Posted by: paulbassler | January 18, 2013

Living With Disability – Never Give Up

It has been nearly five years since my wife Dorothy suffered a debilitating burst brain aneurysm. I can still keenly remember those days in the hospital, right after her surgery, when my imagination tried to picture what this day, five years passed, would be like. I am so grateful it has turned out much better than I imagined.

After living on Guam for a little more than a year since returning from the Philippines, we decided to move to the mainland and closer to our families. It took about six or seven months to sell our home, our business (we had a tropical bird aviary) and liquidate much of what we accumulated over the past thirty-nine years on island. We moved to Oregon, where we owned five acres of forest purchased in the late seventies. Both our families live in Oregon after migrating from Southern California, where we were both born and raised. Having our families close has been a blessing and has added a wonderful dimension to our lives.

Physically, my wife is still unable to use the right side of her body, though she has some movement capability in her right arm and hand. She has gained a great deal of weight, which I am mostly to blame. After all, I am the one preparing and providing her meals each day. In the beginning, I would get her anything she desired, and as her disposition was much like a child, she desired ice cream, candy and junk food. I reasoned at the time that she really had very few pleasures in her life, but eating is something she enjoyed. That proved to be unwise. Today she is about 80lbs. heavier than she used to be, putting a strain on my ability to move her. When I realized the mistake we were making, I began to ask doctors, nutritionists and professionals how to reduce her weight. I found that information was hard to come by. I was advised to reduce her calories to 1500 a day. I did that and it didn’t help her to reduce her weight. She is unable to exercise, which all the diets I explored required for weight-loss success. Fortunately, our current diet is not putting more weight on her, but I am still seeking a balance between her love for food and a diet that will help her lose weight. We cut out the ice cream, candy and junk food, but the challenge does not end there. We cut way back on the quantity of food each day, trying to focus on quality. I believe that seeking to find this balance between her pleasure in eating and our desire for healthy weight management will be a lifetime challenge.

Mentally, Dorothy’s consciousness lives in the now, though she does peek into the future whenever something exciting is coming up. Prior to special occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas, or a planned trip, she will wake each morning with an excited comment about how we are a day closer to that event. When we do go out, she notices every little thing on the roadway. “Did you see that cow over there?” she would say. “Do you see that guy over there with a yellow jacket?” Like a child, she sees and comments on every little thing passing by.

Her long term memory is good. She generally doesn’t recall the past unless asked to, and sometimes needs some clues to draw her to that memory. But she does seem to have access to most of her long term memory, recalling her childhood, school teachers, first love etc. Her short term memory has nearly completely returned as well. In the first few months after the stroke, she really had no short term memory. Months after leaving the hospital, a stroke specialist asked her to repeat three things…the watch he was wearing, the pen in his pocket and his thumb. She was only able to remember the thumb. For months after that, I would continue this three item recollection test, and slowly she began to be able to remember two items, and then three. Today she can not only remember what she had for breakfast, but what she had for breakfast yesterday.

Her disposition remains happy. She has no trouble talking to strangers, complimenting them on their clothing, or earrings or appearance. One day we were on an elevator and a man in military uniform came in. My wife immediately said, “you are a handsome man.” The gentleman responded, “wow, that’s a first.” My wife loves people, loves life, loves me and I am so grateful we survived this ordeal.

What does the future hold? Who knows? Like everyone else, we continue to travel through life experiences and seek to enjoy the ride. Everyday life is still challenging for me, as I still feel the weight of caring for someone unable to care for herself. We are limited by her disability, but not so much that we can’t find enjoyment in being with friends and family, experiencing new things, improving our lifestyle in little ways.

If you are experiencing a similar event, I can only offer what my wife’s surgeon offered me…never give up. My wife continues to improve as time goes on. Life continues to improve. One important thing life has taught me in my sixty years of living…sometimes we have to go through hell to get to heaven.

To read the entire four-part story, start with Surviving a Burst Brain Aneurysm


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. You and your wife are blessed by your strength and love.

    • Thank you Arley..we are indeed blessed that our lives continue together. Take care

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