This evening my Godfather confided that he had what we now suspect is a kind of aneurysm or mild stroke (esp. transient ischemic attack) on Friday.
I notified the house, called a friend to confirm my sense of urgency was valid, and wrote instructions for the caretakers who know his doctor.
It’s been a long time since I really brushed up on my physical first aid skills, and I’m reminded how deceptive it can be when someone undergoes an ailment that affects the brain–they can talk, and are lucid to some degree, but certain things don’t quite register.
In this case the biggest cue came from when he said he has trouble “sending long-distance emails”–he’s 94 years old, but not long ago knew distance shouldn’t matter for emails at all (and even phone calls for those who remember worrying about that).
He has trouble being able to explain what’s wrong when he doesn’t know how to describe it for himself. I know how strange it is to be lucid and coherent, and at the same time know something isn’t quite right and to “feel” something happening in the brain.
I’ve had a concussion aka “traumatic brain injury (TBI)” but remained conscious throughout the event. When it happened I knew something wasn’t right and could only describe the sensation in my head with gestures and the ER doctor didn’t know what I was referencing because I didn’t know how else to describe it in a way that made sense. About two years later I learned it was called “vertigo.”
The point here isn’t about my experience, it’s about knowing from someone else’s experience so that you might be able to respond sooner without needing to second guess your own sense of urgency.
There are three kinds of awareness:
what we know
what we don’t know
what we’re unaware that we don’t know (or for those who prefer a circular phrase: “what we don’t know we don’t know”)
When one person knows there’s something they don’t know could be a problem, the best way to fill in the gaps is to speak with people who know how to listen for the problem, and look for what’s needed to fill the blind spot. It can lead to tremendous discoveries when help is sought with consent, and maybe even preserve a life.
The other key to these experiences comes from the phrase “help, with consent.”
Whether working with lucid elderly people, a “disabled” person, someone with a concussion, or even with a language barrier–people are often capable of doing something on their own even when they know there are things that aren’t working as they intend. It takes patience and discerning kindness to know when to help and when to let people do their thing.
In the event that everything turns out okay, it’s also a strong reminder for the role of community and other people.
[Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)] http://www.webmd.com/stroke/tc/transient-ischemic-attack-tia-topic-overview