Looking Up

This post is dedicated to the beautiful souls who have helped and prayed for our little family, and to those whose family members or friends are also in a similar situation. You are not alone.

~

My father had a stroke in January.

It was on the last day of my finals, and the paper was Asian Politics. Abah was supposed to come and pick me up at 4PM because I wanted to go have lunch with my friends before finally leaving campus. When I got out of the exam hall, I had already felt that something wasn’t ‘right’ but I brushed it off, because I thought it was about leaving Shah Alam for good. It turns out, it wasn’t. It was Abah.

All my life, Abah has never rejected a call from me nor did he ever not reply any of my texts. But when I texted him that morning after leaving the exam hall, it was the usual time when he would have a morning nap, so I paid no mind to it. I finished packing everything and settled my clearance at around 4PM, and he still didn’t reply.

I reached home at around 6.45PM and saw that the gate was left unlocked. When I opened the door, none of the lights were on and all of my cats looked stunned, standing outside of my parents’ room, with the door half closed. Peeking in, I saw Abah, lying face down on the floor, with Mak squatting next to him, reciting the shahadah. When Mak saw me, her Superwoman mode went: On.

“Mak dah call ambulance dah. Kawan yang tolong lelaki ke perempuan?”
“Lelaki.”
“Panggil dia, tolong angkat Abah.”

After waiting for what seemed like ages, the ambulance arrived, and it took 6 people to carry Abah on the canvas because the stretcher couldn’t fit into the lift. I remember running across my floor with Mak, knocking on every door asking for help from my neighbours. I have never seen my mother’s face look like that. I never want to see it again.

Mak went with Abah in the ambulance, and I told her not to worry about anything. “I’ll handle it,” I said. So I packed everything that made sense. Towels, mineral water, telekung, Yasin. Cleaned the house a bit (the paramedics rushed in with their shoes on), and topped up my cats’ food and water, and I was out the door in 15 minutes. Aan drove me to the hospital, and I texted my family members to tell them what happened. But I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say. So I said, “Abah jatuh”.

It was a stroke.

It was an ACA and MCA infarct affecting the left side of his brain with hemorrhagic something something. In lay man’s words: he had a stroke in his left brain, there was a blockage + bleeding during the surgery, and the stroke affected two-thirds of his left brain. It was so big because he was left on the floor for a very long time. The doctors suspect he’s been lying face down for almost 6 hours.

When he reached Hospital Kuala Lumpur, he was immediately placed in the Red Zone. Phrases like “slim chance” and “he could die” came out of their mouths as they explained his condition to us. They had to delay his decompressive craniotomy – they had to check if his heart can take the surgery, because he was unable to breathe on his own.

One by one our family members came, and it felt nice to see familiar faces. We waited and prayed together. They brought us food and water, and helped pick up our car at home. Until now, I’m still wondering how I could repay their kindness. Since it wasn’t the weekend, they couldn’t stay for long. So Mak and I waited. We had a conversation about letting Abah go, if it comes to it. Breaks my heart to think about it.

After hours of waiting at the Zon Kritikal waiting area, a nurse came up to us at 6AM and told us to go home and wait for their call, as the doctors wont be around until at least 8AM. We came back at 10AM. The doctors said the surgery is a go.

By 12PM, he was in the Operating Theatre. Our family members and his friends waited with us and it felt like we had a family gathering. So many people were there. And again it felt nice, because it distracted us from the pain.

Fast forward to the 11th, he was placed in the Acute Cubicle at Ward 5B. Those familiar with it will know that it is the equivalent of an ICU. He was in a medically-induced coma for 2 weeks. And I have to say, that the entire month that we were there was probably when I had had the toughest moments of my life. Three different times, threas differen nurses told me that my father was dying. Three.

HKL was where I learned the true meaning of Allahuakbar.

The stroke caused paralysis to the entire right side of his body. He was bedridden. He was on Ryles tube feeding too, consuming only water, a special formula milk, and his meds. He couldn’t speak, and couldn’t express himself. He couldn’t even sit. He was able to move his left side, but only slightly.

But after a while, he started to open his eyes, move more, and communicated with us with little movements. The nurses there taught us how to change his diaper, how to clean him, how to feed him. The physiotherapists taught us how to do light exercises for him. While all of this was happening, we prepared his living conditions at home (like the bed, and the suction machine, etc.) with the help of our family members and Abah’s friends.

Abah was sent home after exactly one month in Ward 5B, with checkups lined up. We hired a nurse for 3 days to help us get adjusted at home. But in the middle of February, we hit a blunder. He had a fever and his temperature was so high, his body literally shook, and his brain became swollen. We stayed at Hospital Tuanku Mizan for 15 days, which caused us to miss a few appointments with HKL, which in turn also caused us to miss a screening with the physiotherapists, hence the delay in his physical movements.

