There is good news to report: my brother will be moving into a better rehabilitation facility soon! His fiancé is now his legal guardian and has received preliminary acceptance of his admission into the rehab. unit of a skilled nursing facility close to their home in Port Huron, Michigan. Michael’s Medicaid is now approved which makes this transfer possible. Lord willing he will be there within a week.
My heart is breaking that I have not been able to see him since our initial visit to him at St. Johns Hospital April 15th. St. Johns dumped him into an inner city nursing home when a place became available who would accept someone with “Medicaid pending.” The social workers claimed that they contacted 35 facilities before St. Francis accepted him. While we are grateful that this search for a place ended up extending his inpatient rehabilitation 10 more days, the place he got transferred to isn’t much more than “3 hots and a cot.” Oh I guess they give him his medication too and an occasional bed bath. Not much for a 53 year old man who has just suffered a severe stroke and needs considerably more care.
I am sad that there has been no follow up on his medical needs after the initial physician visit. (He has a tumor on a kidney that was to be scheduled for biopsy but nothing has happened.) The staff at St. Francis has lost or been unable to locate most of his clothing. Michael sits in a “geri chair” for much of the day which is a large vinyl recliner chair: completely dependent upon others to be moved out of his room, into the dining room, or possibly into the T.V. room. I understand that the building is very old with stained walls, stench of incontinent residents, and constant sounds of demented residents or staff milling about. Michael has gotten weaker from inactivity. His weight continues to be down even with the meals and treats brought to him by his fiancé and our cousin, Lisa. Lisa is an optometrist on staff with the facility but that has made little difference in meeting Michael’s care needs. Lisa witnessed a nurse writing her requests in the nursing 24-hour care log. Nothing happened: 1) he continues to crave cigarettes whereas a nicotine patch would ease his chemical dependency and 2) he never got the wheelchair promised upon admission and supposedly recommended by the physical therapist. I am convinced that the poor, sack-of-potatoes positioning in the recliner chair has contributed to his worsening left shoulder pain. Such is life post stroke with left hemiplegia and no rehabilitative care.
In the meantime Sister Bear has secured a television/DVD player, wheelchair, walker, and bedside commode for him. However with the lack of security for his personal items and transportation issues getting the items to him from their respective locations (wheelchair and commode in Mt. Clemens, walker in Adrian, and T.V. here with me in Indiana) everything is on hold until he moves into a better place. Lord willing everything will move forward soon as various family members have offered assistance to get these items to him and his fiancé (also named Lisa!). Lord willing I will be able to visit him at Marwood in Port Huron in about 2 weeks. Surely my serious respiratory infection will be resolved by then and travel arrangements will come together; the seizure attacks have lessened some as well, gratefully. I would have never tolerated visiting Mike at St. Francis due to the extremely high potential risk of environmental triggers for seizures. Even the outdoor patio would have been an impossible place to visit coupled with the resident smokers. Knowing all of this contributed to my heartbreak of late. There was nothing I could do but keep in touch with everyone, secure the equipment, pray, and wait.
So I wonder what it has been like for Mike to be so debilitated, alone except for some weekly visits, in a dumpy and dirty living environment? I understand that he had his Bibles brought to him and pictures taped to the wall next to his bed. His fiancé Lisa says that he was trying to do his exercises on his own as best as he could. Without being able to get up and bear weight on his left arm or leg, however, the benefits of exercise would be limited. The risk for complications has been elevated with some realized as ongoing pain and weakening instead of continued progress. He was too debilitated to return home from St. Johns Hospital without 24-hour physical assistance and considerable accessibility modifications. Hopefully he will be more mobile and independent when it’s time to leave Marwood and go home. In the meantime he has had a lot of time to think about many things. I hope he reached out to the Lord, the person of Jesus Christ, in his time of need. I hope he will find some purpose, some meaning for this desolate oasis of time.
Most communication between us has been cut off since Mike arrived at St. Francis due to the sorry state of their phone system. (No surprise that the place is rated one out of five stars.) After getting through to talk to him on his first day there, the facility phone was always busy when I called. Twice I happened to call when his fiancé Lisa was visiting so I could hear his voice for a few moments. The last time there were so many loud voices and screaming in the background that the words were tough to hear. I can picture the scene in that place very easily. I worked in all types of care centers from the inner city to private pay life care communities as an occupational therapist. Many times I completed those wheelchair screening assessments and crawled around dirty, stuffed storage rooms and sheds until I could find a wheelchair with matching parts for a new resident. Oh well. When you don’t have insurance you get what you get. I guess that Mike was actually fortunate to not be dumped in a homeless shelter. At least there were security fences around the building and a guard at the front door. The boarded up homes across the street were intimidating to fiancé and cousin Lisa yet they visited anyways. I sure wish I could have gone to see him too. I miss my brother.
I look forward to seeing Mike and holding him for a long time when I do. There is much sadness for all that he has lost. There is also much anticipation for all that the Lord has in store for him and his fiancé Lisa too. I believe that the Lord has His hand on him in that Mike’s life was spared. Just under half of all persons who experience a cerebral vascular accident don’t survive. Mike’s cognitive abilities and ability to communicate have been spared. His ability to swallow foods from a regular diet was quickly restored. In my clinical experience these rarely happen in a person with severe left hemiplegia. We are all hopeful that his ability to function will improve over time as well. The rule of thumb is that the most rapid recovery occurs within the first 3-6 months post stroke. He is six weeks out from his onset date of April 13th and continues to feel new sensations in his affected arm and leg. And now his next phase of rehabilitation is about to begin bringing new hope for more return of function. This time I’ll bet at least a quarter that Mike will be very motivated for physical, occupational, and speech therapy! That will be very good to see indeed.
Until then, please join me in praying for Mike and his fiancé Lisa. Lisa has a teenage son, Alex, who loves Mike and hasn’t seen him since April. There’s a golden retriever named Garfield who misses him too. The new place is closer to their home so I hope all of them will get together sometime soon; even dogs are allowed to visit at Marwood! Oh I am grateful for such blessings. Yes, there is good news this day with the promise of even more to come. Thank you Jesus for your enduring grace and mercy. Go before us, strengthen our faith, bring healing to our dear Michael for your glory Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.