December 30, 2013

Mom's Rehab Update, Week Four

Last week, each of the therapists wanted me to get more involved with Mom's rehab care. Getting hands on training will help me know what I need to do when we're at home. In other words, I've been working with Mom on her speech, occupational and physical developments. And will continue to do so until Mom can completely do things on her own; which in this case, will take awhile for complete rehab, if that.

Here's what I've been assigned to do:

Speech Therapy-- Decide what Mom need to work on the most. For example, should we start the session with counting numerically, or would looking at pictures of household items (and try to trigger her memory) be more productive?

Occupational Therapy-- Assist Mom with grooming and with each of her meals. She is able to feed herself. All I would need to do is place food items and plate/bowl in front of her so she can reach them. Remember not to do everything for her, but help her when she needs it.The goal is to continue to get Mom to some level of independence so she doesn't feel helpless. 

Physical Therapy-- Do arm and leg stretches several times a day. Help Mom get in/out of bed, as well as get in/out of wheelchair. I would also need to assist Mom when she needs to go "potty."

I will admit that some of these tasks are tough. What makes it even more difficult is the "language barrier." Meaning, I can understand maybe 60% of what Mom says. Even then, there have been times when I had to really listen and think about what she had said. Furthermore, I'm not sure how much Mom truly understands me (or anyone else) when she is given directions. So for now, its more of a guessing game (including body language and hand gestures) until Mom can understand and speak clearly. Tough days ahead for sure!

December 24, 2013

When I Was an Interpreter

Communication can be very difficult and frustrating for foreigners who immigrates to the United States later in life, and unable to grasp the ability to learn the English language.  My mother is a prime example.  She came to the United States while in her mid-forties. No matter how hard she tried, she just could not hone down the English language. During my youth (which took place after I was educated enough to be bilingual in both the Khmer and English language), I remember I had to translate for my mother pretty much everywhere we went. At the time, I thought the task was unpleasant and would try to get out of it whenever possible. As luck would have it, I was not very successful.

I remember I had a strong aversion to being the interpreter for my mother. I remember how I absolutely hated it when I couldn't find the right word-for-word translation. Anyone who speaks more than one language knows what I'm talking about; there's rarely an exact word-for-word translation. I remember being totally irritated by the daunting task because all I wanted to do was be a kid and hang out with my friends. In retrospect, I'm not sure how my mother would have gotten by without an interpreter. She knew only a few basic words of English (and still does to this day). One can only say, "Hello. I'm fine," and "thank you"  so many times in a conversation.

Looking back, I'm glad that I was able to be my mother's interpreter even when I drudged the task. I can't imagine being in a foreign country and not able to communicate. Now, as an adult, I won't hesitate to help others who are in similar situation as my mother.  However, with that being said, I will always be glad to see a professional interpreter because more likely than not, I will end up adding new words to my ever growing word bank. In my opinion, it never hurts to increase one's vocabulary, especially when translating from one language to another.
(Read my other post, The Importance of Adequate Translation, and watch a short comedy video).

The Importance of Adequate Translation

Oftentimes, just like the video above, important words and phrases can be lost in translation. I believe its not done intentionally. I believe when there's an inadequate translation method used, such as the one in this video clip, both parties can miss the entire picture (and meaning) all together. I know this dialogue was meant just for laughs, and I actually did laugh out loud, numerous times. However, aside from the humor, I'm sure there is some truth to this scenario. And for the patient's sake, I hope it doesn't happen too often. Or better yet, not at all.

For those who do not speak the Khmer language, the dialogue goes like this:
At the beginning the patient mumbles something about her kids. Then she mumbles about the food and how she's enduring this ordeal.

Patient: "I don't want to eat the food. It does not have any flavor. Nobody eats it. It will make them ill even more. Cannot eat it. I cannot eat it. I don't like this food. Don't like this food. This food is not tasty. I don't want this food. I don't want to be here. I cannot endure it." 

Then the patient mumbles something about death. The hospital worker put the phone receiver in the air. The interpreter sums up only what he heard, which was repeated out loud by the worker; "I can't stand this. I wish I was dead. Please kill me." 

Even though the translation was not word-for-word, it did get the message across. If you're curious to know the word-for-word translation, it is "I cannot endure it. Kill me! I cannot endure it. I cannot endure it! I want to die! I just want to die!! I can't endure it. I want to die."

