Last Wednesday I waved Michelle and the ‘year 13 crew’ off for the last time.
Three days away and this chapter of Shell’s life closed. What a chapter it’s been. An incredible time of growth personally and spiritually – which was what we were hoping and praying for at the start. Yet how God acted to bring about this growth in maturity in Shells was not what any of us had in mind! Yet I can honestly say there has been blessing which has surpassed all the stress, fear and pain and I think Shells would say the same.
Michelle had her heart surgery on October 11 as scheduled. We were all anxious – understandably. We prayed that God would make it all proceed routinely and the people who were interacting with Shells would take their time to be kind, not brusque. And mercifully that was what we experienced.
Michelle went into surgery with an anaesthetist who was an older gentleman who was just that – a gentleman; gentle and reassuring. He is one of the best in his field who assured us that if he needed this surgery done, he would want Dr Lo to be the person doing it. After the surgery, and also the next morning, Dr Lo came and spent more time than I am sure he had, to explain how it went, to show us an “Amplatzer device” the same as what was installed in the hole in Shell’s heart, to take an x-ray to check the amplatzer device was still in place and answer our questions. He is a natural teacher so our questions and his answers led to more questions and more answers. We learnt a lot and are very thankful for him – his skill, manner and patience.
Since then Michelle has been feeling stronger and more energetic. As a result she’s been doing more and then is still surprised by her level of tiredness. I think she forgets it is only 4 1/2 months after a significant stroke and she is doing remarkably well. We were told that it can be 12-24 months before the unusual levels of tiredness resolve.
On October 26 Michelle had a ‘stoke review’ with the stroke nurse at Liverpool hospital who acts as an overall case manager – checking that Michelle is being well looked after in every area of recovery – neurological, cardiac, mental health, physical health, rehab etc. She was great and we saw again the MRI images of Michelle’s brain. If you imagine the left hemisphere of a brain and sliced it into 3 pieces like you may cut a cake, the middle 3rd had been oxyen deprived and resulted in damage and death of those brain cells. I am a little unclear what this means re: recovery of that specific tissue. But dead cells are dead cells. Neuroplasticity means the brain re-organises itself to carry on the functions of that area of the brain using other parts of the brain. Do those dead cells remain completedly dead? I am unsure of the answer but I do know that we have every reason to believe Shell is well on her way to making a complete functional recovery. If you met her in the street you would have no idea she had a stroke this year.
The big question now is: what does 2017 hold for Shells? She is considering changing her plans from an english teaching degree to a psychology and arts (english major) degree at Sydney Uni. There will, no doubt, be a rigmarole to make this happen. The uni will need to make their own assessment as to whether the post stroke Shells of late 2016 has the same capabilities as the pre-stoke Shells of late 2015 when she sat her HSC. A thorough neuro-psych assessment will be a large part of this which will be many hours of testing and is due to happen in the next 2 months. “A neuropsychological assessment is a performance-based method to assess cognitive functioning. This method is used to examine the cognitive consequences of brain damage, brain disease, and severe mental illness.”
We have no doubts Michelle will be able to manage this degree although a part-time load will be required at first due to slower cognitive processing and stroke related tiredness. She continues with the excellent therapy offered at Royal Rehab in Ryde. Shells has speech therapy and exercise therapy twice a week and is often sweaty and red-cheeked at the end of her rehab time as she is pushed hard physically to recondition and build endurance.
Michelle continues to reach and exceed goals for recovery and is feeling very positive about how far she has come. She was thrilled to be able to share her experience and assurance of God’s love for her (and the world) with one of her therapists and continues to do this with everyone who cares to listen.
We also want to say thank you. Thank you for your care, love, interest, prayers, encouragement, practical aid and understanding. We have been overwhelmed by the love and care – even by those who don’t even know us.
Onwards we go by God’s grace alone.