My name is Adriane White and I had to tell our 7-year-old daughter her father had a stroke on Oct. 29 of this year, the same day the World Stroke Organization launched its World Stroke Day “One in Six” campaign, 1 in 6 people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime and every 6 seconds someone somewhere will die from a stroke.
Seven years ago, my 62-year-old dad also suffered a stroke. I was a new mom in the process of changing careers, working two jobs, and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. My dad’s stroke damaged his muscles leaving him with difficulty eating, dressing, and performing most daily activities. His left side was completely paralyzed and he was now wheelchair bound. I remember the shock I felt after hearing the news.
Then, seven years later, I had to express to our daughter, her 46-year old dad, too suffered a stroke, one very much like my dad’s.
I had to tell her the truth. She deserved to know; and if something more tragic occurred, it would’ve been very difficult to face her knowing I had dishonest and withheld important information.
Therefore, the message was relayed based on what our daughter knew about her Papa (her grandfather). I explained daddy had an accident, very much, like her Papa’s; and this accident was called a stroke. I continued by saying, her dad had no feeling on the left side of his body, can not walk, move his arm, fingers; and will be in the hospital for a while. I also stressed that we would visit her dad often.
As I shared this adult news to our daughter, she was crushed! She immediately began crying, repeatedly saying “Poor Daddy!” As I shared the news with our daughter, she listened intently, asked many questions; and promised to be a “strong big girl!”
We arrived at the hospital. Upon entering her dad’s room, I could tell she was nervous. So, I held her hand. It was very clammy, as well as forehead. Plus, as soon as we walked in the room, she asked to go to the bathroom and then whispered, “Mommy, my legs are shaking, I just don’t understand why.”
In her dad’s small hospital bathroom seeming almost miniscule, I showered our daughter with hugs and kisses, tried to remain strong myself (the same advice I had given her 20 minutes prior) as I fought back the tears developing in my eyes; and let her know that everything was going to be alright.
Her dad was so excited to see her. He grinned as much as he could in his paralysis-stricken face. We stayed at the hospital for a few hours on October 29.
On October 30, our daughter stayed at the hospital with her daddy from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm explaining to me after my mentioning at about 2:30 pm, I had to leave and pick up her brother from a mentoring program he biweekly participates in. Our daughter said, “Mommy, I will stay here with Daddy because I don’t want him to be alone when he wakes up.” Kids are so resilient.
My dad, a man who was employed at a historically African-American university in Maryland for over 30 years plus, my undergraduate alma mater in fact, could no longer work! My dad, who played weekly basketball with his friends; and possibly even a trash-talking session with peers during or after the game, was unable to walk, run, and due to speech difficulties, now talk in the manner he did previously. My dad, who would occasionally meet me for a good Maryland crab cake or sushi at a restaurant conveniently located by my grad school, could no longer drive!
Now, seven years later, my daughter’s dad.
When my dad suffered his stroke, he was unmarried, and being his next of kin, I was thrust into making decisions that would affect the rest of his life, such as determining if he had medical insurance, to find out due to university Administrative changes and requirements, my 62-year old dad, who worked with his employer for over 30-years, was considered a contractual employee at the time and had no medical benefits.
While lying in the hospital daily experiencing the effects of a massive stroke, Dad’s medical, hospital, and rehabilitation costs were growing exponentially; and due to personal limited finances, I could not provide ample support.
During this time, I also learned information about the application process for Social Security, Disability Insurance, and Medicare. I found a new wheelchair accessible home for my dad, due to his current home being no longer conducive for his present condition; and while all these things were occurring, two young children remained at home, a son of 9-years at the time and our daughter, as well as full and part time work, and graduate school. Honestly, sometimes, during these days, I thought I would lose my mind! However, I knew strength was the key, but it was challenging!
My daughter and I have experienced the effects of stoke first-hand within our immediate family, you could too!
We will continue visiting my daughter’s dad, supporting him as he goes through rehabilitation. In addition, give thanks, for our dads, were two of the fortunate ones.