My friend Betty, who is my oyster-eating partner, had a massive stroke 3 weeks ago. Although she turned 79 on Bastille Day, she was in terrific condition, exercising daily and eating right. She was a perfect size 6 and totally in touch with the world.
I didn’t find out until my return from Kauai because her family didn’t have my correct email address. Yesterday I went to see her in the rehab section of Sibley Hospital, not knowing exactly what to expect. I was encouraged by her mental acuity, but discouraged by the paralysis of her left side.
I was able to go with her to PT, where I watched her struggle to get in touch with the nerves and muscles that serve her left arm, hand, and leg. There were clear signs that she is making progress, but she has a long way to go. It made me wonder just how all this works. It wasn’t as though she had had the surgery I experienced which cut the muscle in my hip. In her case, a whole section of highway had simply been closed. As the PT practitioner explained it, they are looking for new routes to get to the same place.
She is determined and willing to put in the effort that it will take to reclaim her damaged body. I am sure it helps that her mental faculties are still so in tact.
Once again I am reminded of how quickly our status can change. In my case, missing one stair left me in a heap at the bottom and resulted in a hip replacement. In hers, a brain hiccup left her with half of her body unresponsive.
I will continue to visit her as she struggles to come back from this devastating blow. Next time I will come armed with books of poetry to read to her. She loves the modern poets like Billy Collins, David Budbill, and Szymborska.
I promised to take her out to get oysters when the “R” months return once again.