The portion of the dialogue that was lost in translation was the part where the patient complained about the food. The segment that the interpreter heard was when the patient said she couldn't stand it and wanted to die. Now imagine if this was a real life situation where only a fraction of the dialogue got translated, while the other equally important part was left out. I would be concerned. Wouldn't you?
(Read my other post, My Early Days as an Interpreter).

December 20, 2013

Mom's Rehab Update, Week Three

Good news! Mom's discharge date is set for January 1, 2014. Yay! We are excited and hope things will work out smoothly for everyone involved.

This week's therapies are pretty much similar to last week's. So, I'm going to just include short notes of activities during each session.

Speech Therapy-- Worked one syllable words, identified objects from a flashcard, practiced counting numerically, practiced days of the week, practiced moving her tongue up and down.

Occupational Therapy-- Worked on tasks that she will eventually do daily, such as get dressed, shower (with assistance), comb hair, etc. Also worked on releasing muscle tension in her right arm and stretching/straightening the fingers. OT also did a short session that involved electro convulsion therapy on the right arm ( there were some muscle movements in knuckle joints but not so much in the upper arm).

Physical Therapy-- Worked on transferring from bed to wheelchair, and vice versa. Did strengthening of the leg exercises (leg lifts and bicycling), scooting left and right, standing for about a minute at a time, walking across the parallel bars with assistance, and practiced standing up on her own.

 Along with working on her movements and speech, learning to move around in her wheelchair is another task. So, during her free time, we would go out into the hallways and have her practice "driving" her wheelchair. 

Overall, things are looking good for Mom. Just a little less than two weeks and we can head home!

December 14, 2013

Mom's Rehab Update, Week Two

Mom is continuing to improve on a daily basis.  With practice and encouragement, she has become more independent.  For instance, she's been able to get most of the food onto the spoon and into her mouth, reach longer to grab something, and push the "call" button when she needs assistance from the RN and CNAs.

Mom have also been able to maneuver her working arm (left arm) and get herself partially dressed, hold onto a bedrail so she could push herself from side to side with ease, and move her wheelchair backward and forward (even though right now all she's been able to do is go in circles with it). In addition, she is able to sit up in bed for longer period of time without any assistance. Also, by just looking into the mirror in front of her, she knows when to wipe away any food particle that land on her chin. And she does a pretty good job at it the first time around.

The therapists suggest we continue to work with Mom on self-care, such as getting dressed, combing her hair, feeding herself, etc. Also, we should continue with helping her identify objects and improve her speech.  A method that the Speech Therapist suggested was to have only one person speak slowly to Mom, as well as have Mom speak slowly to us.  Furthermore, when having a conversation with Mom, try having her finish the sentence.  For example, say something like "My name is ..." or " His name is...".

Reflecting back on therapy sessions and whatnot this past week, I believe Mom have made great improvement. Not only has she been able to pronounce some words clearer than last week, but she is more aware of what is expected of her, in terms of feeding herself and taking medications.  In short, she is getting the hang of things. I think consistency in daily routine is key to her moving one step closer to a quick recovery

December 10, 2013

Mom's First Three Days at Rehab

Last Friday (December 6) was Mom's first day at the rehab center.  She let it be known that she's going to be difficult to work with; stubborn and opinionated. But I have been told that stroke victims tend to be difficult and grumpy.

The first night an RN placed Mom's legs in compression cuffs to prevent clogged arteries in the leg.  An hour later, she took them off, with only one hand. Then she demanded that her ankle sock and support hose be taken off.

The second day a CNA combed her hair, detangled it, and tied it in a ponytail. She looked great. Clean and refreshed. But that did not last very long. For as long as I could remember Mom have always preferred her hair down and untied.  So, off came the hair tie.  Now I see where my daughter gets it from.

Breakfast usually consist of cream of rice with brown sugar, pureed omelet, pureed banana, and applesauce. 

Lunch usually consist of mashed potatoes with gravy, pureed vegetable (peas or carrots), pureed fruit (banana or pear), and/or applesauce. Sometime pureed meat is included (which is usually beef or pork).

Dinner is very similar to lunch menu items. It usually consist of pureed beef, pork or turkey, and sometime paired with mashed potatoes and gravy, pureed vegetable ( peas or carrots), and pureed fruit (banana or pear), and/or applesauce. 

Drinks that accompanied each meal were usually water, orange juice and/or apple juice.  However,  a recent lab result showed low sodium in Mom's system. So, no more juices; only chicken and beef broth, and some water.

