I have shared this information with close friends but have not made any public statements. Perhaps now it is time for all of you to know what has transpired.
Sylvia and I had visited Great Plains Yearly Meeting and then traveled to Kansas to be with her sister Patrice and family for a few days. We had planned to return home on Thursday, June 11 but Wednesday morning we got a call from Sugar Grove, the assisted living facility where my father lives. The nurse there said that Dad had not shaved for a couple days and seemed confused and asked if we wanted to send him to the hospital for evaluation.
I asked for her advice and then agreed to send him to the hospital (IU West in Avon, Indiana). We immediately packed our things and began the drive to Indiana. We drove straight to the hospital arriving about 10:15 Wednesday evening. When we got to the room, he was asleep but we helped fill out some forms for him to be able to take an MRI. I have medical Power Of Attorney for my dad.
He woke up while we were there and we visited a little but we could tell that he wasn’t really “with it.” We returned Thursday morning about 9:00 and he had not yet had breakfast nor had the tests been done. They came in and said they were ready to take him for the “Doppler ultrasound” and the MRI and it would take a couple hours. We went to do some errands and returned to find that the first test had been completed but not the MRI.
We came home and I received a call late afternoon from the doctor. She said that the MRI had been completed and confirmed that Dad had had a stroke on the left side of his brain. The Doppler ultrasound did not show any blood flow restrictions that would indicate further blood clots. At that time he did not have any drooping of the face and could walk with a walker which is normal for him. He seemed to be somewhat restricted in the movement of his right arm but he could grip with both hands.
The damage seemed to be to his cognitive ability and memory. He seemed to know who we were but could not tell the nurse our names. He could tell the nurse his name but not his birthday, and he did not know where he was. He could not tell us where he lived but he knew it was in assisted living. He also was aware that he was having difficulty. He started to say something about his s… not working right, making an ‘s’ sound and then shaking his head because he couldn’t come up with the word. Sylvia finally said, “Smarts?” He smiled like he knew that was not the word he had been looking for but then said, “Yes, my smarts aren’t working right.”
Dad had a really rough night Thursday night having aspirated some food. When we saw him Friday morning he was totally unresponsive and we thought we were going to lose him. We phoned family. My brother Harvey and his daughter Karen, and my daughter Maria made plans to come. One of the dad’s attendants said that his systems were shutting down and to expect about 24-48 hours. But on Friday afternoon he recovered somewhat and had his eyes open when Bill and Kathy Clendineng (Bill is his pastor at Plainfield Friends) came to visit and have prayer with him. Just after they walked out the door he said, plain as day, “Thank you.”
When Maria came (she brought grandchildren Elena and Mateo) she asked the neurologist if we could see the MRI. So we did. The stroke was not particularly large, but it was in the language area of the brain, so other than a few phrases that he uses frequently, he hasn’t been able to put a sentence together.
He hadn’t eaten since recovering consciousness—that was about 5 days. And other than the IV fluids he had not had anything to drink. He hadn’t been offered anything to eat or drink until they did a swallow test, which I got to watch in video form on Tuesday, but after that, he still didn’t want to eat. Perhaps he was afraid of eating after his traumatic episode, but we thought maybe he was making the choice that this life was over. When he had oatmeal for breakfast Wednesday morning and nothing awful happened, he seemed encouraged to try some lunch and Sylvia fed him a few bites of mashed potatoes and gravy, applesauce and vanilla pudding.
The hospital decided he was well enough to move to rehab so that same afternoon, Wednesday, and we moved dad from the Hospital to the new Cumberland Trace Facility in Plainfield. Since then, son Eric and grandchildren Eliea and Cohen have been to visit. Dad seems to be getting settled in.
We had a case conference on Friday. The staff seem to love him. The rehab people were particularly complimentary because he attempts to do everything they ask him, as opposed, apparently, to some of the other older men patients. He had done two laps around the rehab room with a walker that day, among his other activities. His physical strength and stamina are improving.
He still has language issues. The staff told us that all the information was “still in there” and that they were working on helping his brain make the adjustments to be able to access it. He is unable to make any sense of letters and written words at this stage. That is a little discouraging for us because he has been an avid reader. He is also frustrated with his inability to get a thought into words or to “figure” (which I interpret as being able to reason). Yesterday he did make a whole sentence—something he has had considerable difficulty doing. It wasn’t a very complicated sentence, but it is the first one I have heard.
I visited with him last evening after attending the memorial service for David Hadley. He was in the dining room and his dinner came while I was there. He was having no difficulty eating his barbecue sandwich.
We have been warned that we will not know the extent of his possible brain recovery for up to 6 months. We think we are seeing some progress, but I’m not sure how objective I can be about that.
Thanks for listening. I wanted you to know.
P.S. If you are one of the readers who know him, he would love to get a card. His address is Francis Graves, 1925 Reeves Rd, Room 505, Plainfield, IN 46168