Powerful People – Emma Jolley, Caregiver

Read Emma’s story of how caring for her mother after a stroke impacted her life.

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Emma Infanta Hughes-Jolley and I was born and raised in a little place outside of Cape Charles, Va. I was raised on a small farm with my grandparents, mother and brother. My mother and grandparents had a genuine relationship with God. We spent more time in church than the average family and we were very involved in our congregation.

What is your connection to stroke?
In 1994, my mom had a stroke. She’d been a psychiatric nurse for over 15 years and later worked in a nursing home as a geriatric nurse, and then with mentally and physically challenged children, teens and young adults. My mother suffered from high blood pressure for years and was on medication all throughout my teens and adulthood.

What do you remember about the day your mother had a stroke?
I was living in North Carolina with my brother, his wife and my mother and daughter. One day, I went out to get some items to fix dinner and when I returned home my mom was lying on the living room floor. I asked her why was she sleeping on the floor and when she turned her head toward me, I knew she’d had a stroke. Her mouth was twisted and as she was trying to get up she was spinning on the floor.

I called the ambulance and we rushed her to the hospital. The doctors told me that she suffered paralysis on her left side and would need constant care. They asked me what nursing home I was sending my mother to. I told them I couldn’t send my mom to a nursing home and that they needed to teach me how to take care of her. My mom did everything for me and I would do no less.

What happened after her stroke?
I went to that hospital every day for a week to learn everything I needed to know. When the time came to leave the hospital, they had lined up physical and occupational therapy four times a week. They had transportation that would come and pick her up and bring her back home when it was over.

It was hard. It seemed like my mother did not want to do the work, but I realize that was because of the damage that had been done to her brain. She had a potty chair in her bedroom, but she preferred the diapers. She would not really try to walk with the walker or with the cane; she just relied on me and her wheelchair.

It was hard to watch this vibrant, loving caring and strong woman be reduced to someone who wouldn’t do anything but feed herself. My mother was always a woman of faith who did not use profanity or say derogatory things, but after the stroke she began to do just that.

What other complications did your mom have from her stroke?
My mother suffered multiple complications. She stopped eating and had a feeding tube. When they did the surgery to place the feeding tube, my mom suffered several strokes. It took everything from her. She could not speak, she could not walk, she could not eat, she couldn’t even hold her body up to sit. It broke my heart. Again, they tried to get me to put her in a nursing home, but again I declined. I took my mom home with me.

She moaned and groaned all the time, but she had these moments of love and clarity that would shine in her eyes. Every two hours she had to be turned or shifted so that she wouldn’t get bed sores. There was no life for me outside my home and it was really hard, but I knew I had to give her whatever I could for as long as I could. At least twice they got hospice service because they gave her only six months to live, but that woman would not let go.

Was she able to recover from her stroke?
For a good while she was just a slab of meat lying there until one day out of the blue she started laughing at something on television. Soon she was able to say a couple of words and shake her fist. She recognized me and that meant the world to me. You could see in her eyes that this is exactly where she wanted to be: with her baby girl.

I really believe that my mother wanted me to know that I could do this, that I was not a failure and that I could do anything I set my mind to. Again she built me up, this wonderful woman who gave birth to me, nurtured me, taught me right from wrong and gave me a foundation of faith. No matter what mistakes I made in life, she was there to support and love me.

How did being a caregiver impact you and your family?
This illness impacted me entire family and most of them had a hard time even coming to see her. My brother couldn’t see her without a few drinks in his system. My children took it very hard and really had a hard time dealing with seeing their grandma. My brother’s children also had a hard time visiting, but his oldest daughter would come help me out every now and then.

My mom lived for three more years. This illness changed everything in my life, but I would do it all again for the opportunity to have that time with my mom. It helped me to learn what I was made of and it reinforced the strength and love I have for my family. I miss her every day, but I know there is no more pain for her and that gives me comfort

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