Sister Delores – a healing angel

As I look back on my recovery, and remember those who were influential in my recovery, especially during those critical, uncertain early days when few had faith in me or my chances of survival.

Sister Delores, was a tall, slender woman, mid-50s, with a mass of grey curly hair and an amazing smile. She was dressed in a navy skirt and sweater, a white blouse with a buttoned down collar. She was gifted with a gentle spirit and deep compassion for the sick and injured. 3ff53b2a48369d245fef5abf96684554

I remember the day she entered my hospital room – and my life. She stood beside my bed with a folder full of papers in her hand.  She placed her hand on my arm and, in her soft voice told me she knew how hard it was for me, but that I must have faith and never give up.  She told me that, with God’s help, I could do this – I would do this. She reminded me I had two beautiful children to get home to.  Sister said she would visit me every day to help make that happen – and she did.

Each day Sister Delores would bring me a scripture, an encouraging word and a smile.  I think the encouraging smile was the most helpful because it spoke volumes of her faith and belief in me. To receive faith in my ability to heal enough to go home was huge; because at that time, I was profoundly paralyzed.  I could not even speak. Sister Delores spoke to me – and for me.

She was always there to comfort me with her words, and the touch of her hand. She prayed with me and for me. She was my rock.  Even though I could only speak to her with my eyes, she seemed to, understand everything I thought and felt. Her words of faith and hope helped me grow stronger and, when I weakened, her soothing words brought me peace and courage.

All during my therapy and recovery – and whenever we crossed paths in the hallway, she would stop and encouraged and blessed me with her words, her faith, her heart. Kate, you can do this. You will do this. You are doing it.  Whether with words or a smile, or a touch of her hand, she gave me hope and the encouragement to carry on – and eventually win.

Sister Delores has since passed on but this dear friend – this healing angel – will always be remembered.  Her words and her memory stay with me as I am sure they do for hundreds of other souls she touched. She was a shining example to me. We never know the impact we will have on someone. Recently, I received a note from a client who struggles with a myriad of disabilities:

Hello Kate, I’m glad you are on my side.  I know I am not your only client and yet when I speak or write to you I feel like I am.  And that’s something you didn’t learn in books. I’m learning from you how to treat and look out for others. 

Sister Delores’ qualities as a professional caregiver, a friend, and as a healer, are what I hope to emulate.  I hope her spirit will continue to strive through me to as I help others on their journeys.

There are many healing angels in my book Paralyzed but not Powerless.  Stay tuned for other stories of other healing angels.  The most important story is yours.  You too, can be a healing angel. All it takes are hope, faith and the touch of encouragement. Who will you touch today?

 

 

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Paralyzing Fear

Do you know why lions roar? lion-roar

It is to paralyze their prey so the prey can’t run away.  Whenever I was afraid of something, some difficulty, relationship, anything – I’d run. Then, when I suffered a double-brainstem stroke I, like the lion’s prey, was paralyzed. I was unable to move a muscle – trapped and paralyzed in my body. For the first time in my life, I had to face my fear head on.

Those were lonely, dark days for me, only this time, it wasn’t fear that paralyzed me; it was the paralysis that caused the fear – intense fear!

Fear of being alone, fear of dying, and fear of living, fear of just about everything. Every waking moment was spent in fear of the unknown and uncertainty. I was alone in the dark; alone with my thoughts.

Over two decades has passed since my stroke; yet, the experience remains vivid in my memory. I never want to lose sight of how far I have come. I want to remember every step of the journey especially when I am helping someone else with theirs. That was a big part of why I wrote my book Paralyzed but not Powerless. The initial title was Kate’s Journey. I wanted people to know that recovery is a journey and they do not have to travel it alone.

Instead of running away from my fear, I had to face it. The best way I know how to do that was to transform fear into faith.  Faith that I would somehow heal – and return to the land of the living.  I had to breathe in God and breathe out fear.

I know it sounds cliché, but the acronym that helps me the most, is knowing that fear is simply False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R). Today, I have learned to transform fear into faith that whatever needs to be done, I can do – but not alone.  I need professionals, experts, God and friends, and so do you.

