the story of the strongest man i know

I realize I have not talked on my blog about one of the biggest parts of my life. I haven't given the story of my dad's stroke, and how that's affected me.

Growing up, my dad (Ron) was completely healthy. Along with the qualities he still has today (funny, loyal, honest, laid-back, generous, kind) he was very athletic. He ran, played golf, and killed it on the tennis court. That all changed on August 20, 2001.

It was Monday of the second week of 10th grade when someone pulled me and my sister Colleen (a senior at the time) out of class to tell us something "happened with my dad's brain." We found out later that day that he had a cerebral

 hemorrhage (specifically a brain stem bleed), or stroke. Everything was a blur that first day with people coming to the ICU to see him, and later to our house to see us. I think my mom wanted me to keep some sense of normalcy that day, because I actually played a volleyball match that day for my school.

The inital reports coming back were semi-positive, with the doctors thinking he might end up recovering, because he was so healthy and young (he was 49). 

The details of what happened next are not totally clear to me, and probably will never be. I know it's too painful to bring up to my family to ask exactly what happened. But I know that one of the neurologists made a mistake by not checking fluid levels in my dad's VP shunt (tube that was put in his brain after the stroke). He ended up getting bacterial meningitis two times. 

We had a lot of support in those first few years, and tried several different therapies and facilities. Some helped, but a lot didn't seem to provide much progress for him. It's hard to say what, or if anything we did, has helped him stay alive for so long after such a devastating stroke. The doctors all say he was lucky to have my mom as a nurse, not to mention both my sisters getting their nursing degrees later on. 

So many people have said my dad is the most inspiring person they know. He has the most amazing attitude despite not being able to do anything independently. He still smiles, laughs and jokes around. Stroke survivors often lose their personality or get rather ornery, but luckily that never happened with him. He never complains, even though no one would blame him if he did.

For the past couple years, I have been taking care of him full time. It's been a truly remarkable experience. He has taught me so much about life and about not giving up. I don't know how much longer we will have him with us. He's 63 now, which isn't too old, but any kind of setback can be fatal for him. 

I can't believe it's been over thirteen years since that horrible day. Our family has had some really rough moments since then. As in, the most unimaginable pain and despair. The physical and mental struggle of seeing a loved one's body slowly deteriorate despite your best efforts at physical therapy is real. 

Yet, we have seen some cool things happen out of this, like when my dad visited heaven last year (post on that to come later). Also, seeing how a community can rally together for one of it's own was really incredible. 

Despite the miraculous things we have seen happen, it's easy to feel like God's not listening. You're thinking, all these years and all these people praying for his one man, how can you not heal him? I won't know the reason until I'm in heaven, and that's hard to grasp.

Unfulfilled expectations can tear up your heart. I asked my dad if he still has hope that he will be physically healed on earth. I was surprised that he said yes. I love that he said yes. I want to strive for a faith like that. 

I told him on Christmas Day that I was so glad to have another Christmas with him. But I also know that "Christmas" in heaven will be so much better, because his body will be fully healed. And that will be an amazing sight to see.


Jenna Griffin | Gold & Bloom said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Rachel. I knew only a little bit of these details before now. I can't imagine what all you and your family have been through these last 13 years. I'm so inspired and encouraged by your dad's faith!

Kathleen said...

He was lucky to have you to take care of him past few years. You two will always have such a special relationship.