A young woman’s struggle to help a husband whose brain was suddenly scrambled.
Kelly Baxter was 36 years old and had just moved to Illinois with her 41-year-old husband, Ted, when he suffered a disabling stroke that derailed his high-powered career in international finance. It derailed her life as well.
“It was a terrible shock, especially in such a young, healthy, athletic man,” she told me. “Initially I was in denial. He’s this amazing guy, so determined. He’s going to get over this,” she thought.
But when she took him home six weeks later, the grim reality quickly set in. “Seeing him not able to speak or remember or even understand what I said to him — it was a very scary, lonely, uncertain time. What happened to my life? I had to make big decisions without Ted’s input. We had been in the process of selling our house in New Jersey, and now I also had to put our Illinois house on the market and sell two cars.”
But those logistical problems were minor in comparison to the steep learning curve she endured trying to figure out how to cope with an adult she loved whose brain had suddenly become completely scrambled. He could not talk, struggled to understand what was said to him, and for a long time had limited use of the right side of his body.
Perhaps most important is connecting with other caregivers nearby who are facing a similar challenge.
“It’s very helpful to know you’re not alone,” she said. “I would ask nurses, doctors, therapists: ‘Do you know others in this situation I can talk to?’”
Ms. Renzoni, who has since become a licensed social worker, said stroke survivors are not the only ones in need of therapy. Caregivers, too, need therapy and need to know how to care for themselves. “You need your time and your time only. My life stopped for a while. I didn’t leave Ted home alone for maybe six weeks except to run to the grocery store, and he wouldn’t allow me to hire anyone to be there with him. I think caregivers should ask friends and relatives to come and relieve them,” she said.