What I’m learning from my dad’s stroke

I wanted to share a really important past post inspired by the events of May 19, 2010. Do you have those days where you remember exactly where you were and how you reacted? Here’s mine.


I’ve written a few posts (and read plenty) of how certain life events have strong connections to the public relations industry. The thoughts I share here definitely relate to PR, but in my humble opinion, connect to much more than PR alone. I’ve been “unplugged” from my social networks for awhile after a family event and the ensuing work catch up took center stage. The following post originated in an unlikely location, a hospital room.


On May 19, 2010 I received one of the calls you hope to never receive – my dad was in the hospital. Dad had suffered what was believed to be a mild stroke. Because I needed to drive straight from work my mom only provided me with minimal details. (That’s almost worse because of the situations I began concocting in my head.) Throughout the days I spent in the hospital, I realized how strong Dad is and how he would never let the likes of a stroke bring him down. I felt the need to write myself notes highlighting his strength and reminders of how this was a learning process for him… and for me.


Choose your words carefully – As a result of Dad’s stroke he has the most difficulty with his speech. He’s attending speech therapy and we have seen significant improvement from Day 1 in the ICU. To put it simply, I think we take the act of speech for granted. Dad is fortunate that he has control over his gross motor skills, but his speech exercises remind me to enjoy this everyday activity and be grateful as his speech continues to improve.


Speak softly and carry a big wit Dad has always taken his time when choosing his words. Because of this, I find myself listening extra carefully not to miss any of his latest sayings. Considering his situation, I’d score his humor a 10/10. Nurses and doctors loved chatting with Dad because of his jokes and stories. My personal favorite? After a test of Dad’s heart this past year he was told he had “the heart of a 20 year old,” and you can be sure he let everyone on his hospital team know it ; )


Don’t think, just smile – Did you know two different parts of your brain trigger a smile on command versus a natural smile? During the first 48 hours Dad spent in the ICU nurses checked in every 15 minutes. Each time they tested his arm and leg strength and lastly, his smile. He started to tire of the smile request and would flash a quick one to appease the nurse. But when Dad made a joke or we laughed, he gave us a glimpse of the smile we all know from him. This fact has been the most compelling for me because of how different forcing an action and letting it occur naturally can be. It’s a reminder to maintain the authenticity in all that you do.


Be determined – Within minutes of Dad being in the ICU he turned to my mom once the nurse left the room and said, “Let’s make a break for it.” Now that is the mentality of someone whose main goal is to return home as soon as possible. And he never lost that determination.


I’m happy to report Dad is home and continues to improve each day. This post may have started in a hospital room, but its reach on my experiences will extend much farther into the future. Can you share any stories or past posts of how life events have served as lessons for you?  


One thought on “What I’m learning from my dad’s stroke

  1. Thanks so much, Annie! (oops, I blew your cover ; ) I appreciate you sending good thoughts our way. My dad is doing great, hope to catch up with you soon!

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