Another major fear was returning to school. It was monumental. Just like my stroke recovery, returning to school as a disabled woman has involved many, many baby steps and many helping hands along the way. I had a lot of old tapes playing in my head, particularly the background noise of self-doubt. I was not good enough, I was not smart enough – I was simply not enough – to pursue a professional career in the helping profession.

Then I read my own book again.  The theme?  Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want; on what you have, not on what you don’t; on what you can do, not what you can’t.

So, off I went to college. I applied myself with the same discipline and determination that it took for me to recover from impossible odds. Despite often feeling overwhelmed, and paralyzed with fear at the daunting task of earning a bachelor’s degree then on to a master’s degree, I remember what it took to overcome the paralysis of fear and the fear of paralysis. I had to focus on what I want, what I have, and what I can do – and who there was around me who would help. Countless helping hands helped me recover in order to live, countless helping hands helped me go back to school, and find new purpose in life.

Instead of allowing adversity to pull me down; I used it to elevate me and move me forward and help others. I could not have done this without you, my professional and personal friends and family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have been a part of helping me along my journey.

And remember, when you feel stuck and paralyzed with fear, think of my story, and take some  small action that will move you forward.  Focus on what you have and what you can do – and do it. Move from fear and paralysis, to action and recovery.

 

 

 

 

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My stroke just came of age – the legal age to drink!

Yep! 2016-04-07-1460038309-2825920-Drinking_1 Twenty-one years ago, life as I knew it, changed in the blink of an eye. My dreams became suddenly irrelevant as the possibility of taking my next breath became my primary focus.

I suffered a double-pontine stroke and in minutes became completely and totally paralyzed.  I could not walk, talk, move a muscle.  I could not even blink – all I could do was think.  Locked-in and locked-out from all that I knew, I was transformed from confident and fit to frightened and fearful.

My journey of survival and recovery began.

During those long lonely hours, I never stopped hoping, believing that I would have a miracle, and be restored to life.  I believed, or maybe just hoped – at least I prayed – that I would once again be a wife, a mother to my two toddlers. The miracle did occur. It may have been the slowest miracle on the planet, but a miracle – a real-life miracle – it was. I know it, and I am deeply grateful for it.

Now, today, twenty-one years later, my life is restored, yet revised. Yes, I am, again, a healthy woman. I am again a wife, and a mother. This time around, however, I have dedicated my new life after recovery to advocating for others and helping them recover.

I once lived in a five-bedroom home in an exclusive neighborhood.  I had it all. I knew “the cost of everything and the value of nothing. [Oscar Wilde]” Now, I know the value of life, and I am profoundly grateful for each moment I live. Once unable to stand, I now stand for life. Once unable to speak; I now speak for others. I dedicate my life as a human service worker, speaker, and author to helping others overcome the paralysis that keeps them from moving to their next level of success.

How do I know they even want my help?  Who wants to live? Who wants to die?  I cannot know. All I can do is ask. And if they are unable to answer, I will simply be there for them and take the risk that my help, my presence is wanted.  It is, after all, that willing to risk that sets us, and them apart from the timid souls who will not. And therein lies the challenge and the goal.

“…The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing. He cannot learn, feel, grow, change or love. He cannot live.” ~ William Arthur Ward.

I am often asked by family members of a stroke survivor how they can change them, and make the survivor do the necessary physical therapy at home. My response is always you can’t – only they can.  All you can do is hope and pray that they will find the desire and strength from within to recover. All you can do is be there for them. You risk rejection – you also risk success!  Change takes courage and risk – so does restoration.

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The Journey Continues

This month, my journey continues with a new chapter. I am entering into a two-year program to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work at California State University of Long Beach.

What attracted me to the helping profession is my personal experience of desperately needing help myself.  In fact, I needed help to do everything.

Overnight, I went from being a physically fit, healthy mother of two toddlers, to total paralysis; with less than one in a million odds to survive. ICU

I went through the difficult process of recovering from a massive double brainstem stroke. I needed help surviving the long night.  I needed help going through rehabilitation.  I needed help restoring my health, my profession and my role in my family.  Through this long, arduous journey of recovery, I gained a deep appreciation for the helping professions.

Due to the extensive brain injury, I had to start all over again from the beginning.  Those of you who read my book, Paralyzed but not Powerless, will recall that during my recovery process I had to go within and rebuild and reinvent myself emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Like a baby learning to take my first steps, I learned how to eat, drink, swallow, speak, write, walk and to dress myself.  And, I also learned to curse those clothing designers who put zippers and tiny buttons in the back of women’s clothing!

