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Providing Love, Support, And Healing For A Loved One After Stroke with Vicki Boudia
This day is a very special day.
It’s the day of love, which is beautiful because as we all know if you heal the heart, you can heal the body.
What does that mean to you?
If you allow the love to come through your divine, you can then begin to heal yourself. If your heart is closed and cluttered or blocked, you are not going to heal anything.
To go further on that, one of the practices I teach to all my clients and students is a heart-centered meditation practice. I originally found this through an organization called the HeartMath Institute. They’ve done research on the heart. If you put the heart in a specific rhythm, it will create what they call a state of coherence in the body, which is essentially saying it’s creating harmony in the body and all of your organ systems start beating and pulsing to the rhythm of your heart. When your brain, your heart, and all your other systems are all working together, you’re creating a state in the body of ease, of harmony, of relaxation and a state where your body has this amazing intelligence to heal itself. What I love about that practice is it’s measurable. There are a lot of meditation practices out there that say, “Just sit and be quiet and everything’s going to be awesome.”
I found that doesn’t help, especially with people who have never gotten into the practice before. What’s wonderful about this heart-centered meditation practice is it’s measurable. They’re using a metric they call heart rate variability, which is the space in between your heartbeats. If the space is more regular, it tends to indicate that you’re more stressed out. If the space in between your heartbeats is more irregular, I like to think of it as like dancing and moving more fluidly, then it’s a sign that you’re not as stressed out.
You’re brilliant with everything you said. With people who suffered from brain injury or a stroke, we are stressed out. That’s why it’s so important.
We love all our audience in our community. What we want to start doing is sharing all the wonderful words that you have left us on iTunes. If you haven’t gone over to iTunes yet and left us a five-star rating and review, go over there so then we can jump on the mic one day and read your beautiful words.
We can possibly have you on as a guest as well because we love to interview and get as many stories as we can to share with everyone.
This day’s review is titled Inspiring by user Amanda, The Light. What she says is, “Absolutely beautiful and inspiring, filled with love, truth, and hope. I highly recommend this podcast for some truly uplifting stories in health.”
On to our interviewee or the person who’s on our podcast. She is the wife of a dear friend of mine, Tony Boudia, who I’ve never actually met, but we’ve talked hundreds of times in email and text. He’s one of these guys that will be in my life forever. What’s so special about him is he’s healed because of the love from his wife, the unit and the team, which they have. Vicki Boudia could have basically walked away and given up and said, “The hell with this. I’m done with Tony,” but she stuck by him because she loves him and she saw the potential in what he is. Him probably being an Alpha male before the stroke, it’s tougher. I’m an Alpha male too. It’s tougher for us, for people like that who compete, who wanted to be better, who are driven. I’m sure he drives her nuts all the time and she even says that. Tony, we love you and Vicki is on the show right now because she’s going to share with us her story on how she helped her husband heal.
What we do here is we talk about all kinds of health issues and people’s roads to recovery. People open up and get really raw here about how they recovered, what roads they took to recover, conventional and unconventional roads. We look at all of it and see what we can do to give people hope and help and send them on the right path. All of our guests are special, but this is a little bit of a shift in focus. We talked to a man named Tony Boudia. He’s an awesome individual who had a stroke. He shared some very real and raw moments about his life that happened after the stroke. Tony talked a lot about what it was like, basic things like going to the bathroom and worrying about sex and all these kinds of things.
A lot of times when we talk to individuals who have been through some trauma, we don’t think about their partners. On that interview that we had with Tony, Sean Entin was also there as well because you know Sean’s story. He had a stroke as well and he and Tony met through support groups online and that’s how their friendship started. I wanted to talk to the other half of Tony. I wanted to talk to his wife, Vicki. A lot of times all of the focus is put on the person who’s going through the traumatic experience. Rightfully so, as loved ones, we want nothing more than our spouse, partner, child, loved one, whoever it is to get through what they need to get through and come out better on the other side and healed and moving forward. I wanted to hear from Vicki, Tony’s wife. She’s with us now along with Tony as well, because I wanted to give people a sense of what it’s like to be a partner in this journey. I think Vicki would agree that it’s not easy for them as well. Vicki, welcome.
