WHEN A STROKE IS MORE THAN A STROKE by Linda Hales

Linda Hales blog article

WHEN A STROKE IS MORE THAN A STROKE

In honor of my late daughter Tammy, who wore her inner child
on the outside…every day in every way.

Let me tell you about a young woman of thirty-two who had everything to live for.  Tammy had a career she loved and was engaged to Nick, a handsome police officer who professed that she was the love of his life.  She was the picture of good health and met each day with boundless energy.  Well then, just imagine this.  Tammy arose for work one morning, showered and made her bed only to turn down the covers and get back in.  This is a story about feeling good one moment and never feeling the same again.  It’s the story of a devastating event that occurred on March 5th, 1998 and changed her life forever.

Thinking she might have the flu, Tammy took her first day ever off work, fretting about how her clients would fare if they were short staffed at the hospice where she worked.  She taught life skills to assist young quadriplegic adults, many who had been born with severe cerebral palsy and others with equally physically challenging conditions.  She made it her mission in life to put a smile on their faces even when they were having a bad day, and she was so good at it.  Nick stopped me as I was leaving for work to let me know that he was off duty that day and would stay with her and let her rest.

When I returned home that evening, I sensed that something wasn’t right.  Their cars were in the driveway yet no one was home.  Were they out walking the dog or visiting a neighbor?   Then the phone rang.  It was my sister.  She told me to stay put, that she would be right over.  And in just two minutes Kim was at the door to break the news that Tammy had been rushed by ambulance to the hospital and that she had possibly suffered a stroke.  Earlier that afternoon, Nick had noticed that Tammy’s right hand was tightly clenched and that she was unable to speak. His police and emergency training had taught him that this meant serious trouble, so he immediately called 911.

My sister drove me to the hospital, wanting to stay by my side through this nightmare.   We were hurried into a case room where Tammy laid helpless.  She was paralyzed on the right side and was semi-conscious.  As I held her, she was shaking, and tears filled her eyes, and I sensed how frightened she was.   She was still my little baby, even if she was thirty-two years old.

Tammy’s CAT scan revealed that she had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage in the left frontal lobe, something which explained her total right side paralysis.  She was immediately transferred to St. Michael’s, Toronto’s top trauma hospital, where a team of five doctors, including a renowned neurosurgeon, prepared to perform a frontal lobe craniotomy on her.  She was out of surgery by 1 a.m. but remained in a coma in the trauma unit for a week. She was hooked up to every manner of monitor imaginable, including a pressure probe in her brain.  A Doppler ultrasound machine was brought to her bedside to monitor for blood clots that were forming quickly despite the blood thinners she was on.  Tammy’s surgeon explained that her hemorrhage had the same residual effect as a stroke.  She suffered brain damage, paralysis, a degree of aphasia and double vision.  He ruled out an aneurysm but believed a brain tumour had ruptured and bled, though he couldn’t prove it from the pathology.  In the end he promised to get to the bottom of it but feared that the tumour was likely an incurable oliodendroglioma―which always grows back in time.

Next came Step Down care.  Step Down was a semi-intensive care unit where Tammy stayed for two weeks before being transferred out to a Rehabilitation hospital to relearn how to walk and talk.  She wanted to come home so desperately and outdid herself to speed up her recovery.  After just three days she was walking with a special cane, and it wasn’t more than two weeks before she was allowed to return home to continue her physical therapy and recovery.  The worst was over and she seemed to be out of the woods.  The next months brought multiple therapies such as speech and strategies to help her overcome the linear after effects of her brain damage.  Despite her deficits, Tammy had seemingly regained her health. She set about enjoying her life as though nothing had ever happened.

Tammy’s positive outlook continued until one day when she suffered a major dizzy spell accompanied by a minor seizure.  Her surgeon ordered more scans, including an MRI. Sadly, it was diagnosed that she had a tumour, and we were told it had indeed been the cause of her original hemorrhage.  It was growing rapidly and within two weeks, she was being treated at the Brain Tumour Clinic at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.  Her doctor didn’t risk anything that even remotely resembled surgery, not even a biopsy.  She started with oral chemotherapy which continued for eighteen months.  When chemo was no longer effective, numerous trial drugs were administered and, finally, massive radiation treatment.  This was when Tammy lost her hair, but that was the least of her worries.   To those who loved her, she was beautiful anyway.  Her spirits were high and she vowed to beat the odds because she had too much to lose.  She remained optimistic and lived a full life to the extent that she was able.