I decided to give back – by serving others the same way those who helped me survive and succeed. What better way than to become a counselor.

My experience recovering from complete paralysis gives me a unique opportunity to understand and counsel individuals who deal with various disabilities – especially newly acquired or developed handicaps and difficulties, visible or invisible, physical or psychiatric.  My experience helps me give them hope that they can live a normal (or supernormal!) life as they go through their journey of recovery.

I know how it feels to struggle with seemingly insurmountable personal and physical challenges. I know firsthand what hard work is, and the feeling of uncertainty as they push through the fear of the unknown. I have been to a place very few people can even imagine. This experience has convinced me of the power, and resiliency of the human spirit.  Perhaps that is why God gave me my experience.

My dear friend and one of the editors of my book, Paralyzed but not Powerless, says it this way, “Let’s appreciate the wonderful things that God blesses us with. It demonstrates our belief in Him. Let’s also appreciate the terrible things God puts us through. That demonstrates our faith in Him.” [Thomas Cantrell]

Many of you reading this, reached out to me during my recovery. Many have reached out to me during your own recovery – or to help your loved one with theirs.  I thank God for all those wonderfully terrible experiences that allowed me to understand and assist helping all you wonderful people. I feel blessed to share my story, to work with families to help them and guide them by facilitating them as caregivers and helping them figure out how to be a caregiver in the most appropriate ways.  “Appropriate” means the ways that give the person opportunity for maximum growth.  Because of the help and support (the mistakes too) of my family and medical professionals, I am better equipped to explore options when the family feels stuck and, in a way, just as paralyzed as I was in their attempts to move forward and deal with their challenges.

Encouraging a total stranger in their recovery is very gratifying. It is from these experiences, that my desire to become a Social Worker developed.  Join me on this new phase of my journey as I help others on their path. Your letters, your input and feedback, your ideas, your stories, are invaluable to me – so please keep writing.  You help me help them. When they heal, perhaps they, too, will have the blessing and opportunity of helping others on their paths of recovery.

 

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“Locked-in” – the frustrations, fears and recovery….

Steven Spierer with Talk Radio One interviews Kate Adamson, author of Paralyzed but not Powerless, about her excruciatingly slow and courageous journey from despair to hope, then to recovery and finally to truly making a difference in the lives of many others.

http://www.talkradioone.com/

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Nineteen years ago….Paralyzed but not Powerless

Paralyzed from brainstem stroke, isolated in locked-in syndrome – life is over. Or is it?

On June 28th 1995, I was fine, fit and healthy. I was focused on myself, my family, my business, my success.  What’s wrong with that?  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, it is that there was nothing right with it.

June 29th, the next day, is a day that will live in the memories of my family and friends – and some pretty amazing professionals.  My life changed forever. But that wasn’t the miracle. That I had any life left at all – that was the miracle.

Nineteen years ago I was literally trapped inside my body – totally paralyzed from a brainstem stroke, and assumed by everyone except those that cared the most, that I was dead – or essentially so – not worth saving.  Stroke can happen to anyone at any age. In the prime of my life, a fit healthy young mother of two toddlers, I suffered the unthinkable. I was totally paralyzed and unable to speak or move. This rare condition is known as Locked-in Syndrome.

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From one-in-a-million chance of surviving, I am here to speak about it – because of those who cared.  My attorney husband was as determined to save my life yesterday as he is today about saving the lives and quality of life of others who suffer similar paralyzing medical challenges. He was not alone. There were so many others; emergency technicians, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, family – an endless list of others who cared.

People say it was my focus, determination and faith that pulled me through.  Some say it was God.  They are right – it was those two things – and a third: others who care as much about me as they care about themselves. These are they who care as much about others’ families, others’ businesses, others success, as they do their own. These are the truly successful ones.

No longer paralyzed from brainstem stroke. No longer isolated in locked-in syndrome. Life is not over. Today, I am a walking medical miracle. Though I am left with some limitations I am alive, and fully capable of focusing on what I can do – which is a lot. I have taken the “dis” out of disability and focused on my abilities with action, determination, persistence – and the continued assistance and support of those who care.

