Alison's family and I thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. We'll be using this email list as a way to distribute news and developments throughout Alison's recovery. Since this is the first email, I'll start from the beginning in explaining what all has happened up until now. After this initial email, I'll use it to update everyone with new developments.
Alison and Chris left the 5pm church service a little bit early this past Sunday evening because Alison felt nauseous. After being home for a while, Alison began vomiting and continued to do so off and on for several hours. After a few hours of this pattern, more stroke-like symptoms appeared (such as neck pain, numb tongue, eye irregularity, and illogical speech), at which point Chris called 911. The ambulance brought her to St. Luke's Hospital at the Plaza (which is where we still are) and began analyzing her. Initially, they considered the possibility of meningitis, but eventually ruled that out once they narrowed in on stroke.
There are a couple of things that doctors normally try to do for strokes within the first hours of stroke (including clot-buster medication, etc.), but unfortunately, the official stroke diagnosis did not come in time for her to receive those treatments. Nobody really expected stroke in Alison's case because of her age and health, so the diagnosis took a little bit longer than it would have if she were older or in poorer health.
The stroke (or multiple strokes) appear to have affected her brain stem area. The origins of the clot are still unclear, but they're telling us it's likely that the clot originated from somewhere in her legs, escaped her heart through a previously undetected hole called an atrial septal defect (ASD), and then became lodged in her brain. That being said, as they continue to gain understanding of her condition, she is in a relatively stable condition in the Medical Intensive Care Unit of St. Luke's at the Plaza. She has been on a ventilator (breathing machine) and they have been feeding her through tubes down her throat.
At this point, it's hard to tell what the effects of the stroke(s) are and will be. She is somewhat non-responsive throughout the days (less so when she hasn't been on sedation for various procedures any given day); however, she does respond to painful and uncomfortable stimuli, such as when the nurses or doctors squeeze her fingertip or tickle the bottom of her foot. Her responsiveness to these stimuli is encouraging. She is able to open her eyes when she's not worn out and seems to respond to family (especially Chris and dad) by blinking her eyes or squeezing their hands. We are praying that these "signs" that she's giving us are really her processing what is happening and trying to get through to us -- not coincidence.
The doctors are encouraged by some of the things that we observe, but remain cautious and they assure us that we have a long road to recovery ahead. As she continues to stabilize, we will continue to gain understanding of how severely she has been impacted by this, and in turn how difficult her recovery will be.
God has orchestrated some miracles that seem small, but are extremely encouraging for all of us. Every time Alison seems to recognize us, squeezes our hands, or moves her eyes, we are reminded that God is good even in such terrible circumstances.
As Chris indicated on facebook earlier tonight, the doctors are preforming a tracheotomy and putting a permanent feeding tube in her stomach (which will be there for at least 6 weeks), as opposed to the tubes that currently run down her throat, which are uncomfortable and have a high risk of infection after the first week of being in action. This is encouraging in that it shows that the doctors are thinking she'll be here a little bit longer term than they seemed to have been before (working towards rehabilitation). As Chris said, she'll be sedated sometime tomorrow afternoon for this procedure, so please specifically pray for that.
They will eventually (maybe a month or so from now) patch the hole in her heart (the ASD), but they want to stabilize her quite a bit more before doing so.
At this point, her vitals remain stable. Progress remains slow, but we are hopeful, positive, and optimistic about rehabilitation once that time comes. We are comforted by a competent St. Luke's staff, but we know that God is powerful and that the situation rests in His capable hands. We are taking shifts to be with her around the clock and are blessed that family members from all sides are showing up to help us be with her throughout the day and night.
In the long-term picture, we are hoping that she is eventually able to re-gain all of her capabilities through rehabilitation, however, the doctors are clear that it is too early to tell exactly what kind of damage has been done. They also stress that once we do learn more about her condition, the road to recovery will almost certainly be long and hard.
Please continue to pray for Alison, for Chris, for our family, and for everyone who is caring for her as she recovers. We can't thank you all enough for your thoughts and prayers. Please keep them coming.
Humbled by all of your kindness,
The Short/Wilson families