10/04/04 — Stroke victim shares the taste of gratitude -- it's chocolate

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Stroke victim shares the taste of gratitude -- it's chocolate

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 4, 2004 2:01 PM

Sylvia Brady has approached the 14 months following her stroke as she would a recipe -- one ingredient at a time and without taking shortcuts.

Finally, she used the other kind of recipe, too -- to the delight of some of those who helped her.

In August 2003, she was left paralyzed on the left side. She couldn't walk, swallow liquids or eat. For a while, she says, she did not know if she wanted to go on living and did not want to be a burden to her family.

"I struggled for many months," she recalls, "trying to regain some of what I had lost. Some days I felt like it wasn't worth it."

Husband Sam said Sylvia's recovery suffered some setbacks. She has been in the hospital emergency room nine times since the stroke, and on three of those occasions she was hospitalized when tests showed she suffered mini-strokes.

For much of the first year, Mrs. Brady was nourished through a feeding tube. She required speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Eventually, she has progressed from using a walker to a wheelchair and can walk on her own, sometimes with the aid of a cane. Her speaking abilities are also improved.

"I think it's because a lot of people encouraged me," she says now. She credits her Sunday School class at Adamsville Baptist Church and friends like Ben and Kay Casey and Sharon Daly.

But at the top of the list are her husband and two grown children, Debbie and Scott.

Her husband retired from the Air Force in 1982. One year later, he faced his own battle with cancer. He says that throughout the couple's 44-year marriage, he has always been "babied" by his wife. The stroke challenged the couple's roles, but they learned to adapt.

"I never did cook anything," Brady said. "All of a sudden, I had to learn about cooking."

He also became his wife's biggest cheerleader.

"He kept me going," Mrs. Brady said. "He has stayed behind me."

She says she was discouraged and overwhelmed at first by all that lay before her as she fought to regroup and regain her strength. Twice-a-week rehabilitation sessions at the hospital were a long, slow process.

"Every day I was trying to get her to work more and more, because they say the first few months are the most important," he said. When she decided she needed to take a break at Chrismastime, he said, he backed off and let her take the lead on when she was ready to continue.

"Now it's so much different," he said. "She does exercises every day without being told."

Since the removal of the feeding tube, Mrs. Brady has become even more ambitious. The couple starting swimming at the Family Y last weekend.

She also made it her mission to show her appreciation to those in rehabilitation services at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

Last week, she got out of her wheelchair, went into her kitchen and baked a double recipe of a chocolate sheet cake. From scratch.

"This is really her in a nutshell," her husband says. "She's one of the most caring people you'd ever come across. When someone does something for her, she always wants to reciprocate."

He said that when she first mentioned the idea, he thought the baking duties would fall to him.

"I thought, 'Do you expect me to make the cake, not knowing what I'm doing?'" he said. "But she did it herself. She made the cake; I made the icing."

The Bradys presented the cake to the nearly two dozen workers who encouraged them during all their visits.

"The biggest things that I saw," he told the staff while dishing out slices of cake in the break room, "were everyone's genuine concern and patience. A lot of days she didn't want to be here and yet you stuck with her and I really appreciate it. I will always remember that.

"We had fun."

The sentiment may seem contradictory in light of the painful struggle faced while navigating the healing process. But Brady said he and his wife did a lot of "laughing and cutting up" throughout that time.

"We look at every day as a fun day," he says. "I tell everybody, we get up smiling in the morning and we go to bed smiling ..."

"God truly does work in mysterious ways," he said in the couple's Christmas newsletter to family and friends. "In a world where everyone goes their separate ways, this stroke has brought us all closer together."

The Bradys also give credit to Wayne Memorial Hospital's Stroke Support Group, which meets monthly. The group was formed in January; the couple began attending in March.

Exchanging stories with others who have similar experiences has proved to be both a blessing and a relief.

"I found out I'm not the only one that had a stroke," Mrs. Brady said. "I think that's what made me work harder."