Annie was able to open both of her eyes by late Saturday afternoon. This was excellent timing, for she had a lot of people to see! Relatives and friends flooded her room that weekend…our dear friend John traveled all the way from Washington, DC to spend some time with us. He, like Juanita and the Liles, had known us for a long time and was able to elicit laughter with references from our high school days.
My sister, her husband, Ed, and their sons, Matthew and Joey drove down from Michigan to spend the weekend. As promised, Betsy brought Annie a darling red hat, along with a special T-shirt that she and her boys had painted. The shirt had a wide neck, so it was easy to get on Annie’s swollen, sore head without touching the stitches; I was so thankful for her attention to detail, and Annie was thrilled with her colorful new shirt! I knew that Matthew, then 8 years old, was a bit nervous about seeing Annie; to prepare him, I borrowed a Polaroid camera from the art therapist and snapped a picture of “post-surgery Annie” and taped it to her door. Matthew was able to study the picture a bit, and then he and I walked down to the atrium to buy a treat. When we returned, he hesitated at Annie’s door for a moment, and then pressed on. Her delighted smile put him at ease and they hugged. Later, he told me, “You know, Aunt Katie, I was a little nervous, but now I can see it’s just the same Annie I always knew. Just without the hair!”
arms, laughing, hugging and snuggling. Tom brought Annie down from her room in a wagon, wearing her new hat and special “cousin” shirt. We pushed several tables together and joined hands to pray before dinner. As I bowed my head, I saw Dr. Cohen out of the corner of my eye. I grinned at him, and his eyes twinkled as he stood quietly and respectfully while we prayed. After the prayer, he joined us,
chatting with us while he examined Annie casually with his gentle hands.
We stayed in the atrium for a long time, visiting and laughing and telling stories. My brother-in-law, Ed, took charge of Annie. Clearly feeling more energetic, she had decided that she would try walking, which was really more like stumble-wobbling. Ed followed closely behind her, supporting her and balancing her. (and preventing her from falling!) And she smiled, her lopsided grin exuding the greatest joy. Joey, not quite 4 years old, stuck right by Annie, his innate kindness overflowing as he gently held her hand and walked at her pace. The kids threw pennies in the fountain, and were delighted when a lady approached them and gave them each a quarter to toss in, “For some really BIG wishes,” she said. The food, lovingly prepared by my mom, tasted delicious, and we savored each bite. My brother and his buddies told story after story, sparing no detail of their antics in college. We roared with laughter until our sides hurt.
It was a wonderful day…the kind of old-fashioned-feeling day, without television or technology…just talking and laughing, sharing a meal and being together.
One of the speech pathologists had talked with us early on about recovery factors in pediatric stroke. She told us that research had shown that a critical
factor, and a primary indicator of long-term recovery, is family support. As I looked around at the familiar, beautiful faces in the atrium, I knew that we had it. In abundance.
Coming up in Chapter 18: Surprises from strangers; our move to rehab