Brenda with her daughter Stephanie
My Friend Brenda was here from Kelowna for four and a half days. She’s psychologist and single mother of three grown children. It's always so exciting to see her and I always miss her when she leaves.
One morning a few years ago while out for her morning walk, she collapsed. A neighbor found her immediately. She was rushed to the emergency, and diagnosed with a massive stroke.
At first the prospects were quite grim. Her children were told she wouldn’t walk or talk again. Only seventeen, nineteen and twenty one, they were devastated. I was furious at the neurologist for giving her kids such a shocking, negative prognosis at such an early stage in her recovery. A phenomenal mom, her children depended on her for love and emotional security.
Her children rallied together in the most incredible way, each bringing their best assets to keep things running as smoothly as possible. Lovingly sustaining each other, while maintaining the home, and supporting their mother in her recovery. It was a true test of love and endurance, as the kids waited daily for signs of slow improvements.
My friend Brenda and I have a long history together. We married men who were best friends in the army. After very long term marriages we both divorced, remaining close friends while our ex’s no longer communicate. A warm and loving mother Brenda has always put her kids first. Her mother died of MS when she was a teen, and although her mother was ill most of her childhood, Brenda instinctively knew how to be an incredible mother.
She’s truly an angel on this planet. So why we ask ourselves, would a woman who lives right, is kind to others, has never done anything in excess, lived a balanced life with fitness, good nutrition, and proper rest, have a stroke at forty-five. It was a rare unfortunate mystery.
Many people rallied around Brenda those first weeks. Her children even kidnapped their mom and brought her home for a few hours in the evenings. I spent some time with her kids, but after a day or so, I realized they were totally capable of running the home on their own. They did their mother proud.
Mostly elderly people were in the ward where she resided. The nurses didn’t seem hopeful that Brenda would have a full recovery either. It was frustrating for the kids and others who loved her. Heather, a woman whose daughter used to baby-sit for me, had a parallel situation to Brenda’s and was recovered almost ten years. She too was in her mid forties when a stroke occurred. So I never gave up hope that Brenda would eventually see a fully recovery.
On those first days alone with Brenda, I tested her. First I asked her to punch in her home number on the cell phone. She missed only a few digits. I asked her questions I knew the answers to. She nodded the correct answers. She had her full faculties. I knew she understood me, even when others said it wasn’t so. My mother was aphasic in her last months and we communicated well with body language. I likened it to a computer that crashes, and then you get it up and running, but a lot of the data is missing. That was Brenda, it was all there, and she just had difficulty requisitioning it verbally. Her audio processing seemed to be the most affected.
I called Heather and asked her what I could do for someone in the first days of a stroke. She advised me to massage her hands and arms so her muscles wouldn’t atrophy from being dormant. So the kids began massaging the affected hand as they sat by her bedside.
Within a few weeks she was walking, and she was working hard to make her hand and arm function. She was spitting out a few words. Within four months she had traveled from Kelowna with her kids down to my place. She was speaking slow broken English; she was tired and needed constant rest. Crowds were difficult and draining, but she persevered.
Last year she treated me to a night in a Hotel, I was floored at how good she looked. She was dressed so funky and had a new pep in her step. It was a new, more modern woman, full of zest and fun, the same woman I had known for almost twenty five years. She was functioning as normal, with some speech impairment.
It’s been two years and she is waiting for her speech to fully recover. Each visit I witness new improvements. She is reading and can read aloud with great precision; at times she has difficulty requisitioning some words. But don’t we all as we get older anyway? Put menopause in the mix and who knows if it’s the stroke, or that annoying menace mental pause. I am so proud of my friend; managing to plow through adversity with the best attitude of anyone I know. She is always positive and intelligent in her resolve and I feel so fortunate to have her in my life.
She is considering getting her Ph.D. during her recovery. I think she is an absolutely amazing woman! It certainly makes my physical ailments pale in comparison!
Her children have all moved on. Her son has made her a grandma of two little boys, her one daughter is now married and living in Jersey and her other daughter Stephanie, who has always been driven, is on her way to being a phenomenal business woman! Life is good. Today she drove four hours home so she’d be arrive in time for her Dragon Boat class.