Husband's stroke recovery: What can I expect for the future?

Posted by shamilton @shamilton, Tue, Aug 13 1:29pm

This will be a fairly long explanation but I’ll try and keep as brief as possible. My husband had a valve replacement and then got a blood infection which destroyed the valve, he then had a a TAVR which seemed to be succesful and much shorter recovery than open heart. Within months after this he started experiencing strokes – they were initially small and came out of nowhere but each one, of course, caused an injury to his brain. I kept telling the doctors at our hospital in NC that I believed the strokes were somehow caused by the valve but they kept insisting it was not – he was put on blood thinners but he kept having strokes. He had one that caused some memory loss so they put him on Eliquis thinking that would solve the issue. In April he had a massive stroke (his 6th in total) and initially had complete paralysis on his left side – they were going to do surgery to remove the clot but then he started being able to move again so they put him in ICU. He could not get the strong blood thinner as he was already on blood thinners so they just watched him. They did tests (as they had done for his previous strokes) and insisted it was not the valve and when I asked what I should do since there was obviously a problem, they told me to just watch him. At that point I told them I was taking him to Mayo and got an appt in MN 10 days after. Mayo saved my husband’s life – Dr. Scharf told me nobody should have this many strokes without a physical cause and he felt it was the valve. They did the same tests as the hospital in NC and I believe a couple of extra ones and found that blood was forming behind the valve, causing clots and, in turn, causing the strokes. Dr. Pochettino (my angel) did a 12 hour surgery to remove everything the hospital in NC had done and replaced it with a mechanical heart – it was a successful surgery but his cognitive issues were horrible at first. He couldn’t remember much of anything, was talking nonsense and had a vacant stare which was frightening – they said some of it was what they call ICU dementia and he would get better. Bottom line is that when we returned to NC in mid-May, I immediately got him into speech therapy for his cognitive issues – it’s been slow and he still has pretty severe memory issues but it has improved. He is working 3 days a week with a helper to make sure he doesn’t make any mistakes. My question is, what do I expect for the future? I have been grieving the loss of our normal life but I’m thrilled my husband is alive. I don’t know how long the cognitive therapy continues to improve his cognition and since he’s a realtor, he doesn’t make any money until he does a sale so we are living on my salary which is a little scary. He’s in his 50’s and is still very fatigued from everything he has gone through. Can anyone tell me if there is hope or should I just accept what is and try to move on.

Hi @shamilton, so good to hear from you again and to get an update on your husband's visit to Mayo Clinic and his recovery now. My response is that you should apply BOTH hope and acceptance in equal measure. Speaking from a non-medical perspective, hope gives us something positive to strive for. Acceptance helps you reframe hope to fit the new normal. You and your husband have been through a lot. After such a huge life event, we don't revert back to life as it was. But there always room for improving rehabilitation and recovery. You were so wise to get him into speech therapy right away. Make patience your best friend. As you've already said it's slow going, but improvements are happening. He's young. @jmjlove also had a stroke in her 50s and can offer better first-hand experience than I can. I'll tell you one thing, typing with only one finger doesn't stop her from writing wonderfully informative and supportive posts on Connect. 🙂

Has your husband enjoyed getting back to work part time? Does he get frustrated sometimes?

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He says he enjoys going back to work but he is exhausted after the 3 hours on the 3 days a week he goes in. He doesn't really seem to get frustrated but he does ger lazy and apathetic about things. I feel most of that is the healing as he was a very energetic person before and I think part of the apathy is fatigue which will be here for a while between the stroke and the long and involved open-heart surgery he endured. Thanks for asking – wasn't sure anyone would remember me.

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