Posts Tagged With: Brain

I Can See Clearly

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for my eyesight.

Colors blaze in every hue and tone, distinct, vibrant and clear. I can’t imagine life with color blindness. (Also known more accurately as deficiency of color vision.) A world of gray and white and black would lack vitality. What joy colors bring into the world.

My eye

(Photo credit: orangeacid)

Blessed with a full range of vision, my eyes and brain are aware and make sense of things on either side of me. I can successfully navigate  the cluttered aisles of a store, a plate of food and the minefield that can be had in getting in and out of a car.

My eyes and mind communicate important information such as a fork in my hand or a doorway on my right or left.

Slight variations in what my right eye perceives and my left eye looks at gives me depth perception and lets me gauge the distance of my hands to the keyboard or the width and height of a step I might need to negotiate.

What a wonder to see clearly with the simple assistance of a pair of eyeglasses. Without these specifically curved and polished pieces of glass or plastic my world appears blurry and vague. With such simple tools I recognize faces, read signs, and enjoy a view in the distance.

Since my mother’s stroke her eyes work in a new way. As far as I’ve been able to decipher all the information I’ve just barely begun to study, the closest definition of what her eyes do is called homonymous hemianopsia. Basically it means that the right half of her vision in BOTH eyes is missing. There is nothing wrong with her eyes, but rather the error occurs in the brain. It would look something like this:

Now transfer that to every single thing you look at every day. A plate of food, doing your hair, reading a newspaper, checking your Facebook page, riding in a car, walking. Seeing only half of everything from both eyes!

The thought of it makes my heart hurt and my brain throb and my entire self want to drop to my knees. Exhausting. Learning to see becomes a whole new task, actually I suppose it’s learning to interpret what you see.

Mom usually just laughs when she can’t find her fork that she’s already holding in her right hand. Today she tried to get some jam from her glass of milk because her eyes told her she had picked up the jam jar. She just started giggling at the absurdity of it all.

If it were me I’d throw the glass of milk and the jam jar across the room and scream in total and complete frustration. But Mom, she simply laughs. Amazing woman!

English: Photo I took of one of my own pairs o...


With time and healing and prayer her vision could improve and with it her ability to navigate her new world. That is our hope for her.

After breakfast we went on a drive out among the beauty of the rural countryside. I soaked it all in with my eyes like a water starved desert stranded person. Every wheat field, red barn, hillside, body of water, and silo filled me with wonder and gratitude. How blessed I am that I can SEE it all. To see it ALL!

I wanted to take photographs of every single thing I saw. I wanted to remember every detail, every color, every panoramic scene.

Look around you today. What do you see. Really look. Close one eye and look. Look out one eye and then the other, switching back and forth between the slight differences in perspective. Glance to your right and to your left without turning your head. What’s over there? Stare at your hand. See the freckles and the way the half-moon on your fingernails is lighter than the rest of the nail. Is the ceiling above you textured or smooth? Is there a reflection on the window? What color is the sky now, what color is it at seven?

Yes, I’m feeling immense gratitude today for what I can see.

What wonders there are around us.

What wonders there are in us.

Here’s a cover of a Johnny Nash Song “I Can See Clearly Now” that reminds me of my Mother’s optimistic attitude about the challenges she’s facing one month after her stroke. Thanks to the beautiful voices of Kristin Errett and Caleb McGinn.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Brain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Brain scanning technology is quickly approaching levels of detail that will have amazing implications (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m amazed, astounded and thankful for the human brain. As I watch my mother heal from her stroke I find it fascinating to see abilities and skills re-engage, words circle around and connect, ideas form and fill in. Skills that were nearly impossible two weeks ago now seem almost easy. Strength returns in surprising ways.

It’s equally surprising to see the areas that haven’t yet recovered. Similar abilities often use vastly different aspects of the brain. I never would have thought it worked that way.

For instance she can sit at the piano and play a simple song with both hands but finding her spoon on the tray and getting it into her right hand challenges her. Or she can carry on a perfectly normal conversation about almost any topic, until she’s asked about one of her children and the names elude her. And this one surprises me: she can tell a joke, but math baffles her.

I wonder as I hear her laugh, why her sense of humor has come back better refined, more active, mischievous and funnier. You’d think after going through what she’s been through she’d be upset, or feel sorry for herself, or aggravated at the losses and the challenges. But no, she’s optimistic, grateful and laughs at herself easily.

I think about the things an infant learns in just a few short months. Crying, eating, tracking objects with their eyes, reaching for toys, controlling head movements, sitting up, rolling over. All those synapses and nerves and neurons and signals and messages sent and received. What a wonder! Is there anything we’ve been able to create that duplicates that?

