One night while Patrick was still in the rehab unit of the hospital, a nurse came in to take his vitals. This was her first (and only) time she took care of him as she usually worked in another unit of the hospital. She saw him, this young man who had suffered such a severe stroke, and tried to give him some "encouraging words".
She told him that she had a friend who was a lawyer, and had also suffered a stroke. She proceeded to tell Patrick how this lawyer-friend was back to work in six months, so not to give up. Patrick began to cry.
She had no idea what she had said to upset him, but I think she couldn't get out of his room fast enough, leaving me to once again pick up the pieces. Emotional lability was in full swing at this point, and once something got to him, it was very hard to turn the focus away.
He kept looking at me for answers saying, "Six months? SIX MONTHS?" He couldn't fathom living this way for another week, let alone six months. I knew in my heart that six months would be a dream come true.
Eventually, he forgot the conversation. By the time he had been home for a few weeks, he had started setting a goal of "38", his age being just about two years post stroke.
What his goal IS, is to regain the use of his arm, be able to speak, and to walk and move like he did pre-stroke. I know this is unlikely to happen to the extent that Patrick thinks it will. I will not, however, tell him he needs to accept his fate, move on, or just learn to deal with the deficits. I don't want to discourage him from trying to get better, and if I convinced him that 100% recovery was not probable, I fear he would quit trying altogether.
So here we are, one year post-stroke. And he has realized that he will not be recovered by his 38th birthday this December. So now, he holds up four fingers followed by a "0" sign. Aha, you have changed the goal to "40". He looks at me with determined eyes and shakes his head, "yes".
I wonder sometimes if he will keep adjusting the goal as it becomes neccesary, or if it will eventually all catch up with him and leave me with a million broken pieces again. I hope we can continue to work towards his goal and somewhere along the way, he will find acceptance of who he is. I hope if he decides his body will no longer perform the duties of his past, that he is at a place in his life where he can live with it.
I hope that he will be able to look to our future and see that it is still bright with life and full of possibilities. That looking to his past is not just to see what he's lost, but to remember the joys in living.