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Interview with Marijane Schacherer

Hedrick Smith: Ms. Schacherer tell me a little bit about your stroke. What happened?

SchachererMarijane Schacherer: I was getting up on a Saturday morning and I was expecting a guest on Tuesday of that next week. And you know how you let things go … and I woke up and I knew I had a million things to do. First of all I had to wash my hair and then I had a grocery list a mile long and I had to change the linens on the bed.

I looked at the clock and it was 9:00 in the morning. And I didn’t feel right. Something was wrong. My head was mushy, spinning and my hand wasn’t -- didn’t feel right. I kept punching my hand, trying to make it wake up. Then I felt it in my legs and I always thought when you had a stroke you just fall over and pass out or something. I wasn’t passed out at all. I was very much aware of the whole thing.

It was one of the worst experiences that I can ever imagine. And I thought, get dressed, get up, get dressed and get into the shower and the water will make you feel better and this is all going to go away. I kind of bounced from wall to wall to wall to get me into the bathroom and into the shower, washed my hair. I probably should have drowned, I can’t imagine how I was doing it. Kind of sliding down the walls of the tile in the bathroom shower. Washed my hair, got out. Somehow or other I remembered an aspirin for a heart attack, take an aspirin. And I reached over and found the aspirin bottle and took two aspirin and sat for a minute.

Then I got up and I went to the telephone, and because I have HMO insurance, I didn’t know exactly how that worked either, going in to the emergency room. So I thought I would call the doctor’s office and see what I probably should do. By that time my speech was slurred and it was Saturday. Somebody else [besides my doctor] was on call. So I told whoever answered the phone that I thought I was having a stroke and she said hang the phone up fast and call 911. So I did that and the 911 operator kept me on the phone talking and talking -- I was ready to shoot him -- and asked me if my doors were open.

I said lord no, I just woke up. I’m sure it’s locked. So he said get to the front door and open it and I said there’s no way I can do it. But somehow I did it and got the front door opened, came back and grabbed hold of the kitchen table. The paramedics were there in seconds. So he evidently was stalling me on the other end of the phone [until] they got there. And once the paramedics came I just felt … now I can relax and somebody else takes over. Which they did and they got me to the hospital.

Smith: Then you were in the hospital how many days?

Schacherer: From Saturday until Tuesday. And fortunately Dr. Marino was on call as neurologist that day and so that’s how I got in touch with him. And he said get right over to Lee Memorial Rehab.

Smith: So your doctor proscribed coming to the hospital. Acute rehabilitation?

Schacherer: Right. If I had another doctor I suppose I would have gone into a nursing home … but this therapy is so intense. You’re up at 6:30 in the morning and you’ve got a schedule just like you were working. And I’ve worked very hard and I’ve come a long, long way from 30 days ago.

Smith: You work, I’m told, as a volunteer in a nursing home.

Schacherer: I work as a recreation assistant at a nursing home. My mother is in a nursing home so I work there, part time.

Smith: And which nursing home is this?

Schacherer: Cypress Manor and that’s where I assumed I would go [after my stroke].

Smith: What’s the difference, what’s the difference that you’ve seen in the nursing home therapy and the therapy here [at Lee Memorial Rehab]?

Schacherer: Well I think the therapists here are excellent. They’re better than anything I’ve ever seen or watched … I’ve seen people come into the nursing home with strokes and they learn to use their walker and they walk around the nursing home. And I’m sure they do physical therapy in the therapy departments in the nursing home. But I don’t think it could compare with what I see here.

Smith: Because?

Schacherer: Because …there’s the recreational therapy and there’s the occupational therapy. And the occupational therapy works with you in getting dressed and putting your affected arm in the arm hole first -- little tricks of the trade that I never would have thought of.

Smith: How about your access to doctors and so forth. How often does [Dr. Marino] see you here?

Schacherer: Every morning at 7:10 he comes in… at 7:10 and checks you out… He comes in to see what progress has been made in the day, and [I’ve made progress] almost every day. [The doctor] tests the opening and closing of my hand, lifting of my arms, and movement of my toes. Amazing.

Smith: The progress or the attention?

Schacherer: Amazing, amazing what you took for granted, such as the movement of your toes.

Smith: Now in the work that you do at the nursing home, do you see the doctors, I mean are the doctors there every day with their patients?

Schacherer: No.

