If this is Tuesday it must be Lisa. If this is Thursday it must be Gretchen. If this is Monday, Wednesday or Friday, it must be Vivian. These are the women in Dan's life today. There have been many before -- and there will be many after, but strangely enough, I am delighted and grateful to them all. They are the ones who have helped Dan through his recovery and the marathon of rehabilitation from his stroke. They are part of TEAM DAN -- therapists, friends and family, all of whom support him and encourage him to improve and work towards recovery and build his life after his stroke.
For the past 36 years I have been his #1 wife, and while I still proudly hold that title, there is a wife #2! Does it bother me? Not at all -- and if we could find some women for Saturday and Sunday, that would be fine with me as well. These are the women who currently surround him with support -- encouraging and cajoling him, helping to reteach his body and mind to perform the everyday functions that he lost when the clot traveled through his brain and destroyed vital cells. The brain is an amazing organ and if it is retaught, it can reroute pathways for many functions. This is what these women are doing for Dan.
Each woman brings her professional expertise to the sessions she has with Dan, but we've learned that professional expertise alone does not accomplish what the stroke has taken away. It is the transfusion of their spirit, love and energy that helps rebuild the pathways that were so cruelly destroyed. With every session they lift his spirits and provide the intangible element that in stroke recovery is so important -- caring, compassionate support. How do they do it? They take an interest in his activities, laugh with him and appreciate and validate the qualities he still has. One can't be taught to do this -- it is a gift each has and we feel so fortunate to have found a team of people with whom Dan works on his recovery who have these qualities.
Hillary Clinton once said, "It takes a village." Well, It takes a "harem" to help a stroke survivor through recovery -- to do the simple things, as well as the more complex. In the hospital there were nurses, doctors, physical therapists, stroke team members, dieticians, diabetes instructors, aides, occupational therapists, game therapists and speech therapists who worked with him to coax his mind and muscles to perform the functions that he had lost the ability to do. While it is essential to have professional expertise, the most effective practitioners have a vibrant spirit and energy that relates to the stroke survivor. It infuses the patient with the belief that recovery is possible, and that there is life after a stroke.
This quality was also very evident in many of the friends and colleagues who came to visit Dan while he was in the hospital. Although Dan can neither ride his bike nor work at this time, they still include us in social activities. We feel as if the "new Dan" is still valued, and it makes a big difference for both of us. Our friends laugh with him, accept him and while they do recognize his disabilities, they do not let it interfere with their social camaraderie.
A very special person in his life is his honorary wife #2. A health professional and a dear, dear friend, Gail brought a hug, a smile, constant chatter and abundant knowledge to all 10 of Dan's hospital rooms. When he was well enough, he would beam when she came in his room. When he was too ill to respond, she became my supporter, shield and interpreter. With her boundless medical knowledge and resources, positive energy, sense of humor and genuine love for Dan, Gail was awarded the title of wife #2! For me, she was the person upon whom I depended to translate the "medicalese" of the foreign country I entered when Dan was brought into the emergency room.
While no one can deny that Dan's stroke was a tragedy, we believe that it has brought some very special and caring people into our lives -- people with whom we might never have come in contact had he not suffered this tragedy. It also solidified relationships with friends we cared about before. They are all important and valued members of TEAM DAN!