Christmas Surprise, 2011…

In December 2011, I had to get on a flight back to Beijing from Minneapolis for a family emergency. From this trip, I started to learn more about stroke rehab and began to think about how to help patients with tele-rehab.

Surprise:

Just a couple days before Christmas, I was in the holiday mood calling my parents and brother in Beijing. After several attempts, nobody answered my phone call. Nobody even picked up their cell phones. I had a feeling that there was something wrong that pulled everybody in. I was thousands miles away, not knowing anything about what was going on.

Eventually, my mom answered my call to her cell phone. After I probed from several angles, my mom told me the truth. “Your brother had a stroke and is hospitalized now. The surgery was considered successful, and we are with him now.” She cried after delivering the bad news to me.

What I heard was terrifying. My brother, younger brother, had stroke and was in surgery. All I could think at that moment was about his life after this. He is too young to have this. Just starting his family with a 3-year old daughter, he has a long journey ahead of him for his life. How will he handle normal life activity? What about his daughter? How could he make a living? What kind of job could he find with such condition?…. Over the phone, I could feel the fear and stress from my parents, just like what I felt…

When my flight landed in Beijing, I did not know what to expect for my brother. I could imagine a young, successful and intelligent man could have stroke. His daughter was only 3 years old. Life was just unfolding in front of him. I just simply could not believe it.

What I saw in the rehab center:

When I arrived in the rehab center, I was struck by the view. All kinds of patients with strokes, brain damage, physical injuries and some illness that I could not even understand, crowded in one big room in the building. All the caregivers, mostly family members accompanied patients were waiting to get into different treatment rooms. I could barely see any happiness or relief on anyone’s face. With the heavy traffic of patients and caregivers, the hallway smell was not pleasant at all. All different kinds of Northern Mandarin accents could be heard. People must be from not only Beijing, but also from several provinces hundreds miles away!!! Passing in the hallway, I saw several patients staying in one room with their caregivers or family members. The condition was not bearable for me, even just looking at the scene. My parents told me that this is the best rehab facility in Beijing, if it is not the best in China.  So patients from the most Northern part of China were there for quality rehab treatment with their families.  My brothers in-patient rehab was just beginning.

Being immersed in such an environment, everybody must’ve been mentally wiped out. I felt exhausted commuting between home in Beijing and the rehab center for a couple days. Spending 3 hours on the road everyday and several hours in the rehab center with my brother, I could not imagine how my parents handled such stress. My mom stayed with my brother in the rehab center to take care of him for all the daily activities that we take for granted.

At least, my brother showed that he is a mentally strong man. He did not say much about his illness and tried very hard during his rehab sessions. I could feel that he was trying to get better without saying it. But, he got exhausted very quickly and had a very short temper. This was especially hard on my parents, who took care of him everyday during those days.

Learned from the Doctor:

After talking to the Doctor, I learned that my brother’s reaction is very common among stroke patients. Frustration, depression, anxiety, short-tempered and anger are very common. Some are psychological and some are disability to express themselves. Memory loss, poor judgement, behavior change, loss of ability to reason or even think are very common for stroke patients. Both left or right side of the patients body have challenges to do the things that they used to do all the time, such as moving around and doing normal daily tasks such as dressing and feeding may be harder after a stroke.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007419.htm

Thinking after return back home:

After 2 weeks with my brother and parents, I was back home in Minneapolis. What I had seen and experienced made me think.

How to help my brother to recover as much as possible, as fast as possible?

How to help my brother to engage into social activities?

How to help my brother to build the confidence to do daily activity and going back to society ASAP?

How to help my parents get some relief from the workload to take care of my brother?

How to help my parents to gain confidence in my brother’s recovery?

How to help patients like my brother? How to help patients’ family members like my parents? How to help patients that do not have access to quality stroke rehab treatment?

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