Sarah & Gordon
Sarah, a home health aide, and her father Gordon, an oilfield salesman, were best friends. With Sarah living in Midland and Gordon near Abilene, the father-daughter duo talked every day and saw each other when possible. “My dad had a very energetic personality and would give anyone the shirt off his back. He loved fishing, being outdoors, reading, and spending time with family,” Sarah reflected. Sarah and her husband also loved to travel and fish. With no children, their lives were busy with full-time employment and Sarah pursuing her nursing degree at Odessa College.
All that changed February 14th, 2014, when Sarah’s grandmother found Gordon barely able to talk and walk. She called 911. As the crucial minutes began adding up, Gordon would be airlifted by helicopter to Hendrix hospital in Abilene. A few terrible hours passed before the healthcare team urged the family to fly Gordon on to major medical care in Dallas. Sarah states, “During our time in Dallas, it hurt my heart to see my spirited father with a feeding tube, paralyzed on his right side, no longer able to talk, read or write. We had no idea then if my dad would live, certainly no realization about how the stroke and my dad’s aphasia would change everything about our lives and our future.”
After a week in Dallas, Gordon would be transferred back to Abilene for physical, occupational and speech therapy. As the days turned into eight weeks, Gordon fought to regain his life, his speech, and his ability to walk. His body stabilized, yet no matter how hard he worked, Sarah saw that her dad would need full-time assistance. His career, his hobbies, the daily phone conversations were over.
Sarah recalls, “My husband and I decided we were the obvious choice and the ones in the best position to move my dad into our home in Midland. My dad felt guilty. We all felt heavy and uncertain. After my dad moved in, we felt stuck, afraid and just thrown to the wolves. I was preparing to quit my job to care for my dad full time. Everything seemed so hopeless. Then we heard about the Aphasia Center.”
With a big smile, Sarah added, “Leaving the Center after our initial meeting, I remember the relief and hope I felt, realizing I would now have a way to return to my own life and goals – that my dad would have something to look forward to with friends who would understand and encourage him. I’ve watched my father evolve from depressed and isolated to being engaged in his own community. My husband and I are now parenting our first child and juggling life with a new baby and my dad all under one roof. I think about how my daughter will be at ease with people who move and communicate differently. I also think about what best friends do for each other. Our days are a challenge of course, yet because of the Aphasia Center, life is possible again. We thank the Aphasia Center and the people of West Texas for caring about all of us who cope with aphasia day after day.”