But, his progress has been like witnessing a miracle.

With the help of so many of his friends and our family members, and by the grace of Allah SWT, we were able to pull through, alhamdulillah. March through May, everything went smoothly. “Allah permudahkan,” people would say. His friends helped buy him a new hospital bed because the old one was too small for him (it was originally bought for my late grandmother). Our family members and his friends pooled money to ease our hardship, and it helped so much. The prayers they sent our way, the good vibes, the visits… it was all Allah’s rahmat. I’m so grateful, truly.

Somewhere in March, he started to want to speak. He began by whispering. Mom woke me up at 3AM and said, “Jana, Abah cakap!”. I believe he said “pampers” – he probably heard us say it a few times. We asked him to repeat again and again because we were so excited, but he eventually got tired, haha! There were so many firsts. His first smile, his first laugh, his first sentence. It felt like again and again, we we blessed.

We even introduced him to Netflix. By then it was bye-bye coffee table books…

…and hello, laptop!

In April we started to hire a physiotherapist, since he could now speak, understand and move more.

This was his first session at home. Can’t tell you how nice it was to see him be able to move, after four months of being bedridden. Alhamdulillah. God truly is great.

By June, he was able to sit, stand, and eat properly. This was mostly all thanks to the wonderful doctors, therapists and nurses at Hospital Rehabilitasi Cheras. he got admitted there in the middle of May. Rehab helped a lot. At HRC, he had therapy every day except on weekends. He’d have physiotherapy, occupational therapy (for cognitive skills) and speech therapy. The progress was quick and easy.

We weren’t allowed to take photos but I sneaked some, lol!

After many more sessions, he started to love being able to move and to be able to eat actual food. Peep my Instagram post where he has the first bite of his fav dish, ikan patin tempoyak. It was adorable.

The fact that he could now move via wheelchair meant that he would always want to be out of his room at the ward. So I would take him strolling around the hospital. It was nice. The hospital itself is beautiful. So many trees. I think they went with a ‘hospital dalam taman’ concept. The mosquitoes are annoying but other than that, the whole place is peaceful. Fitting for a rehabilitation centre.

When Abah was discharged, we took him to a mall. Look how excited he was, hahahaha!

It was his first time outside of our home or the hospital. I teared up a bit as I took this.

Then, had a scheduled (and successful!) cranioplasty on the 17th at HKL. So his head shape went from this…

…to this!

Alhamdulillah, we didn’t have to spend Raya in the hospital. So Raya was meriah at, to say the least. Everyone came to visit and it’s such a lovely feeling, being surrounded by the people who only wish the best for you and your family.

We even got him out of the hospital bed, and upgraded to a normal bed because he no longer needed the support of a ripple mattress!

We spent half of June and the whole of July taking care of his cranioplasty wound so, no rendang ayam for him. We wouldn’t let him consume food that would irritate the wound. We thought he would be annoyed, but Abah has been so positive and energetic about everything, so it helped a lot with his recovery. All except one (a stye) of the risks that come with the after-effect of a cranioplasty didn’t happen to him at all. And he took the removal of the stitches like a champ!

Some days, we would take him to malls and have meals in restaurants, because we know he probably misses it a lot. He was always going out pre-stroke, so we took him pretty much everywhere. It was heartwarming seeing how happy he is, every day. He’s always smiling and laughing and says hi to pretty much everyone that passes by him. And he loves kids so he would always wave to them.

It’s August now, and it’s crazy how far we’ve come.

When I look back at all the photos and videos that we took from January to now, I see so much progress that it’s mind-blowing to me how powerful Allah SWT is and how great prayer is and how incredibly generous people are.

For me personally, I learned so much about how the brain works. I also learned how to take care of a bedridden person, simple physiotherapy, how bones and muscles work. I learned patience. And I learned how strong I was to handle all of this. I learned that I can be independent, and that I can do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I also learned that I am able to love unconditionally. Which is strange, as I have always seen myself as weak when in undesirable situations. But alas. You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.

Most of all, I learned that the generosity of others will always surprise me. The abundance of help and prayer we received, I believe, has been one of the reasons why Abah’s recovery has been going so smoothly this past year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all the love you’ve shown us. I don’t know how I can ever repay each and all of you.

For me personally, no matter what happens, family will always come first. And Mak… wow. Mak has been amazing. She truly is the strongest woman I will ever know. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love her. I just do. So much.

This little family of mine means the world to me. And there’s nothing I would change. Mak will retire, and soon I will be the sole breadwinner for us. And this is my promise: I will work my ass off to for us, Mak and Abah. You have nothing to worry about.

If I had any advice for those in a similar situation, I would say the three Ps helped us a lot: patience, prayer, and positivity. You can do this. You are not alone.

Until next time!

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