Seeing my own hands moving across the keyboard, typing, turning thoughts into words on a page seems miraculous and beyond belief. How does the brain do that? What electrical impulse does what where and how to make all that happen? I am in awe.

Before I get too serious I want to sidetrack here and say how giddy I feel, full up to overflowing with gratitude that Mom’s brain is healing and healthier every day. I also want to laugh out loud with gratitude. I think that feels incredibly appropriate.

So, In honor of my mother’s refined sense of humor and Dad’s new learning curve of care taking I’m including a couple of jokes that they will appreciate. You can laugh along if you want to. (Thank you Reader’s Digest for the great laughs!)

One hectic day at the hospital where I work, I was trying to take the medical history of a woman while being constantly interrupted. Flustered, instead of asking, “Are your parents alive or deceased?” I asked, “Are you alive or deceased?” She smiled and remarked, “I have got to start wearing more makeup! (–Vera Krause)

This next one actually reminds me of my parents:

Two elderly couples were walking down the street, the women a couple of metres ahead of the men. One man told the other that they’d had a wonderful meal the night before-great food, reasonably priced.

His friend asked for the name of the restaurant. “Well, I’ll need your help on this. Let’s see, there’s a flower that smells great and has thorns on the stem?”

“That would be a rose,” his friend responded.

“That’s it!” the man replied. Then he shouted to his wife: “Hey, Rose! What’s the name of the restaurant we ate at last night?” (– by Kerry Barnum)

A Dry Cleaning Joke

A man came into the dry cleaner’s where I work to pick up a pair of pants that he’d left two weeks before. He didn’t have his ticket, and I couldn’t find them. “Maybe you picked them up already,” I suggested. “I hope my memory isn’t that bad!” he replied, but said he’d go home and check. A minute later he was back, carrying the pants he had wanted cleaned. “I’ve been driving around with them in the car for two weeks!” he laughed. (–by Carolyn Brennan)

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Words I’d Rather Not Need to Know

Day three of Mom in the hospital.

It’s afternoon and she’s being moved out of ICU and into rehabilitation. The physical therapist had her up and walking a bit. Hooray!  Her toes and feet don’t want to move as easily as her legs do. Not sure what that means right now. She’s not complaining of pain and that’s good. Her blood pressure is stable. When they were moving her, my sister-in-law got her to laugh. I take that as one of the best signs yet.


I love words. Usually.

dictionary-1 copy.jpg

(Photo credit: TexasT’s)

Since Dad’s early morning phone call on Saturday I’ve had to become familiar with words I never wanted to have to know. Words like subdural and hematoma, intubate, edema, extubate, aphasia, expressive aphasia and swallow evaluation.

I’m sure there were other big latin words thrown around at the hospital, but I’m getting the edited, layman’s version through text messages and emails and phone calls.

So I’ve searched the internet for answers. Sometimes it’s scared me, sometimes it reassured me. Sometimes I didn’t know what to think.

Here are a few words I learned this week:

  • Hematoma- a collection of blood
  • Subdural Hematoma – In a subdural hematoma, blood collects between the layers of tissue that surround the brain. The outermost layer known as the dura. In a subdural hematoma, bleeding occurs between the dura and the next layer, the arachnoid. The bleeding in a subdural hematoma is under the skull and outside the brain, not in the brain itself. As blood accumulates, however, pressure on the brain increases. If not treated quickly can lead to a life-threatening occurrence.
  • Edema– swelling caused by fluid in the bodies tissues.
  • Intubate – to insert a tube into the larynx (helps with breathing)
  • Extubate -to remove a tube.
  • Aphasia is a disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. It can make it hard for you to read, write, and say what you mean to say.
  • Expressive aphasia – you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean
  • Occupational therapist – helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing support for those experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
  • Clinical Swallow evaluation – determines if a person is recovered sufficiently to eat and swallow food after an injury or intubation. Can also help a speech therapist in assessing a patient.

What does all that mean?

It means we almost lost Mom. She’s improving surprisingly quickly. There’s a long path of recovery ahead though. She still can only say a word or two at a time, and has a hard time finding those words. The right side of her vision is inattentive, or unaware, so that needs some work.  She’ll need occupational, physical and speech therapy.

Salt & Pepper

I joked last night that now Dad can get a whole story told without her interrupting him. But I wouldn’t count on that for too long. They usually both tell parts of a story together, one correcting the other, or filling in a detail, or adding something important. They are like Salt and Pepper. Dad without Mom is a puzzle with a piece missing, a recipe with a key ingredient left out.

I’m glad there are people out there that know all those latin words and medical terms and what to do about it all. It translates into a few very important words that I do understand.







Categories: Family, Hope, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: