Thursday, April 30, 2009

Be Aware This May

May is Stroke Awareness month. It is also the month that my solo art show titled ”Finding My Voice” opens in Lexington, Kentucky at Gallery B, with a reception on May 8th from 5-8 pm. The works in this show were recreated over that past two and a half years…since August of 2006. That date is pivotal in the theme of the show. But let me digress…read my blog entry of May 19th, 2008 that explains a lot. ....

"What May Means To Me Or Why I Blog" MAY 19TH 2008

May has always been a special month for my family…spring is in full swing, my husband’s birthday falls in May and of course so does Mother’s Day. But this year [and last year] May has taking on new meaning for us, as it is designated as Stroke Awareness Month.And we are very aware about stroke. Now.

On July 29th of 2006, my husband and I, along with my sister who was visiting from California, were all headed from our farm in Morrill, Maine to my eldest brother’s home in New Hampshire to celebrate his 70th birthday. It was a surprise party for him and for the first time in a long time, my siblings and I were going to be together to party and have a good time. We arrived on time and I got out of our car to greet everyone, feeling so happy to see us all together. My sister-in-law, Bev walked up to me and started talking …I could hear her, but I couldn't make out a word that she was saying. I didn’t feel right, but was busy looking around at everybody when I realized I couldn't see my right hand or arm and I couldn’t figure out where they were…and I was still trying to understand Bev. She sounded like a slow broken record and her words were all jumbled to me. I looked around for my husband, Les and when I saw him I asked, “Where’s my arm? And he said “By your side? What’s the matter?” Then I guess everyone saw something was wrong with me. I remember them helping me into the shade of a huge tree on the grounds and helping to lay me down on the ground. I looked up at everyone…I didn’t know what was happening. I couldn’t really talk and tell them what I felt and a sea of faces looked down on me. But through it all a strange feeling of calm and peacefulness filled my being and I knew it would be all right.

I was suffering a stroke.

I missed my brother’s 70th.To make a long story short…I was rushed to a hospital in N.H. and then was transported by ambulance to Portland, Maine, and admitted into Maine Medical Center. This was done in order that I should be closer to my family and doctors.Tests were started. The left side of my brain had been ‘attacked’ when the blood flow was interrupted or stopped due to a blood clot. A significant part of my left temporal lobe was affected and this left me with right-sided paralysis and Aphasia. Aphasia is a condition where language problems make it difficult to talk the way I used to and makes writing very difficult for me. Something that was so important to me in my life [I have worked as a newspaper reporter and fashion editor in the past…and wrote poetry.] .... was now something that was so difficult. My understanding and comprehension of speech were unimpaired, but speech itself became hard as my speech related muscles wouldn’t cooperate and my brain could not find the words to say what I wanted to. But what was more important to me, as I lay on the hospital bed with my family around me…could I draw??? I managed to get the nurse to understand what I wanted…. a pencil and paper. She brought them and everyone looked on as I sketched an eye, a horse head……….okay… I could live with the limitations I had a this point. I could draw, and this would mean I could paint. Life was good!!!

In the week that passed in between hospital tests, MRI’s and blood work, I sketched some, slept a lot, but I knew I needed to get home, to our quiet farm where I would be alone with my husband, see my Corgi and our horses, see and smell our gardens and get down to the business of getting better…. to getting ‘Kathi’ back!

This year and half that has passed has been difficult. Our horses became my therapy, as I brushed them while walking with a cane, my hand and arm gained strength. I cleaned stalls needing the muck fork to help stand up with. Throwing hay and lifting shaving bags became my upper body strengthen exercises. I had a speech therapist come and work with me in our home, who helped me start to get over some the Aphasia problems…and an occupational therapist to help me get my hand coordination back. And I painted…and drew and I slept. I slept a lot. I still sleep during the day needing naps to replenish my energy.

I started a blog after my therapist suggested that I do it as an exercise to recapture my language skills. Each and every blog entry has my recovery in it. Metaphorically each of my paintings tells of my struggles and my victories...most in the form of equine art.But through it all I knew that my attitude about what I was going through was more important to me that what had happened to me. My recovery depended on my attitude. I cannot control what happens to me in life, but I can control my attitude. And that is my life’s mantra now……….’if it’s gonna’s up to me.’

And I have also been blessed with a wonderful husband who has been beside me through it all. Les has been the wind beneath my wings.So in a nutshell….that is my story. Why I blog.. and the road leading up to the beginning of my blog. That is my story and I am sticking with it.

SO…. next week, May 2009, we head down to Lexington, KY. for my solo show and a chance to explain to folks about stroke and the ramifications of it on it’s victims and their caregivers. I am one of the “lucky” stroke survivors…After a life time of suffering TIA’s [ little mini strokes ] and not knowing what they were really about…I feel a need now to tell more people about stroke and it’s symptoms. If I had paid attention to the TIA’S over the years before, maybe today I wouldn’t have the language skills deficit and the right-sided physical problems that I have today. What I didn’t tell doctors kept me from having the care I should have had before the stroke even happened. If I can help one person from experiencing stroke…it is worth it. Folks just don’t know ……maybe I can help?

But on the bright side….I do hope to see you at my reception…May 8th…5 to 8…be there!!! I will be looking for you!!!


Kimberly Kelly Santini said...

Kathi, you are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your journey - which is really still in the beginning stages - there are many who need to hear your story and see your art!! good luck at the show - I'll be at the opening in spirit!

Kpeters said...

I will be thinking of the "8" when I raise a glass........or are we "9"?

Karen Thumm said...

What an inspiring story, Kathi! I admire your courage in facing your illness and the tough road you've had to recovery.

Having lost a husband to a brain aneurism, strokes and other brain "events" have long been of great concern to me personally. Good on you for passing the word along and helping to make people more aware.

I'm very sorry that I can't be at your opening reception but wish you a world of good fortune with this show.

Horse crazy lady said...

I am so sorry I missed the opening after promising I'd be there. My brain has it's own little "skips". you're work and your story is so compelling and inspirational.

Kpeters said...

I also wish you all had been there! To be truthful with you, I am not sure I was there?!!! Where was my head???? lol