Katie’s life before her TBI was full of profoundly meaningful activity. Katie was dedicated to helping others in a multitude of ways. (See “The Plan” Katie’s Story Part Six.)
Katie’s life now revolves around her daily care.
Additionally, however, there has been significant improvement in her social interaction. She is able to go to church. Friends come to visit, and together they enjoy activities like dinner and movies and games.
But I’ve been thinking about ways to rekindle the element of altruism that was once integral to Katie’s objective in life.
I asked Katie if she would like have a pen pal, and suggested
Gabrielle Giffords http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords or
Sharon Budd http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/10/victim_of_i-80_rock-throwing_s.html
The idea did not pique her interest.
I talked to Sam about joining a support group so that he and Katie could have the opportunity to both give and receive encouragement by sharing common challenges with other brain injury patients.
Sam did not discount the idea entirely, so I think I will bring it up with Katie at our next visit.
Sam did say, however, that he is not personally under a lot of stress, and although that is probably not entirely true, I will say that his demeanor has improved greatly. Sam appears to be doing better than I have seen him for more than two years.
When I asked Sam specifically if life has improved for him since Katie came home, he replied, “Yes.” This I was obviously pleased to hear.
I’ve been struggling somewhat over continuing to blog Katie’s Story. There is no longer any “big” news to report—and that is a good thing.
So, although I will leave the door open for future posts about Katie, I would like to sum up Katie’s Story with the following observation.
Life is unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic. What happened to Katie was tragic and overwhelming. Although Katie’s life will never be the same as it was before her brain surgery, it is better. Arriving at this place was improbable, but every effort has been worthwhile.
Katie now resides in a nursing home. During the first half of 2013 she had surgery to have her skull reattached, and Botox injections to relax her limbs. Due to the traumatic brain injury (TBI) that caused the stroke, Katie’s left arm is tightly contracted; the left leg has dropped foot; and the right leg has become mysteriously contracted after her skull reattachment. Only her right arm functions normally. Katie has had some physical therapy, but it was discontinued due to her inability to tolerate the pain. Friends were trying to help out by stretching her limbs, but no one could stand to put her through the agony. So physically, there was very minimal improvement, at best.
Mentally, progress was more positive. Her vocabulary was good, and she was able to communicate fairly well. She did have a tendency to “confabulate” (giving fictitious accounts of past events, believing they are true, in order to cover a gap in the memory caused by a medical condition such as a brain injury). That characteristic, in addition to the extreme change in her personality, were possibly the most difficult for family and friends to adjust to.
Judene and I tried to visit Katie every week or two, and we would sometimes have get-togethers as couples for dinner and game night at the nursing home, with the hope that familiar activities would help restore some essence of her personality. And very gradually we began to see some progress—through a smile or a laugh or a demonstration of Katie’s keen wit.
Because I had been an Assessor at the Area Aging on Aging, and because I had experience with developing care plans, I began to talk to Sam about the possibility of caring for Katie at home. I told him that I had seen clients in similar conditions cared for at home. I acknowledged that providing total care is very difficult and a huge responsibility. I understood that Sam was completely over-whelmed by the concept, and basically scared silly by the idea.
But I had a plan—a real longshot—and it became a driving force for me to see if it could work…