When a Stroke Strikes a Loved One

In November of 2013, Mike Kahle was in his ninth post-op day recovering from the back surgery. Everything seemed to be going well until his wife, Louise, heard a loud thump. Mike had rolled off the coach and was incoherently babbling.

“I realized that something was wrong and called 911,” states Louise. Mike was coherent enough to try to get her not to call, but thankfully she trusted her instinct.

Mike was transported to ProMedica Toledo Hospital, where a medical team worked for three hours to manually remove a blood clot. “They were only able to get little pieces,” explains Louise. “Eventually the body absorbs it but because the clot was there for so long it made more damage.” Mike’s right side was paralyzed, his speech was affected and he was unable to discern when he needed to go to the bathroom. “Mike could occasionally get words out that I could understand. He asked, ‘What are we going to do?'” recalls Louise. “I said, ‘We are going to get you better and move on.’”

Challenges and Unknowns

Since his stroke, Mike’s mobility has improved. For the past year and a half, he has been driving with the use of one hand and he no longer requires adult diapers. In October 2015, Louise celebrated a milestone when Mike reached for the grocery list and, instead of passing it to her, wrote the item on the list himself.

These victories are much needed among the series of challenges and unknowns.

“It has been challenging,” says Louise. “I became the caregiver and Mike the patient. I was caring for an incontinent, big man in a back brace who suddenly became a stroke victim. No one told me what to expect. In the middle of the night I would wake up and start thinking about all the what-ifs. What if he doesn’t get any better? What if he has another stroke? The mental fatigue is as great as the physical fatigue. I once screamed at him, ‘I don’t know what you are saying!’  I also worried who would be Mike’s advocate if something happened to me since we do not have kids. I can understand how people could snap.”

Mike and Louise celebrated a milestone when Mike wrote again for the first time.

Help and Hope

Louise has attended a monthly support group at ProMedica Flower Hospital. “I find the speaker beneficial and it’s great for caregivers to find resources,” says Louise. But it’s the shared stories she finds most empowering, which is why she’s sharing hers.

“Caregivers need to know they are not alone and right at the start, have someone to talk with who has been through it.”

Louise feels it is vital for caregivers of stroke victims to make time for themselves.

“Caregivers need to know they are not alone and… have someone to talk to who has been through it.”

“I know this is easier said than done when you can’t leave someone’s side,” she says. “Do whatever it means to take care of you. I have a friend come sit with Mike while I get an hour massage or get my nails done. I often worry about caregivers who can’t afford to get out.”

For friends of caregivers, Louise suggests taking action instead of saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do”.

“Bring food, offer to sit with a friend or offer to help with yard work,” she recommends. “My friends have answered my calls for help. It makes me feel safe that they have my back. If you can provide that feeling for someone—do it.”

Saying the right thing isn’t as important as showing support. “Just being there is the most important,” says Louise. “A stroke can shatter your world, but you can move forward. I see how far we have come and Mike’s continued progress. I never let anyone tell me there are limitations to healing and or that there is no hope. For it is what got us to this point and what keeps us going.”

Have you or a loved one experienced a stroke? Share your story in the comments below.