JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bill and Susan Lindsay still enjoy working on their garden at their St. Louis Heights home. Bill suffered a stroke in March 2005 but refused to go to therapy until July of that year.
Couple struggles with slow recovery process
Susan and Bill Lindsay of Kaimuki were traveling in Taiwan with a group from Hong Kong two years ago when he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.
The retired public school English teacher isn't paralyzed, but he hasn't fully recovered, his wife said: "His English is at an elementary level. It's difficult to accept, and his hobby was reading."
Lindsay said her husband, then 69, wasn't feeling well the night before the stroke on March 10, 2005. "Everyone went out after dinner and he wanted to stay behind, saying he was nauseous."
When the alarm went off in the morning, he reached out to turn it off, "but one side of his body was weak," she said. "He couldn't coordinate his body and turn off the alarm.
"He could still talk, but I noticed his mouth went up a little bit. I noticed immediately it was the sign of a stroke ... "
She said her husband used to walk for exercise and was a semi-vegetarian. He was taking medicine for high cholesterol, which remained high because of genetics, she said.
She believes his stroke was triggered by eating a betel nut the tour bus driver gave to him. "Within seconds, he started to feel drowsy. ... It made his blood pressure go high."
The tour group was leaving for Taipei, a five-hour trip, and "we didn't want to be left behind," Lindsay said. So her husband wasn't immediately hospitalized, "which was my mistake," she said.
He went to the hospital in Taipei, but was confused and wanted to go home, which would have been fatal, she said.
A CAT scan showed his brain was bleeding and he needed surgery immediately so she authorized it, she said. She spent 10 days with her husband at the Adventists Hospital, which "demanded that I must stay close by his side," she said.
When he awoke from the surgery, he couldn't remember his name and "kept saying 'January,' " she said. "That's because his birthday falls in January. ... However, he remembered my name."
It took a couple months to teach him his name, she said. "But he remembered Jesus. When he saw a picture of Jesus, he said, 'Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.' "
Her husband refused to see a doctor or go for rehabilitation when they returned home, she said: "He wanted to be isolated because he knew he wasn't his usual self. He was embarrassed to meet people and to speak to people."
He finished one semester of therapy at the University of Hawaii medical school, but thought it was "a waste of time" and quit, she said.
Someone in their church who had a brain injury from a car accident persuaded him to go to therapy at REHAB Hospital and he began to improve, she said.
The speech therapist told her his brain damage "was not minor," that his stroke could have been fatal, she said.
Caring for her husband of 25 years is mentally difficult, she said: "He had mood swings, but he's improving."
He goes to a stroke club meeting once a month at REHAB and a "chat group" of five stroke patients at UH. "Some can barely say anything. Some are handicapped and he's not," she said. "He can trim trees. He can dig weeds. In fact, that's his job."
She said he loves to listen to radio talk shows and seems to understand what they're saying. She also reads to him every day. He can write simple letters, she said, "like an elementary student."