Thank you.If you heal the heart, you can heal the body. Click To Tweet
Let’s take it back to the beginning. When did you first meet and what attracted you to Tony?
We met in high school. I was sixteen and he was eighteen. To be honest, I didn’t like him. He was your typical cocky and arrogant eighteen-year-old kid. My friend actually liked him and I was like, “Why do you like him?” We wound up in a PE class together. My friend has gone to someone else and I got to know him and we hit it off. I went to a dance at school and then the rest is history.
You have spent a lifetime together just about.
That was 1984, so 30-plus years.
You meet in high school and you fall in love. What’s life like after that? Did you guys graduate from high school? What happens?
We graduated from high school, going to the jobs. Tony was a parts guy at a local auto shop. He moved up the ranks that way. We had our son and I was a stay-at-home mom for several years. He was gone everyday working, just your average American life.
From there, you’re building a life together. You have kids, you have your son and your husband’s working. Take us through fast forward as life begins to build for you too.
Fast forward, he has this new job. We now are empty nesters. Our son is in the service. He’s out of the house. We’re enjoying that phase of life. Things aren’t revolving around football games and rugby games. We don’t have to do anything now or we could be gone all day. Getting to know each other again a lot. When you have kids, your life is focused on the kids and then when they’re gone, you’re like, “Hi, it’s you again.” That’s an adjustment because you’re focused with the kids and then you’re like, “What do you want to do?” Things change over twenty-plus years. You used to go to movies and do things. Tony was a hunter. He’s getting back into that. I’m not so much but I ride around in the truck with him in the woods. I like craft fairs so we go do that and figure that out. Sometimes you didn’t do anything. We stay home and binge watch Netflix all day or whatever. That was pretty much life.
Walk us through the day you find your husband face down on the kitchen floor. What happened? What went down?
He had felt weird that day. He got up to put his dishes because we had dinner in front of the TV and he fell. I wasn’t in the room. He thought that he had tripped on the rug on the floor in the kitchen. He did get back up and walk away but it wasn’t really a walk, what I know now. I had a thought that he’s walking like he’s drunk, it’s weird and then he fell again. I said, “What’s going on? You have to tell me more than you feel weird,” because he could still talk. He didn’t present like a typical stroke.
You mean, he wasn’t slurring his words?
His face wasn’t drooping. It was the furthest thing from my mind. He said, “My left side feels weird.” I thought a heart attack, honestly. I grabbed the iPad and Googled left side stuff and all of these things come up about a stroke. The acronym FAST, Face, Arm, Speech and Time. I’m like, “His face is fine, his speech is fine.” I had him raised his arms and one drifted back down. I was like, “Did you do that on purpose?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Do it again.” He did it again and it drifted back down. I’m reading like, “We’ve got to go to the hospital. Something’s going on.” I still didn’t believe that it was a stroke. What I know of strokes were old people. Your face droops and you slur your words. That was my very limited knowledge about a stroke. We got to the hospital and they were immediately like, “We think you had a stroke.” It was about 10:00 at night and we have a rural hospital that’s close to us. They did an MRI but they were waiting for a CT scan, but that wouldn’t be until morning.
You got him in the hospital. Obviously, you knew something was wrong, but you still weren’t convinced it was a stroke. Clearly, it was scary enough for you to go in there and at least you took those signals seriously at that point.
I knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t quite believe what I was reading was the problem.If your heart is closed and cluttered or blocked, you can’t heal anything. Click To Tweet
He’s at the hospital. What are his symptoms? He’s paralyzed or he’s weak on what side?
He’s very weak on the left side and they’re asking firing questions all over me about what time this started, which I couldn’t give them because he had napped a little bit during the day. I wasn’t sure, “Do you mean when he felt off or do you mean when he fell?”
The reason why they asked you the timing is because the four hours is what’s called the clot buster. That’s going to break up the clots in the body and prevent the stroke from getting worse. They were looking for a timing issue. That’s what the T in the FAST stands for. It’s Face, Arm, Speech, and Timing and you got four hours to get the shot. He doesn’t get this shot. Walk me through what transpires with him and especially with you knowing that he’s paralyzed on his left side, similar to me. What are you thinking and what do you do? Is there any playbook? Where are you going with all this?
