When My Grandchildren Taught Me My ABC’s…

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope” ~ Bernard Williams.

Eddie Vincent was a truck driver, a Harley rider, a man’s man in every sense of the word. He took care of others, especially his family, and most of all, his old lady Sandy. Then the unthinkable happened. Eddie had a series of health problems including a heart attack, sepsis, and a major stroke that left him with expressive aphasia, where he lost the ability to speak fluently after severe damage to the left hemisphere of the brain.

Eddie Vincent is no longer a truck driver or a Harley rider, but he is still a man’s man to the core. Eddie had the most difficulty and frustration with his inability to communicate, even more than any of the unthinkable hardships he faced. And, at the beginning, it seemed as if there was nothing but hardships…

After Sandy found him at home in bed paralyzed, she rushed Eddie to my hospital where our stroke team led by Dr. Ruchir Shah rapidly treated him with a clot-busting medication called t-PA. Sandy and her family were very scared during this time and questioned if they were making the right decision or not with t-PA, given there was a chance he could bleed. She trusted the team taking care of him and had faith he would be okay.

I recall that moment clearly. Eddie was asking to be discharged from the hospital before he was even admitted. Unable to speak, however aware of his surroundings, he refused to have anymore tests done. It was heartbreaking for me to see a patient who needed an MRI of the brain, a 2D echocardiogram, CT Angiogram, speech therapy and we had to figure out why he had the stroke – yet all he could think about was how he would pay for this. Unfortunately, his sentiment and concern is not so uncommon in healthcare. He felt like he unintentionally left his fiancé an overwhelming financial burden, having foregone the option of health insurance to provide larger paychecks. He wondered if she would leave him. He wondered how she could possibly still love him.

There were many dark times that Eddie regretted his life being saved, thinking he would be better off dead. Depression post-stroke is not uncommon which can lead to thoughts of harming yourself. Sandy, then his fiancé, showed up to the hospital one day wearing her wedding band, showing Eddie without the use of precious words that we so typically rely on, that she didn’t plan on going anywhere. That’s when the miracles began. Eddie lifted his finger slightly to rub the ring and then smiled for the first time since the stroke.

Sometimes, it’s in the worst of scenarios where you see the best in people and Eddie is eternally grateful for having experienced a plethora of blessings in the form of love and support. It seemed like everyone whose path crossed his wanted to help. Our staff here at the hospital, the social worker, speech therapists, friends, neighbors, family, and even strangers were there to help in any capacity they could.

One of the many blessings was the blending of Eddie and Sandy’s families. At first, they were only awkward acquaintances at best, but Eddie’s stepson and Sandy’s daughter cemented their bond by spending every single day together teaching Eddie how to speak again. Eddie’s grandchildren came over every Sunday to teach him his ABC’s – just think about that for a second.

And, as for Eddie and Sandy? There were struggles. Finances became a hurdle as Eddie could no longer work. The disability process can be difficult to navigate for a spouse and even more so when stress levels are already high. Sandy spent many tear-filled days and nights struggling with the simple things she had taken for granted about her and Eddie’s relationship – their affectionate words. She feared Eddie would never be able to say I love you again. Four months later on February 14th, 2014 Eddie said, “I love you” along with two other words Sandy had been longing to hear…. “I do.” She does not take those words for granted anymore and encourages others not to either.

Almost 5 years after the stroke, Sandy and Eddie still take things day by treasured day living on love, faith, hope, and healing. Sandy encourages others dealing with their new life, post-stroke, to stay positive and focused. It’s a journey Eddie wouldn’t wish on anyone, but he is Blessed Beyond Belief that he still has a story to tell…. And he will continue to fight until he finds the words to tell it. So should you.