It was in March, 2003, nearly five years to the day of the first event, that a final prognosis was given.  Tammy was running out of time and would be lucky to make it to the end of the summer.   We were advised to prepare ourselves for that.

Now, didn’t I say that Tammy wore her inner child on the outside?  After sharing the heartbreaking news with me, I chose that time to ask Nick to make an honest Mother-in-Law out of me.  Without missing a beat Tammy immediately dropped to her knees and proposed to her sweetheart.  Nick was completely caught off guard and dropped to his knees to accept (Had she waited one more minute, he was going to propose to her anyway).  He then reached into his pocket, brought out a ring and placed it on her finger.  They were married in June, and I finally became the Mother of the beautiful bride and an honest Mother-in-Law to Nick.  They said their vows in the Toronto police chapel and celebrated with an elegant reception at our home with close family and friends.

Utter happiness and hope helped Tammy to surpass the timeline she had been given for another thirteen months.  She simply had too much to live for and refused to let go.  Tammy gave it her best shot, but the inevitable deterioration won out.  Her paralysis returned. And she became more child-like with every passing day.  Tammy spent her remaining time in a hospital bed with home care until it was her time to go.  She suffered a final hemorrhage and spent her last day and night in palliative care.

Tammy left us on July 22nd, 2004.  In that final moment, I understood that I had come full circle.  I was with her for her first breath and by her side for her last.   She had given us six precious years and now it was her time to rest.  I had to come to terms with that.

Of course, much living existed between these lines, but I offer this as a small tribute to my daughter who taught me so much about integrity of spirit and how important it is to never let go of your inner child.  She maintained an uplifting sense of humor throughout her young life, and I decided to honor her by creating my Sunshine series of children’s books, dedicating them to her memory.  Her smile lit up my life and so many more who loved and knew her.  If my books make even one child happy, then I am honoring her memory well.

BIO  

Linda Hales is retired and devotes her time to writing in various genres for both freelance and pleasure.  Her greatest passion is writing motivational stories for young children.  Linda has self-published two Sunshine books, an Activity Story Book and Andy-Roo which was recently awarded the 2013 Kart Kids Book List award for Creative Storytelling.   Learn more about Linda and her books at:

Website:  http://www.linnieslittlebooks.com.

All books are available on Amazon

And Clayton Bye’s Online Store

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61 thoughts on “WHEN A STROKE IS MORE THAN A STROKE by Linda Hales

  1. Kenneth Weene

    No parent should have to bury her child; but such pain does happen, it is so important that the child’s passing teaches the parent such positive lessons as integrity of spirit and of allowing your inner child her freedom. Thanks for sharing this moving story.

    Reply
    1. Holly Stover

      As a mother myself I feel so sad for you LInda. This is an experience a mother should never have to go through. I admire your strength. You are such a loving mother and your writing tells the story so beautifully.

      Holly

      Reply
  2. Diane Piron-Gelman

    What a difficult thing to live through. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to lose either of my boys. Thank you for sharing this story of such courage and grace, on Tammy’s part and yours.

    Reply
  3. Johnnie W. Lewis

    I pray that I never have to experience burying one of my children or grandchildren. That is not the “normal” order of existence.

    But I also pray that, if GIVEN that tragedy, I will be able to use the experience for such good as Linda Hales has. Her daughter’s integrity shows through her mother’s words.

    Thanks for sharing, Linda. I can only imagine how HARD it was for you to write this!

    Reply
  4. Clayton Bye Post author

    It sounds as if your daughter could be an example for all of those who have terminal or serious diseases. That she looked for ways to continue to enjoy life says a lot. And now she has left for you a legacy of words that you can read over any time you please.

    Keep on being brave, Linda,

    Clayton

    Reply
  5. Sherrin Emery

    I just relived that terrible time through your beautiful words and am trying to type this message through my tears. As you know, Linda, Tammy was precious and dearly loved by all her Aunts, Uncles, cousins and friends. We all hoped and prayed that she would make a complete recovery but it was not to be. We never know when our time on earth will be over but it seems to me that our dear Tammy was HERE FOR A GOOD TIME/NOT A LONG TIME. I still believe that after her passing, she pulled some strings to bring our beautiful Nicholas to us as she knew how long we had been waiting for him. For this great gift, I will always be most grateful Love always Sherrin

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Dear Sherrin – As Bob Rumble said – “one leaves and another comes along” and within a week, that’s exactly what happened wih Nicholas. He tends to have her sense of humor in many ways and he claims an affinity with her. I love he poem that Vicki framed – Only in The Next Room. Thanks for your beautiful comment.

