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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The anatomy of a Stroke

Thanks to Stacey at Preemie Experiment for pointing me to this video. Ellie, as some of you know, had a grade 3 Interventricular Hemorrhage, which is essentially a brain bleed, which if she were an older person and this happened would have been considered a stroke.

Jill Bolte Taylor's message is one of hope and something more in terms of the profoundness of her experience. She is a brain scientist and so studied her own stroke as it happened, and it sounded like a pretty bad one as it took 8 years for her to recover. It happened when she was 37. Don't get me wrong, what happened to Ellie is not the same, exactly but not entirely different either. Jill's story and insights into what happened to her are just so amazing. It made me wonder about Ellie's inner state and what she felt and went through. How her perspective on the world might be, probably is, different from your average bear. She emanates so much joy all the time, which I assume is the normal state of any 5 year old.

Anyway, if you have a person close to you recovering from a brain injury,
this video certainly offers up an alternative and hopeful perspective. Jill's blog can be found here.

Moments of Greatness

Today I heard a story about a man who has rescued people from random plane crashes three times at great risk to himself. He is not a fire fighter but he is unique. One unique thing is that he leaped in where others would have held back. He actually spotted a plane that was going to crash and though he was far away, he ran as hard as he could to get to the crash sight. In another instance he was told by emergency workers not to go in the house the plane crashed into, but he went anyway to save his relative. He has done this three times - braved the fiery explosive wreckage and hauled multiple people out of it with no protective gear and saved them and lived to tell the tale. It's a truly amazing story of bravery and someone who selflessly helped others at great risk when the moment presented itself. It got me thinking about whether I was rising to the challenge of being great in every day opportunities.

Each one of us, no matter what our situation, has the opportunity to be great every day throughout our day. The question is, will we recognize those moments? Sometimes it may be hard to recognize that a small act of kindness is just as great and can be as long lasting in it's effects as an act of heroism.

I think being a parent offers many of these moments. It's just a matter of paying attention to make sure you don't miss the chance to impart some small kindness on your child that they will hold with them like a tiny seed that grows into self confidence or inner strength or happiness. Ellie often alerts me to when we have had such moments. We will be playing and I will say something to her or do something and she will stop playing and look at me with this serious expression and then turn her face into my chest and give me a hug. She never says why but she just looks really happy. Sometimes she will do it twice. Then she goes back to playing. Those are the most precious moments in the world and make my heart explode.

I think if we have the heart to care and the eyes to see you can be great and not even realize it, not even try. Because it's not about getting something back or seeking glory or fame. It just becomes a way of being that you don't even think about. It is an attitude toward life that you adopt. For me, with Ellie, it's easy. To have this same sort of regard for everyone is the challenge. And for me to have it for people I don't like and have trouble respecting it is the most difficult. People who have hurt me or that I have found incompetent and in their incompetence to have injured others in some way, they are the ones I have the hardest time holding with this attitude. But even they deserve my regard and willingness to treat them objectively which is a different thing to being nice. This is not about letting people walk all over you, it's more about being detached. I will have such an opportunity to practice this attitude coming up in May at Ellie's IEP.

If people everywhere could overcome their fear, negative judgments, ignorance and blindness to just wake up a bit, the world would be a better place. This life with Ellie has really helped me be less self centered and have more of this attitude. When I say being Ellie's mom has made me a better person, like I hear many parents of children with disability say of the experience, it is in this sense that it is most profound. I am grateful because it's a not a bad way to be.