Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Sister Gina

I have this memory of my sister Gina and it stays with me  everyday. When Gina was in her 20's she had two strokes, yes two strokes, one on each side of her brain. They have limited her in so many ways and in other ways they have blessed us as a family.

We were always a very close family but Gina's strokes made us even closer. Every single one of us had to band together to get Gina to the point where she was able to have brain surgery, which was the only way to prevent further strokes, that may eventually be fatal, from occurring. My sister Liz went to work part time, I left school for a few semesters, my brother Michael came home from college every weekend, my mother moved back closer to us, my father visited Gina almost every day, Teresa helped cook meals... we all worked together to get Gina through rehab, to balance out her diabetes and teach her how to do things she once did easily. It was not an easy adjustment. In fact thirteen years later we are still adjusting.

In the beginning Gina had trouble getting her shoes on, she needed help getting dressed, she could not speak very well, she could not write her name, reading was impossible and making a decision took forever. There are some things Gina will always struggle with, she will never be able to use her left hand very well, it is permanently damaged, she will always have speech aphasia, making decisions will always take Gina a little longer than others and reading will never be quick for her... but she is here with us. She can do so many things on her own after years of rehabilitation and I believe, love, from her family. She is so beautiful and sweet inside and while her moods are sometimes surly she is my sister, I love her dearly and I thank the heavens that allowed her to live through two strokes and still manage her daily life fairly well. Whatever help she needs from me, I am happy to give because truthfully it is nothing compared to what she has been through and what she personally has lost.

About two months after her stroke, we were out shopping for shoes. She needed something she could get on easily. The stroke made it hard for her to pull shoes on and tie them and she was still struggling with walking back then. Me, Gina and Liz were at the store, going through shoe after shoe... Gina couldn't decide, things weren't fitting right, it was really our first outing since the stroke and diagnosis of rare brain disorder Moya Moya disease. Me and Liz were so excited to be outside the hospital with Gina, to be doing something with her but the frustration of being out for the first time was also with us. Gina was used to being totally independent...she was 27 years old, she had been doing things for herself for decades. Yet, now she was expected to ask for help to tie shoes and button clothes, she could not cut her steak (she still can't actually), buttering bread was impossible, we had to read to her back then and help her with insulin dosages for her diabetes... she went from adult to child in a heartbeat. It was devastating to her own self esteem.

It took us many hours to find shoes that day but we did. She was able to get the shoes on herself and she liked them. She could walk in them easily, they had her size and the she was able to tie them fairly well and they were in our price range. All three of us bought the same pair of shoes and wore them that entire summer. Gina laughed and cried a bit when she was able to slip her feet easily into those shoes. Me and Liz held hands and sighed that we had managed to really help her feel better for the first time in several months. I will never forget this day and the joy of seeing my sister breathe easy for even just a moment.

I write this today because Nike has designed a shoe for people who are less able. A shoe that zippers instead of ties and wraps around for stability for those who have trouble on their feet. And it looks like a gym shoe should. It's not some bulky, orthopaedic shoe that only a 90 year old man would wear.  I wish this shoe was around 13 years ago but I am happy to see it here today, it's innovative, beautiful and perfect for those that are "less able"... Here is a wonderful video clip of how this new design will help those who need it- New Shoe for those "Less Able!"

Gina, my sister, I love you more than words can ever say. Everyday I think of you and what you have been through. I wish I could have done more to help you, I still wish I could do more for your life but I am so lucky that you are still here with us. Whatever life has thrown at you, know that you are loved!