Gordon and Jill's Story
Gordon couldn't see out of his left eye, so we went to an emergency room. They ended up sending him home. Minutes after we arrived home, Gordon collapsed. We had the ambulance take us to OHSU.
At OHSU, we learned he'd had a carotid artery dissection, which is a type of stroke. Although this type of stroke is more common in younger people, it was still so strange and unexpected: Gordon was not considered to be high-risk for having a stroke. His doctors, including Dr. Barnwell and Dr. Lee did a MERCI clot-retrieval procedure to get more blood going to his brain. They were able to remove three large blood clots, but we weren't sure how Gordon was going to recover, or if he was going to recover at all.
Gordon was then transferred into the Neuro ICU. We had the utmost confidence in our doctors and the nurses were so calm and nice. Everyone exuded competence. They were going to keep Gordon in a coma for three days so his brain could start the healing process. But he was doing so well that they decided to bring him out after only 24 hours. At first, he didn't recognize anyone. The only words he could say were "yes" and "no."
The doctors cautioned us against being overconfident. Gordon had lost the use of the right side of his body, his ability to speak and most of his memory. Life was not going to be how it was prior to Gordon's stroke. We spent a lot of time with Dr. Clark, and have such a huge appreciation for him. Dr. Clark said it best: "Of patients who've had a stroke, the ones who recover best are the ones who want it the most."
That inspired us to work very hard. Gordon had to relearn everything - even basic math and reading comprehension. We brought out the kids' old textbooks. We used flashcards.
Gordon has now been in two studies for hand and arm function post-stroke with Dr. Paul Cordo. He's also done occupational therapy with Amy Fielder, and is working with Ryan Rockwood at the OHSU Center for Health & Healing to help build strength. Ryan's great; we joke that he's like our new son. Gordon can now walk with no pain, and has restored movement and some strength to his right side.
Your perspective shifts after a stroke. You find your satisfaction and joy in different things. Gordon used to be in sales and talked all the time. Post-stroke, speech can still be a challenge, but he's using his skills to give lectures about his experience and ongoing recovery. We accept things for what they are and make the most of it. We feel very positive about the future.