Once they tell us the next day, “You’ve had a stroke. It’s a bad one.” Tony asked the doctor, “Will I get any better?” Then the doctor was like, “No.”
Of course, the doctors saved his life but the thing that has got to be maddening for a lot of families is when it’s point blank, you get an answer like, “No, forget it. Your whole life is done. It’s changed forever. You’re never going to get better. This is it. This is you plateaued. This is all you’re going to have.” There’s no hope there. For a lot of the people we’ve talked to you on our show who’ve been through traumatic experiences, that’s one of the things we’re trying to change here. There’s no doubt that the doctors and Western medicine absolutely saved your husband’s life.
Just that particular doctor said that. That’s the only experience of anything negative.
Your husband is in the hospital, he has a stroke. What are you doing to take care of you and what are you doing so you can be inclined to help your husband further because there’s a lot of pain happening on your side as well?
In the beginning, before he got transferred to the Rehab Hospital, I guess I should back up. One of the doctors said, “No, you’re probably not going to get any better.” I’m a fighter. I’m like, “No, we’re going to find out about this.” He’s only 51 years old and you’re seriously telling me he’s not going to walk again. We’re going to get a second opinion. I’m going to do some research. I’m going to find out what I don’t know. We had someone else came in, a physical therapist and they were like, “We’ll get you to this place, the Rehabilitation Hospital and they can do miracles there. People can come back from this.” That was all I needed to hear.
You just have to be given that nugget of hope because obviously with stories like Tony’s and Sean’s and others that we’ve had on the show, all they needed was that hope and it turned a lot around.
We got him into that hospital and they throw a lot of information at you, which is very overwhelming “Here, you need to read this. There are books on this.” I was like, “Just tell me what I need to know for him. I don’t want to read a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t apply right now.” They finally said, “Here’s the type of stroke he had.” I didn’t even know what type he had and where it was. I did some reading on that, then I went to his therapy appointments with him. I took a three-month leave of absence from work and went to all the therapy. I learned with him and watched what they were doing and listened to them. For Tony, he’s focused on doing the task and he would forget some of the other things. I knew once we got home, it was going to be me who had to know how to do these things and make sure he stands up straight, lifts his leg, bends his knee or flexes his ankle.
The reality starts setting in. Tony’s maybe doing a lot of the physical work, but you’re doing a lot of the work too. This is going to be a battle for you too. The reality of that is setting in for you, it sounds like at this point. What’s one of the first things, looking back now, that people should know and need to know at this point?
First, that there’s hope. Don’t believe everything they tell you. I went and read a couple of books by other stroke survivors for their perspectives, which helped me a lot with knowing the up and down emotions, the physical pain on his affected side, just the fact that he hurts a lot, which I didn’t understand. Why do you hurt? You didn’t hurt the day before you had the stroke and nothing happened. Did somebody run into you? You don’t have bruising. Why does that hurt? To understand that that was normal. The range of emotions, that’s a big one because you can’t prepare for when they hit and the level of frustration that comes in.
Frustration on his end of not being able to do what his mind is trying to tell him to do.
They don’t tell you how to deal with it, but to know that this is part of the process.You don't understand having a stroke unless you’ve had a stroke. You don't understand being a caregiver unless you've been the caregiver. Click To Tweet
You were saying you start reading books, but there’s not really a how-to guide or a step-by-step or here are some of the things that you’re going to encounter when you bring home someone who suffered a stroke. If we could have a guide in life for everything. How to raise children, everything in life. If we had a playbook that would be interesting. That’s one of the reasons why Sean is coming out with his book, Stroke Hacker. Going through all the things that you don’t realize you have to do when Tony comes home from the hospital like pump handles on bottles as opposed to something they have to unscrew.
Having doors off on your bathroom and shower doors off of your shower stall.
