A Long Overdue Update – Ray’s Recovery from Brain Injury

The crickets have been chirping over here at A Few Beads Short, which probably has many of you wondering how Ray is doing following his heart attack and brain injury (injuries, actually).

So here goes… Ray’s doing well. Like, really, miraculously, incredibly well. I have to remind myself of that IMG_2836every day, and look back at where he was on December 8th, when he first went to the rehab hospital and couldn’t even hold a tooth brush, or on his first day home when he didn’t know how to use his walker in the small confines of our home and preferred to navigate by literally bouncing off of the walls and furniture to keep himself from falling. Or, the days when he’d start confabulating (yes, that’s a word) long, drawn out stories that you knew were absolute B.S. from the moment they started but it was nearly impossible to stop him until he’d gone on and on and on for five minutes or more… without pause.

His balance is still a bit off which means his gait’s a little wide, but all in all he’s walking beautifully. The video below was taken when we were walking into some very fierce wind at the beach during spring break (yes, thank you God – and one sweet, generous friend – we got to go on spring break!).

He brushes his own teeth – without me even reminding him! – and takes his own shower without a shower seat, and without me needing to stand nearby constantly at the ready lest he lose his balance and fall. In fact, he’s quite self-sufficient in all personal care tasks. He just takes a lot longer to do them than he used to. He still confabulates occasionally, but the stories are becoming increasingly fewer and farther between, and – thank God – they’re getting shorter, or maybe I’m just becoming better at politely redirecting the conversation.

Ray’s generally been pretty upbeat and seemingly unbothered by his brain injury. Claudia L. Osborn shares her story of recovering from a brain injury in the book Over My Head, and describes herself as having a “goofy contentment.” I’d say that’s a very accurate summary. However, I think Ray’s beginning to evolve beyond contentment, and reality is setting in. As you can probably imagine, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, “goofy contentment” is clearly not normal or healthy. On the other hand, it’s made for a pretty happy-go-lucky Ray when it came to therapy, homework, and dealing with his new lifestyle. The absence of contentment may usher in a whole host of new challenges.

Weird things have changed. His sense of smell has been severely impacted, which is a huge blessing when I’m gassy but very sad when there are flowers to smell. Along with that, his sense of taste has changed entirely. We used to love to eat sushi together, and now he could take it or leave it. In fact, he’d probably rather leave it since chop sticks pose a serious challenge. He used to hate almond milk but now prefers it to cow’s milk. He used to be a stickler for praying before family meals but these days sits down and starts eating the moment the plate hits the table. He’s forgotten some basic table manners and social niceties. One moment, I can almost forget that anything’s changed. The next, he double dips his breadstick and I’m reminded how very different he’s become.

All in all, we’re still early stages, and his recovery is nothing short of miraculous. But, we have a very long way to go. Years and years, in fact. We’ve been told that he won’t work in 2016, and possibly not in 2017, either. He can’t drive, has periodic tunnel vision, appears to have forgotten our lives together, and really has little to no voluntary recall of memories beyond the very recent past.

I hope to write within the next few days about how I’m doing, but bear with me. To say that life is crazy right now doesn’t quite do it justice. For now, I’ll summarize it by saying that I try to remind myself constantly that his recovery is a miracle, and a gift from God. I know that God can and will use all things for his glory, and when I look back at the last six months, I can see how he has done that already, although I believe our story is far from over. But busy-ness detracts from Godliness, and the entire Engelman family could really use your prayers.

If this is your first time visiting the blog, and you’re wondering what on earth is going on, here are a few posts that will catch you up:

Ray had a heart attack and suffered a serious brain injury as a result. Here’s what I wrote the night after it all began.

Here’s how God blessed me (and us) abundantly with his presence, comfort and peace.

Oh yeah, I wrote this book and it was released in the midst of all this.

After nearly three months in the hospital, here’s how we wound up bringing Ray home when we thought we were taking him to a subacute rehab facility.

And it went like this.

Here’s how the baby that no one thought we should have saved his daddy’s life.


9 comments on “A Long Overdue Update – Ray’s Recovery from Brain Injury
  1. Brenda Irk says:

    I love your updates! Great to hear how things are going but I also enjoy your writing and how u create a picture in my mind with your words alone. God Bless you all and always know I’m here if u need me! Just a call or text away.

    • stephanie says:

      Brenda, thank you! You’ve done so much to help our family already, and it has meant a great deal to us. Thanks for continuing to be there!

  2. Lynn Moody says:

    You really are a remarkable woman, Steph. Ray looked so good in April, I couldn’t believe his improvement! And the kids all look happy and contented. Well, except Isaac, who is busy – constantly thinking, studying and planning. He may be our family’s first genius — or a future Rhodes scholar! Your new house is a brilliant mix of homey and sprawling, reminding me of my grandma’s place. It was full of adventure and love. Just what a child needs. God’s blessings on you, Ray and your beautiful children. You are constantly in my prayers.

  3. Vicki Arthur says:

    What a beautifully written post, as always! And Ray’s recovery is nothing short of breathtaking. No one would ever choose to join the Brain Injury Club, but Ray and Eric — and you and I by extension — are card-carrying members nonetheless. Like you, I see miracles every day, and I’m sustained by the knowledge that God has a higher purpose for all of this. I continue to pray for Ray, and I want you to remember that I am always here for you!

  4. Stacey McCarthy says:

    I love this post & the amazing strength and faith you have. You are very elegant in the way you describe things. Since I didn’t know you or Ray before, all I can say is that I love you both now and am thrilled to see your spirits lifted with hope. Little things are certainly huge! I can see God and Mary empowering you both daily. Your patience is remarkable and love is clear. The Lord is with you and Angels are guarding you both.

  5. Aleta Satterthwaite Batz says:

    Stephanie, thank you for the upate! What a joy it was to read. Giving thanks with you for Ray’s road to recovery. Know that our prayers will continue you with you and your family as you travel this road of unseen ups and downs and praying for WAY more ups… than downs. May God continue to richly bless you and yours.

  6. Ellen says:

    My husband recently suffered an ischemic stroke on August 1, 2016 that was the result of a rare complication from a waterskiing fall. I am grateful for your blog and intend to read it. We are only beginning this journey and words from another 40 something mother are desperately needed. 🙂

    • stephanie says:

      Ellen, my heart – and prayers – go out to you. By the grace of God, you can do this. I’ll reach out to you privately so we can chat if you’d like.

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