What have I learned over these nineteen years?

There was something bigger than just survival and returning to a life I would never have. A seed was planted during my months in physical rehab to inspire others. Reaching out and helping someone. Give of yourself when you can because when you make a difference for someone else, you make a difference for yourself. Remember always the wisdom of Winston Churchill:  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

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Goodbye Dumpster Doggie

Helping each other can be healing on both sides. Sometimes those of us who deal with disabilities are best qualified to help others deal with the same. Sometimes those who help people the most – aren’t people!

saramagnus

Those of you who know me have often heard me speak about how much I have felt attached to my miniature poodle, Sara – my little “dumpster doggie.” Over the summer Sara passed. Up until now, I have not been able to talk about her. It has been too painful. We become so attached to our furry friends. Sara was not only a great companion; she was physical and emotional therapy for me as well.

My little Sara was a miniature poodle, who walked with a limp – just like me. We called her my “dumpster doggie” because, when she was five years old, she was hit by a car and severely injured. She had then been tossed in a dumpster because the owner could not afford to help her recover.

Someone found her and took her to an emergency animal clinic. I saw her listed for adoption on the Internet. They said she wasn’t perfect because she walked with a limp. I limped to my car and drove to meet her at the clinic along with my family.

I looked her over and saw how cute she was. Then, slowly she wagged her tail to tell me that I belonged to her and would I please take her home so she could start taking care of me. I agreed with her, signed the necessary papers, committing myself to her care, and left to prepare a home for her.

A few days later I came back with a leash – which turned out to be my lifeline. We limped together toward our car. There was nothing disabled about her happily wagging tail. We both began a new chapter in our lives together and, for the next eleven years, that tiny little thing watched over me.

And, oh how she took care of me! Sara was not only lovable, but also great physical therapy. She got me out of bed every day and insisted on taking me for a walk. On those days when I was exhausted, and just didn’t want to move – those days I could not push myself any further, she happily demanded that I do so anyway.

Because we both limp, neither of us could outrun the other – and I did so much better because of that little thing who took such good care of her human. I had my little dumpster dogie to help me focus and move ahead, one step at a time.

And now she is gone. Blindness, weakening of her old injuries because of advancing age, it was time to say goodbye. This was the toughest goodbye of my life but it was time and I could not bear to see her suffer any longer. I will always have fond memories and miss our daily walks. I will miss her dearly. As I said in the beginning, sometimes those who help people the most aren’t people. Sara isn’t a person – she is an angel.

Rest in peace, my furry friend!

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Book clubs

Invite Kate to be a part of your book club!
Recently, I attended a book club who were reading Paralyzed but not Powerless. It is wonderful connecting with my readers on an intimate level. I literally am an open book! And because of technology, you can even Skype me into your discussion. Email Kate to join your discussion, kate@kateadamson.com

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2013 Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference

I just returned from speaking at the Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference. What a great opportunity to present to a variety of people from stroke and accident survivors to medical professionals and vendors of products all in the brain injury area. Meeting people who like me are courageous and inspiring certainly was a high light. I loved meeting Zackery, a young man who had been injured in a football accident. What we had in common was a level of determination to never give up. Healing is a continuous lifetime process especially when one is dealing with psychological issues. If we remember that even if we are paralyzed at any given moment, we are not powerless. Focus on what you can do!

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Are you a hero?

You are probably like me, a parent doing the best you can. You might not see yourself as a hero – do you?

I remember when my daughter, Stephanie was in 6th grade and had an assignment to talk about their favorite hero. She chose me, her mum. The day she addressed her class, I sat proudly in my wheelchair misty eyed as she stood before her class wearing her ‘Kate’s Journey’ t-shirt speaking about her hero – me -a stroke survivor. As an added prop Stephanie displayed on her leg my spare brace used for my foot drop.

I am just an ordinary person dealing with difficult circumstances the best I can. I never thought that dealing with my disability would make me anyone’s hero.

Your situation may not be as dramatic as mine, but we all suffer “paralysis” from difficult challenges and decisions. Believe me, our children notice how we deal with it, and that formulates their attitudes and behavior. Remember to deal with ordinary challenges in an extraordinary way and you are their hero whether they tell you or not.

 

 

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