      Reply
  6. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Linda, You wrote from your heart about a terrible loss no mother or father would want to experience. Thank you for letting us meet your lovely daughter through your words. Remember, she is always with you, cheering you on.

    Prayers and strength be yours.
    Cynthia

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Thanks Cyn – you are right. I felt her cheering me on to finally get to that writing I promised before she left. She knew that it would be good for me to do it and it makes me feel so much more at peace.

      Reply
  7. Barbara Ann Crozier

    Hi Linda,
    I am so very proud of you for not only writing the books but for writing this article.
    Tammy was such a beautiful, vibrant and loving person and I am happy to have known her for the short time that I did. She was so brave through this entire ordeal as were you and Nick.
    Keep on writing.
    Hugs to you,
    Barbara Ann

    Reply
  8. Micki Peluso

    Linda, I’m typing through tears, because while no one can feel or know your pain, I can, as you know, identify with it. I knew about Tammy, of course, but you never seemed to want to talk about it, except to note the similarity between our daughters–both lost too soon for no good reason we can know. Now I feel I know both you and your precious Tammy better, through this heartrending story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Hi Micki – you are right and though this was short, it is the first time that I told of it from start to finish. I only ever got half way. It feels good and it is what she asked me to do before she left us.

      Reply
  9. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Ms. Hale has written a tribute to her daughter, Tammy that allows you to walk the journey they shared together. I cannot imagine the pain she had to feel even as she was writing this incredible story.

    She shows her ability to pen a paper worthy of merit though suffering the powerful memories she relives in order to share a part of her life that may be of help to others with a selfless post.

    Thank you Ms. Hales for sharing your natural abilities to write both children’s books and adult alike.

    Mamie

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Many thanks Rosemary. It feels good to write ‘adult’ you know. Perhaps I’ll do more of it as time passes. I seem to do a lot of it but to-date have never published any. We’ll see!

      Reply
  10. Martha Love

    Dear Linda,

    Hoping you do not mind this comment in form of a letter, I have started it over many times in the past few hours since your post went up this morning. There really are no words to say to you that might comfort you and to make this story anything but truly sad—sad that Tammy had to go through all that she did and sad that you and her husband Nick are left missing her so very much.

    My grannie, who was devoted in her religious beliefs, once said to me when a childhood friend of mine died of whooping cough at a very young age, “God needed an angel.” I think that was a simple way of her saying that there is some soulful reason for a death that we can not understand from our mundane perspective. I was young and those words my grannie spoke made perfect sense to me then and somehow I was happy for my little friend that she got to do that. Now however, I see those words are no comfort at all really to a mother who has lost her child and so I continue to stumble in finding anything to say that can lessen your pain.

    Linda, I will be going tomorrow to the ocean and will float out to sea a pink plumeria flower with a blessing attached for Tammy along with two other plumerias, one on each side, one for you and one for Nick.

    Thank you for writing and sharing this story. Tammy’s memory and your love for her is beautiful and inspiring. You are so very brave and so very strong to have written the stories for children that you have, to create something lasting in Tammy’s name that will benefit people as she would have liked. I look forward to reading your books now more than ever!

    Love,
    Martha

    Reply
  11. John W. Charpentier

    Sorry to hear about your daughter. It sounds like the two of you shared a wonderful life together. I have a daughter too. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to watch the one you love suffer. Thanks for sharing. It was a powerful image of your being there for her first breath and her last. God bless you and your daughter. Someday soon you’ll be together again.

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Hi Ilisa! Many thanks for your warm comments. You met Tammy at a Raptor’s game with me in the company lounge about half way through her illness. She was doing really well and I remember being so proud of her that night.

      Reply
  12. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    Linda, you are one strong Woman and I pray for continued blessing over your life. This story will help others to understand that calling 911 is imperative especially for symptoms on one side of the body. Thanks for sharing. Louise

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Dear Louise – You are so right about symptoms, especially when they are on one side of your body. Age is no protector as I learned and it was likely there long before we saw that anything was wrong. Being a nurse, you would know. Thanks for your comments Louise.

