with me at Fort Worth Harris. I couldn’t have been placed in a better setting. The ones that were on shift when I left stopped by to see me and say bye. Although I considered it a real blessing to be at Harris, I didn’t realize it at the time, but God’s providence was carrying me along in ways I would have never imagined. My next stop in my venture would be a rehab clinic. I wanted to be placed in Denton Select Rehabilitation Clinic. God answered that prayer. Once again I was being transported back up North on I-35W. Still my future was clouded with many unknowns.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./December 14th 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT