My mother has survived two strokes which happened only two weeks apart.  When she had her first stroke in September last year, I couldn’t believe it was happening to us.  Funny how you always think that the worst things could happen only to other people and not to your own family.  After a week in the hospital, she was sent home.  The stroke left her language-impaired.  She couldn’t write and speak well.  She had difficulty naming ordinary objects like the TV, telephone, books, etc.  We were told that she had aphasia.  Immediately upon her release from the hospital, she underwent therapy – physical, occupational and speech.  We were really hopeful that she was going to recover because her motor skills were not affected.  She could walk and move about, although the right side of her body was weaker than the left. 

However, our relief at seeing her okay was short-lived.  A week after she was released from the hospital, she had another stroke.  We were even more unprepared for the second one.  It was a stroke that not even the doctors could explain why it happened after only so short a time.  Most restrokes occur a year or so after the first one.  She had not even recovered from the first one and there was another attack. 

I was 8 months pregnant at that time and the only one among three siblings left in Bacolod. I had to take care of Nanay and at the same time worry about Tatay, my two-year old son, and my delicate condition.  It was one of the toughest times I ever had in my three decades of existence.  I don’t know how I was able to get through that, but I really surprised myself.  I always thought of myself as a strong person, but I never really measured how strong I was until that time.

Nanay’s second stroke was deadlier.  This time she had to be placed in the ICU.  The stroke occured in the cerebellum, that part of the brain which controls most of our bodily functions including breathing, blood pressure, and temperature.  A respirator was prepared just in case she needed it, although it was never used.  My siblings came home from Manila and we took turns watching over her.  I wanted to sleep in the hospital, but I couldn’t because of my condition and because I had another child waiting for me at home.  I felt so torn between my obligations as a daughter and my responsibilities towards my son and my unborn daughter.  My husband and I had a lot of fights about that because he felt I was pushing myself too hard and he wanted me to rest. 

After 17 days in the hospital (4 in the ICU), the doctors finally sent Nanay home.  They said they had done everything for her and the only thing she needed now was nursing care.  At first, we were apprehensive about bringing Nanay home.  Of course, there was always that fear that we might not be able to take good care of her in the confines of our home.  But then we knew that we could not sustain her stay in the hospital anymore so we brought her home.   

At first it wasn’t easy seeing my once active and very dynamic Nanay lying in bed the whole day.  But soon enough, I got used to it.  I got used to hearing her cry in the middle of the night.  One of the things that her doctors told us to expect was depression.  Nanay couldn’t walk and talk.  For someone who never stays home, it was a big blow to her.  I could only imagine how she felt.  We had to give her pills for depression just so she could sleep straight at night.

There were also a lot of adjustments we had to make at home.  It was to be expected that Nanay’s condition would wreak havoc on our finances.  During the first months, we managed to get by with a lot of help from our relatives and friends.  Recently, though, the burden of finding enough money to support her has fallen on our shoulders.  While my dad can still earn, I had to push him to go out and look for contracts (he’s an engineer) because sometimes he would just sit beside Nanay the whole day.  It’s a good thing that my mom’s yougest sister continues to send us money every month.  My siblings have helped, too.  And I am just thankful that my husband is so generous, that he doesn’t count how much we have spent for Nanay.  He knows that I had to dip into our joint account to pay for the attendants and buy her medicines.

We had to hire people to take care of Nanay, something which I know she hated at first.  Eventually, though, she has accepted them and knows that we need them.  I am also grateful that these people have come to love my kids and they pitch in to help whenever my yaya has to go home. 

Another thing we had to compromise was a clean home.  My mom is the neatest person I know and while I take after her in a lot of ways, I am not a neat freak.  I know that when Nanay goes around the house, she is itching to clean it up.  I try my best to clean up from time to time but I can’t get the house clean the way Nanay did before. 

Nanay has undergone physical therapy since she left the hospital and I can see that this has been very helpful.  From just lying in bed the whole day, Nanay can now walk with a walker.  Last night, my husband told me that he saw Nanay practice walking without a walker yesterday during her PT session.  This morning, she walked to the dining table and had breakfast there. 

I know that she is recovering well.  In fact, some friends who visited her right in the hospital and then visited again lately are amazed at her recovery.  I’m just happy that Nanay has improved, kahit papano.  One day at a time, she is getting better, and that is something I’m grateful for.