In January 2003, at the age of twenty-nine, I suffered a devastating hemorrhagic stroke. The stroke was caused by an undetected malformation of blood vessels on the right side of my brain, and I underwent emergency brain surgery the night of my stroke to stop the massive bleed. I woke up seventeen days later from a drug-induced coma, paralyzed on the left side. In the blink of an eye, our whole lives had changed. I am an only child, and my husband, Dainis, and I were just shy of our fifth wedding anniversary when my stroke occurred. I spent two months in the hospital, and during that time, I went through another brain surgery, learned to sit up, stand and walk with help, and went home in a wheelchair.
Not only had our lives been severely altered, but our roles had also been changed. I was no longer the independent, carefree wife I had been with hopes of soon starting our family. My parents and my husband were now my caregivers, and I was now confined to a wheelchair, unable to do anything without help. At the beginning, I needed help with everything from rolling over in bed, getting in and out of bed, showering, and even going to the bathroom. As I reflect back on those days, it was a very difficult and exhausting time for all involved because I was still fighting for my independence. I did not want to be cared for. I needed help and knew I needed to be patient, kind, loving, and appreciative for all that was being done to help me, but I wanted to be independent and do it myself.
Through my stroke and time volunteering at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, I can reflect on caregiving from different angles. It is a delicate balance, and the needs of each person is unique to their situation, independence, and mental capacity. I believe it is important for both the patient and the caregiver to look into support groups because everyone needs an opportunity to release their emotions. Many caregivers and survivors both need that outlet and time away but feel a sense of guilt for needing it. For each of us to recognize our needs and emotions and be honest with each other is important and necessary. Although those were difficult times, I will always be so grateful for the love of my family.
Lori suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at age twenty-nine, then developed epilepsy from the stroke. She is a walking miracle, and felt called to share her journey of faith and perseverance to encourage others. Even with her difficulties, Lori and her husband, Dainis, were able to become adoptive parents to a sibling group of three. She published her first book, CHOICES: When You Are Faced with a Challenge, What Choice Will You Make?, in March 2022 and has been connecting and encouraging others to choose to bloom in every circumstance. In October 2022, she had the opportunity to be a part of a new compilation titled RADICAL ABUNDANCE: More Than All We Can Ask or Imagine. This new publication is an amazing book compiled of fifty devotionals by thirty-three different authors, each telling their unique story.
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Tracy Crump knows from experience the burdens caregivers shoulder after caring for both her parents and her 100-year-old mother-in-law. A former ICU nurse, Tracy dispenses hope in her award-winning book, Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness Twenty-two of her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and she has published hundreds of devotions, articles, and short stories in diverse publications such as Guideposts books, Focus on the Family, Woman’s World, and Ideals.