Saturday, December 7... Due to low sodium in her body, the doctor ordered an IV, thinking it would be the easiest method for increasing Mom's sodium level.  But, it turned out that she did not like it, so she made a HUGE fuss, to put it nicely.  After awhile the nurse called the doctor, and the IV got taken out.  Obviously, actions of "anger and non-contentment" is something that can be understood across all nationalities. In other words, you don't have to speak the same language to know when someone is upset.

REHABILITATION UPDATE ( for December 6-8 )

The Occupational Therapist (OT) did some movement evaluation, which included leg and arm stretches. Therapy exercises have included re-learning how to shower, get dress,  comb/brush hair, stand, and walk.

The Speech Therapist (SP) evaluated her eating, chewing, swallowing, communication, and of course, speaking abilities. SP also worked on counting, recognizing and identifying objects, as well as understanding what they are used for.  It took at least three tries before Mom could count numerically. She managed to count up to number five; did it once with a combination of both English and Khmer. And then once again in only Khmer.  For the most part Mom can perform the functions. 

SP recommendation: work with Mom on a daily basis by encouraging her to move her tongue around the mouth for increased muscle strength, encourage her to smile often to work on facial muscle, and lastly, when she feed herself, put a mirror in front of her so she could see the food in her mouth while "chewing" and know that she needs to work on the right side of her mouth.

The Physical Therapist (PT) worked on mobility.  She had Mom do ankle and leg movements, as well as stand up and use the parallel bars for support. The PT said "she's a hard worker."

Overall, Mom has made progress, considering it was only three days of rehabilitation therapy. This week will be a full six days of SP, OT, and PT. I am hoping for more progress. Despite her disability and condition, Mom can be cherry and upbeat most of the time. But just like anyone who has suffered from a stroke and unable to communicate effectively (with a language barrier at that), she does have her moments.

December 5, 2013

Tragic News

On Monday morning I received news that my mother had suffered from a stroke.

I thought I was prepared for any bad news. But that was not the case. I was actually in shock and it took a little while for everything to sink in. When it finally sunk in, I was in tears. I felt lost and could not focus on anything.  There were many tasks that day that I had left unfinished. When my husband got home from school that afternoon, I informed him of what happened. Minutes later, he was looking for airline flights for me, and I flew out the next day.

According to my older brother, the terrible event took place around 4 a.m. He was asleep but thought he heard a faint cry for help coming from my mother's room. He quickly got up to check, and found her body limp, but her hands held tight onto the door knob. Medics were immediately called, and they arrived soon after.

My brother and sister-in-law never left my mother's side. They stayed with her until I arrived. And have been back to visit everyday since. My nieces and nephews, and extended family members were also there, for support. They are awesome like that. 

According to the neurologist, my mother had an ischemic stroke. The right side of her body is paralyzed. Her speech is majorly impaired, thus making it difficult to understand her. However, for the most part, she is alert and aware of her surroundings.

Today is Thursday, December 5th. She is now at the inpatient rehab facility, which is part of the hospital. Physical therapy will start tomorrow. Right now, the goal is to have physical, occupational, and speech therapy one hour a day, six days a week for the next three or four weeks.

I am amazed at how fast my mother is progressing.  I believe this was made possible through the power of love and prayer from friends and family. On behalf of my family, especially my mother, I would like to thank everyone for thinking of us and remembering us in your thoughts and prayers. I will try to keep everyone updated on her progress.

November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving with the Smiths

This year my family and I spent Thanksgiving holiday with an old friend of mine. About 17 years ago, I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, UT for my church. There, I met a wonderful individual who became one of my dearest friends. We lost contact for awhile, however, about four years ago E Smith and I were re-connected through Facebook.

We had a wonderful time hanging out with the Smiths. There were jokes, chit-chatting, questions to satisfy a curious mind, and of course lots of laughter.

At the dinner table, everyone had to express what they were thankful for. Everyone kept it short, simple and heartfelt. When it was my turn, I told them that I thankful to be able to spend this wonderful holiday with E and her family. And of course, I was also thankful for my little family.

Dinner was wonderful. E made one of the most delicious sweet potato side dish that I've ever tasted. I'll have to get the recipe from her and share it on this blog. My husband made a delicious corn casserole that we brought to the Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it was so delicious that I had to share the recipe.

