First, quit calling us a "victim of a stroke", we are survivors of a stroke; the majority of us have found a way to live, as one professor said, not under our circumstance but above our circumstance! For many of us, we are some of the funniest, loving people you will ever meet. Second, don't expect us to be able to multi-task easily. If a football player tears his ACL, no one expects him to be on the field playing at a high level the next week; most who have suffered a torn ACL never play at a high level again. If a skier breaks his leg, no one expects him to be on the slopes the next week, skiing for gold; most who have broken their leg will never ski at a high level again. If a pitcher has to have Tommy John surgery, no one expects him to be on the mound pitching in game 7 of the World Series the next week; most who have had Tommy John surgery will never pitch at a high level again. What do all of thes have in common? A muscle, tendon or bone was severely injured, and because of that people understand that they might be limited. Stroke survivors have suffered an injury to their brain; some more severe than others, but each one has suffered an injury. Because of that our abilities are somewhat diminished; it is difficult enough for a stroke survivor to complete one task, but when a stroke survivor is asked to do one task, and then while performing that task he is asked to do another task, one of two things will invariably happen: the first task will be left undone so that the next task can be done, or the second task just will not be done, and everyone gets frustrated. Stroke survivors then get mad at themselves because they cannot do what they used to be able to do. Third, allow us to say the wrong word without always feeling the need to correct us. We often times say the wrong word,even though we know exactly what we mean. Sometimes we will be talking about putting something in "the drawer", but we will say that we put in in "the cabinet". Please don't feel the need to constantly correct us; it makes us feel bad when people are constantly correcting us. We understand if we say something completely off the wall, but sometimes we are taught in therapy to find a word that means about the same thing. For instance, if I have a pickup and want my kids to get into the pickup, but the word escapes me at the time, I might tell the kids to go get in the car. Please don't feel the need to remind me that it is a pickup, not a car. If we are putting something away and we tell you it is "on the table" when it is really on "the counter", don't constantly remind us that we messed up. We have suffered an injury to our brain and sometimes that manifests itself by using words that are sometimes wrong. Fourth, allow us to "not feel right" without always assuming that we need to go to the hospital or go to bed. There are times that we feel "spacey" or "have a far away feeling", sometimes our face will get a little numb, other times we will get terrible headaches, those are all the result of the injury to the brain. In some cases, as in mine, the Drs cannot remove the clot that caused the stroke, and that clot will still cause problems well after the stroke. We sometimes feel like the room in spinning, or we have periods of numbness in different areas of our bodies, and that is because there are still problems from the clot, but does not mean that we have to go to the hospital for every problem; I had my stroke in 2008, I bet I was in the ER 4 times in the first few months of 2009. My doctor told me on my next visit: those problems are always there, but your brain compensates so that you don't feel them; but, at some point, usually when you are tired, your brain loses the ability to compensate and you feel these things. Learn to R E L A X and give yourself permission to just rest, more than you have ever rested before. Fifth, allow stroke survivors to adjust to their new reality. A wise man told me once, Jim, think of your ability in the terms of money; you used to have $3 to give people, and you gave $3 in effort. Now, since your stroke, you only have $1 to give; don't try to give $3 if you only have $1 to give. Each stroke survivor is different, but it is safe to say that few stroke survivors have as much "money" to give as they did before the stroke. Don't look down on them because they can't give as much as they used to, but be appreciative that they are still willing to spend their "money". Thanks for letting me vent a little. Life is a Gift! Give it freely!
A few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to come back to Stratford, Iowa, to First Baptist church, as their pastor; for those of you who have followed this blog for some time, FBC in Stratford was my first pastorate. Let's just say I prayed about it as I was jumping at the opportunity. The church has a parsonage, so I could live there and not have to worry about a houe payment; and I needed to slow down, and this was a part time position (which, as a side note, allowed for me to get a greater disability from the VA than when I was working full time with St. Croix Hospice...) We love Stratford, and absolutely love the church; the people are wonderful and accepted us, again, with open arms. This was, for me, the perfect position: I get to pastor a church I LOVE, I get to do life with people I LOVE, and I have already had the opportunity to do weddings and baptism services for kids (adults now) that I have known their entire lives. IT IS GREAT. The longer I have been here,