      Reply
  13. Kim Raymer

    I am Linda’s sister Kim. I read Linda’s beautiful story yesterday and couldn’t post a response immediately because I needed some time to myself. This story awakens many emotions in me A day doesn’t go by in my life without thoughts of Tammy. Thank you Linda for sharing and allowing others to discover the power, beauty and strength of this dynamic woman, your daughter and my niece Tammy.

    Reply
  14. Anne Sweazy-Kulju

    You must be a strong woman, Linda. I couldn’t read your post without crying; I can’t imagine writing it. My daughter is my life, as I’m sure Tammy was yours. I don’t know how I would pick myself up off of the floor, let alone write such a beautiful tribute, as you have done. Thank you for giving us this beautiful read today. But also, thank you for including the symptoms and precursors your daughter experienced. It was likely difficult for you to write this, but it may just save one of our lives, or the life of a loved one, one day. God Bless you.

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Tammy had asked me to tell her story to the Brain Tumour Foundation for their newsletter. She felt that it might help someone else through the many trials that she was experiencing. I never did it and kept putting it off. This is my final attempt and I succeeded. Many thanks.

      Reply
  15. Linda hales

    Once again, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your warm wishes and understanding. Writing it has been therapeutic, even after nine years but it was the right time for me.

    Reply
  16. Marion Lovato

    What a beautiful story and such a tribute to your daughter. I’m sure that this was difficult to write because it’s not the “natural order” of things. I can’t even imagine what it would be to lose any one of my children or the “grands”. What an inspiration she was to others though. You made her seem very real to me, and I thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  17. Sharla

    No one should ever have to endure the loss of a child…but it happens. Prayerful thoughts go out to you, Linda, even after so many years. The pain never stops but the memories live on. Hugs, my friend!

    Reply
  18. Marilyn Marcoux

    Linda…you are one of the strongest, most inspirational women I know. I admire you. Reading this story and remembering back to when it happened and what you were going through at that time, brought more than tears to my eyes – it opened a little ache in my heart that I felt then and just felt again. Always remember Linda, you have good friends and family and your very own special guardian angel wishing only good things for you in your journey through this life.

    Reply
  19. Colleen Magloughlin

    Linda:
    I am so sorry to hear about your daughter, I never knew that she had been sick, but she must have been a beautiful person, just like her Mother. Take care of yourself. All the best Colleen.

    Reply
  20. Linda hales

    Fortunately , the good memories live on Sharla. Tammy had such a positive attitude and it is easier to remember the good times as she would have wished. I had mixed feelings of sadness and joy while I was writing this and it felt like the healthy thing to do.

    Reply
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  22. Mary Firmin

    Dearest Linda, I cannot iimagine what you must have gone through. I have a daughter not much older than Tammy and your story made me cry. Your courage is beyond limits and I pray that your writing helps soothe the grief every time you think of your precious little girl, because they wil always be our little girls. God Bless you, her husband, Nick, and the entire family. Your friend, Mary Firmin.

    Reply
  23. Cousin Barbara

    Oh Linda
    I was stunned when I learnt that you had lost your daughter. Many times there were questions I wanted to ask. Asking, I felt, however, might appear as prying and replies too much to expect. Now I know the complete story and it has touched me as if it all happened just yesterday. One bit of joy I learned, from your writing, is that you had those 6 precious years and that Tammy and Nick had them too. I just know that with every Chapter you add in your Children Books, you are spending time with Tammy with every word and every line. She will be with you always and that is how is should be.
    Hugs
    Cousin Barbara
    Bermuda

    Reply
  24. Barbara Neish

    Oh Linda
    I was stunned when I learnt that you had lost your daughter. Many times there were questions I wanted to ask. Asking, I felt, however, might appear as prying and replies too much to expect. Now I know the complete story and it has touched me as if it all happened just yesterday. One bit of joy I learned, from your writing, is that you had those 6 precious years and that Tammy and Nick had them too. I just know that with every Chapter you add in your Children Books, you are spending time with Tammy with every word and every line. She will be with you always and that is how is should be.
    Hugs
    Cousin Barbara
    Bermuda

    Reply

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