Smith: And this is a nursing home that’s part of the Beverly chain, is that what you said?

Schacherer: Yes.

Smith: How do you feel in terms of the care you’re getting here and the attention from your doctor?

SchachererSchacherer: Well I’ll tell you, one night my son called and said "Are you lonesome, are you getting hospitali-itis, are you ready to get out of there?" And I said, "You know, I just got into bed and I feel so secure here and I feel so well taken care of here. I’m fine." and he said, "You’re not itching to get out?", and I said, "No it’s fine. I’m working every day, and every day I see progress, and that’s a good feeling."

Smith: Tell me about what’s going on in the preparation of your family. What does the hospital do for you as they look to the time that you’re going to be out of the hospital? What do they do for you and your family?

Schacherer: Well I live in the now. I can’t project. I just cannot imagine what’s going to happen from here on. My son is going to stay with me just for a week. And we’ll see. I don’t know where I’ll be then. I’m telling you, every day there’s some progress. I had a small tube of sample size toothpaste. Went to put it in this hand and this hand couldn’t hold it. Sunk right down on the bathroom sink. About two days later I put the little tube of toothpaste in there and this hand could hold it. So I thought, well I’ll be darned. About two days after that I could press a little toothpaste out onto my brush. Those are things that you see every single day, and that to me is progress.

When I’m doing something more than I was a couple days ago, I don’t know what I’ll be doing next week. I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow when I leave here. We’re going on an outing, I think this afternoon, to practice getting in and out of a car. And just being in public. I’m still a little shaky. I can walk with a cane but I don’t want anybody to jostle me. And so I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Smith: Do you feel ready to go home?

Schacherer: I’m a little apprehensive about being home. I can’t imagine what I’m going to -- how I’m going to do at home. But everybody says I’m ready, so we’ll try it.

Smith: Do you feel as though they’re rushing you?

Schacherer: No, no, no I don’t think so. They know pretty much what you can do and what you can’t do.

Smith: And where do you think you’d be today in your recovery if [you had gone to a nursing home]?

Schacherer: Shuffling along a hall with a walker. Now I’m walking by myself with a cane.

Smith: So not as far along?

Schacherer: No, not as far along.

Smith: And why not?

Schacherer: Because I think the intensity that went into recovery here is that much greater. They may not agree with me, but I think so.

Smith: When you had the first symptoms of your stroke did you understand what was going on, did you know what was happening? What did you feel?

Schacherer: No, I was very confused and my head was spinning, literally spinning. And I was aware of the loss of movement of a hand. And it was very scary and I kept saying this couldn’t be happening to me. Could this be a stroke? Not me! I’m not stroke material, not me. I’m too active. You know I take my vitamins. I go to the gym. I do all these things. And once I get in the shower I’ll be better.

Smith: When did it, when did you realize that you had a stroke or you had something really serious?

Schacherer: By the time I called the doctor. By the time I called the paramedics, I knew it was for real and it was a stroke.

Smith: What got you to that point? What happened?

Schacherer: [I had] no feeling in my arms and I couldn’t walk on my leg and my head was muddled.

Smith: Do you live alone?

Schacherer: Yes I live alone.

Smith: So that’s particularly scary when you live alone?

Schacherer: Oh yeah. I’ve been widowed since ‘93. My husband had a stroke. My mother had a stroke.

Smith: So… you’d seen people with strokes?

Schacherer: Well, I’ve seen [the results of] strokes. I’ve seen the residue of a stroke where you’re not using your arm or your leg or you see people with their hand in their pocket. That spooks me you know, not using that hand, and carrying your hand in your pocket. So I’m working very hard here at keeping things moving.

Smith: They said you’re getting ready to go home. Is that right?

Schacherer: Tomorrow.

Smith: Oh you’re going home tomorrow. Big day!

Schacherer: Oh, I’ll be glad to get home. I’ll be glad to find out what exactly I can do. I’ll have a home health nurse come in for showers five days a week. I don’t know how long that’ll last. Maybe a couple weeks. And a physical therapist come and work [with me] until I’m ready to go to the outpatient physical therapy department and I don’t know anything about that because I’m not there yet.

Smith: Taking it one step at a time.

SchachererSchacherer: Right. One step at a time and I’m a firm believer in body, mind and spirit. And just staying in the now. Do it as, as it comes and we’ll see.

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