One evening in January, 2008, Lyndall Maxwell was resting comfortably on her sofa. The drab January day receded into the background, as Lyndall closed her eyes, relaxed and slid into a peaceful slumber. But, somewhere in the depths of her sleep, she was hit with an ischemic stroke on the right side of her brain. In the space of a heartbeat, seventy two year old Lyndall was suddenly paralyzed on the left side of her body.
She awoke and somehow managed to crawl to her cell phone, which was on a chair across the room. Lyndall says that she’s not even sure how or when she placed a call; she can only remember crawling, then passing out. It could have taken her a few minutes, or a few hours, to cover the length of the room. Evidently, she was able to reach her brother, who came over immediately.
When help arrived, Lyndall was rushed to an acute care hospital, where she stayed for two weeks, until she was stabilized enough to start rehabilitation. Once she entered the rehab hospital, Lyndall began a rigorous physical, occupational and speech therapy program that lasted five months “in-house” plus an additional five months as an out-patient.
Although her treatments were fairly conventional, Lyndall did try neuro-stimulation treatments and massage therapy to treat her residual pain and spasticity, but both provided only nominal relief. Even now, she remains paralyzed on the left side of her body, and still experiences pain in her left hand and foot. Lyndall continues to have concentration problems, as well, and her balance has never recovered to where it was before her stroke.
Initially, there were two things that Lyndall found the most difficult to accept after her stroke: one, that she couldn’t readily dress or bathe herself, and, two, that she couldn’t walk anymore. At this time, nearly four years post-stroke, Lyndall still hasn’t seen much improvement in her condition, so her concerns have mostly stayed the same. In fact, it’s even more difficult for her to accept that, after all this time, she still can’t care for herself as she would like, and that she still can’t walk everywhere, the way she did before.
Like many stroke survivors, Lyndall had to give up her lifestyle and most, if not all, of the activities that she participated in until she had a stroke. Before she retired, Lyndall was a devoted teacher. At various times throughout the years, she taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, working mostly with Hispanic children. Lyndall even received certification to teach English as a Second language (ESL), as part of her professional credentials.
And, consistent with her giving nature, Lyndall also made time to volunteer. One recipient of her generosity was a local hospital, where she worked at one of the hospital’s information desks, served on their Board of Directors, worked on the telephone committee, managed the volunteer bulletin board, maintained the volunteer scrapbook and took photos of the volunteers at work.
Lyndall also donated her time and effort to the Harris County Health Department, in Houston, Texas. At the time of her stroke, she had just retired as the “Director of Volunteers,” a very responsible position since the Health Department utilized volunteers in their various clinics, in their animal control function, and at their main office. Lyndall also developed positions for the Department, to provide people with clinical and practical experience.
But all of these activities, that gave her life so much meaning and direction, were ripped from her grasp as a result of her stroke. Because all of her post-stroke residuals (especially paralysis and lingering pain), Lyndall was forced to stop volunteering.
Lyndall also had to relinquish driving her car, and is no longer able to go on the big tours and trips that she, and her family members, used to take. In fact, Lyndall feels that one of her greatest post-stroke achievements was being able to go on a few, short out-of-town excursions. This encouraged Lyndall and gave her hope that she would recover sufficiently to resume traveling to Canada and Mexico, like she did in her pre-stroke life. However, she soon realized that frequent, long-distance vacationing is a thing of the past.
Now, much of her traveling is limited to shopping trips courtesy of the limo and bus provided by her senior residence. With the amount of “overhead” required to just get through the day, “hitting the road” on a regular basis doesn’t fit into her new normal. Neither does going to the fitness club, nor doing many of the other enjoyable activities that made Lyndall feel younger and more alive. She feels that all these losses have had a profoundly negative effect on her normally optimistic outlook.
However, despite all that the stroke has taken away, Lyndall still has something that the stroke could not touch: a strong support system to help her move on. Her loving family and loyal friends, access to reliable home health personnel, and the many friends and acquaintances that she’s made at her assisted living residence have made Lyndall’s life more full and worthwhile.
And, Lyndall is learning how to use her time differently. She spends her days working on her special hobby, researching her family history, as well as participating in different activities at her senior residence such as aerobic water exercise, Wii bowling and Skip-Bo card games. She also reads stroke journals and e-newsletters regularly, to keep up with all manner of stroke-related news.
So Lyndall Maxwell, the retired teacher, has come full circle. She’s learned a valuable lesson from a most unusual instructor…her own stroke…that no matter what she’s lost, the most important things in her life are the strong bonds she has with her family and many friends. Those, coupled with her resilience and quiet determination, will provide the fuel to keep her life moving forward for years to come.
If you would like to contact Lyndall, you can reach her via the Stroke Network. Her id is: Lynd.