November 25, 2013

Thankfulness Through a Child's Eyes

This past Sunday was my daughter’s turn to give a talk during our church's Primary program. She was excited and pretty much wrote the talk all by herself. All I did was help her find a passage in the scripture that coincides with the chosen topic and then typed it up so it would be legible enough to read.

When I told my daughter she could choose any topic for her talk (per the message that I received from the Primary secretary), she knew immediately what she wanted to speak about.

These are copies of my daughter’s talk, written on three separate pieces of paper. As you can see, she used a couple different writing tools; a pen and a marker. The talk started out with a scriptural reference, which says, "Doctrine and Covenants 136:28-- 'If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.'  
Then it continued with, "Thanksgiving is a special day when all my family is here to celebrate and to play but when it is time to share [what I'm thankful for] all that I am thankful for is God and Jesus and my family, and friends. Thanksgiving is when families get together. We are thankful for food and water, books, a bed, the temple and church."

Even though my daughter called for me to stand beside her at the podium, she did great on her own. I guess all she needed was moral support. And I was more than happy to be there.

It didn't dawn on me until later in the day that the list of things my daughter was thankful for, were what most people would consider the essentials; family, friends, food, a bed, church, etc.

To me, this is a testimony that young children can understand what is truly important in life. They can learn that we don't need material things to be happy. Family, friends, food, and the gospel are what's important and the source of true happiness.

For the record, my daughter is not at all deprived. She has a room full of toys and a closet full of clothes. But the fact that she chose to list only what matters most to her, was what touched my heart so deeply.

October 7, 2013

183rd Semi-annual General Conference

Image source:
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the first weekend in October (and the first weekend in April) is when we get to watch a worldwide televised broadcast of counsels and instructions given by chosen church leaders. This broadcast is called, General Conference. Each speaker delivers both inspirational and uplifting messages. Each message is unique, and touches our heart in different ways. Each message addresses issues and concerns that are going on in the world around us. And most definitely, these messages (or counsels) can be compared to as a "guide map" for our everyday life decisions.

A wide range of topics were shared during the two days of conference. For example, President Thomas S. Monson shared with us certain matters concerning eternal love, faith, endurance, and perseverance. I can testify to you that President Monson is truly a marvelous man of God. He has a way of telling stories that you'll remember years from now. Should you have a desire, or just a glimpse of curiosity to know what was shared the past two days of conference, feel free to click on this link (October 2013 General Conference). It will take you to the church's official website and from there you can choose from a number of different conference talks. I hope you will enjoy these inspirational and heart-warming messages as much as I did.

Going down memory lane, I will admit that when I was a young convert to the church, I was not a big fan of sitting for a total of four hours a day (a morning and an afternoon session on both Saturday and Sunday) and listen to different speakers share messages about gospel related stories. Yes, you heard it right. I was not thrilled about General Conference.  Aside from having to sit for long periods of time, I believe that I wasn't excited for General Conference because I was a bit too young (in convert years) to fully understand the importance of it all.

Latter on though, as I grew in age and have gained better understanding of the gospel, I found myself appreciative of the efforts that each speaker has put forth in their talks. This past weekend is no different; I was eager to watch and take heed to each church leader's inspired messages. And I look forward to the next General Conference that will take place the first weekend in April 2014.

Before I go, I just thought I'd include a short video on the history of the Latter-day Saints Conference Center, and a link (Mormon Channel) to video highlights from this weekend's General Conference.


July 5, 2013

Happy 237th Birthday America!

Today, July 4th, I am truly thankful for the blessing to live in a country that allows its citizens to freely live as they choose.  I’m thankful for the brave men and women in centuries past that have sacrificed their lives so that their future generations can have equality and the liberty to pursue happiness as they see fit. I am also thankful for our current military men and women who are sacrificing their lives to maintain our country’s freedom. 
May they continue to be watched over and may their family (in the US or abroad) be blessed for their sacrifices.

I remember while in elementary school (in the 1980s… yes, I’m THAT old), it was almost a morning ritual for everyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance and then sing at least one of the patriotic songs, such as “God Bless America”, “My Country Tis of Thee”, or “The Star Spangled Banner”. But, in recent times, these patriotic acts are either done away with, or in the process of disappearing. Of course, I’m sure we all know the reasons behind this kind of abolishment. 

Anyway, I’m not here to start a debate. I’m just here to share with you how I remember my childhood and what I loved (and miss) about it.

Today I leave with you one of my favorite patriotic songs.