Waiting until after Thanksgiving to write this column,
I wanted to share what has happened in the Schrader family these
past eight months.
To start from the beginning, my wife, Kay, suffered a major
stroke in April while we were visiting a classmate in New Glarus,
Wisconsin. She was rushed to the University of Wisconsin Medical
Center where a team of stroke specialists treated her with the
latest technology. Two blood clots were removed from the brain,
but the damage was extensive. The doctor told me at the time
Kay probably would survive but not be the person I knew, because
of the damage to the left side of her brain. This wouldnt
sink in until many weeks later as we struggled with her slow
recovery and complications that brought more challenges.
After a week at UW-Madison she was transferred to Marianjoy
in Wheaton, an acute care stroke rehab hospital closer to home.
Thanks to the
Kay Schrader, at right, with sister Carol and her
husband Ray Larson, admire the 17-pound turkey the family cooked
for Thanksgiving dinner at the Larson home.
photo for ShamMedia)
recommendation of a friend, Rick Amato, we chose that hospital.
This turned out to be one of the finest facilities for treating
strokes and other brain injuries one could find. Two weeks later,
she was ready to move into the sub-acute care nursing facility
at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, where we have lived
since moving back to DeKalb from California 11 years ago.
This was a blessing for me, as I had spent long days with
her since April 14 and needed some respite from the daily round
trips. It also meant Kay could be visited more readily by family
and friends, plus be in familiar surroundings.
I cannot begin to thank all the people who helped us along
the way, from the surgical team at UW-Madison, the specialists
at Marianjoy, and all the medical and support staff around her
at Oak Crest. Also I must mention the neurologist, cardiologist
and psychiatrist at Kish-Northwestern, clergy and our family
physician, plus other specialized therapists in physical, occupational
and speech restoration. Kays sister, Carol, as well as
nieces, nephews and a great-niece, also have been of great help
and comfort. Others I will thank personally.
Kays greatest challenges have been to recapture some
of her memory and speech. The long-term recollections are coming
back, but the short-term memory still is a concern. Along with
the stroke came aphasia (garbled speech) and apraxia (loss of
comprehension) that affect many people. Fortunately, we have
Northern Illinois University specialists close by who are working
with Kay to regain some of her speaking ability.
She suffered a second, but less severe, stroke in August,
so more MRIs and CT scans were needed. This time, they found
she had an atrial septal aneurysm (small bubble) in the inner
wall of one chamber of her heart that apparently was causing
small blood clots to move up to the brain. A blood thinner has
now been prescribed to prevent that, but only time will tell
whether this is the single cause.
Kay had her first overnight visit home Thanksgiving week
to help make two pumpkin pies and share in our family dinner
at her sisters house. And she cherished every moment of
it. We all gave thanks for her progress and cheerful spirit.
Having learned so much about strokes, recovery strategies
and caregiving, I welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone
who has this happen in their family.