Not having a roll of toilet paper, instead having wipes. When I first met Sean, I was like, why are there so many wipes here? I don’t get it. All those things that you take for granted every day and don’t think about are going to be outlined in Sean’s book that’s coming out next year. These are the things you learned along the way, you had to on your own.
Vicki, with the therapist, what did you go see? How did you start to help him? I know it’s frustrating. He gets angry, he gets tired and he gets depressed. It’s a virus. It expands to you and to your family. What did you go do to help you heal? Did you continue with yoga? Did you continue with meditation? Did you see a therapist? What did you do in order to help yourself?
I leaned a lot on my faith. I didn’t go out and talk to people, even my close circle of friends because unless you’re in it, you don’t understand it. You don’t understand having a stroke unless you’ve had a stroke and you don’t understand being a caregiver unless you’ve been the caregiver. It’s very hard to explain it to someone else. I’m just, “I need to get out of here.” I did leave him once, the first time, I went to the grocery store when he was using a walker. At first, he came home in a wheelchair. I didn’t leave him with anyone. I didn’t trust that anyone can take care of him. When he would sleep because he does sleep a lot after he had a stroke. I would read, not a stroke book, mindless storybook. I like to read. I get in my own little space and have that break mentally. I didn’t do anything extravagant. I did what I’ve always done my whole life and not a big go out and do yoga or anything like that. I took it one day at a time and knew that it’s never going to be as bad as right now. It’s going to get better because progress was being made and it takes time.
It shows your strength and who you are and your love and your affinity for your husband. There are so many people out there that once they go through this traumatic injury, their spouses and their family leave because they cannot possibly take care of their loved one. It’s harder on people like yourself. You said something so brilliant. You said, “If you’re not in it, you’re not going to understand it.” Vicki’s whole point was saying, “How am I going to explain this to my family and my friends? Because they’re not in it. They don’t get it. I have a husband who is home, in bed or on the couch. He’s angry. He’s pissed off. He doesn’t want to be here anymore and it’s up to me, to help him heal.” You’ve got to be Superwoman or Superman to take care of your spouse.
Was there ever a time, Vicki, that you ever felt so overwhelmed and you wanted to give up?
No. I’m more of a fighter. I got pissed a few times. Mostly when he was down and he would be in the low spot and this sucks and life sucks. I would fire back with, “You could have died and you didn’t. Now what? You came home in a wheelchair, now you’re on a walker. You’ve graduated to the next, the four-wheel walker. You’re getting better. They said you can’t do this, you’ve done it. You have your moment. I’ll be in the other room.”
I saw you guys pop up on my community and you had made him a picture of, “I can, I shall, I will.” When did that come into play? Every time I get pissed off, I get upset, I think of you and Tony. I’m like, “If this guy can do it, I can do it.” What led you down that route?
Tony had found you when he was in the Rehab Hospital and he had shown it to me. At first, I watched it with him and at first, I was like, “I don’t have time to watch it.” I’m trying to learn things but then a couple of weeks later, maybe it’s a little bit of a time blur. It could have been longer than two weeks, but I watched you walk around a football field and you hadn’t been able to do that. At that point, Tony was in a wheelchair, when that show came on or when I saw it anyway. I thought, “This guy can walk after how many years it had been at that point. There’s hope for Tony.” That’s when “I can, I shall, I will” sunk in for me. It had already sunk in for Tony, but I was not only dealing with him having a stroke and learning about what needed to be done for rehabilitation. I’m also dealing with the medical insurance side of it and that’s a whole another level of stress. Just dealing with insurance companies and billing questions and those kinds of things. I let him take that on himself before it sunk in with me. Then it became our mantra, “You can, and you shall, and you will unless you are.”
There is no other option, you are going to do it.
A couple of weeks after his stroke, he was in the Rehab Hospital for a month. When we came home, that was definitely what he would say when he gets frustrated. Sometimes you have to let him be frustrated and work it through that on his own without trying to keep pushing like, “You’ve gotten better, you’re doing better,” because sometimes they need to go through those emotions. I watched him to not let him stay in that low spot because I knew by then that depression was a big side effect when somebody goes through a life-changing event.
You let him have his moment and he had to work through it on his own.
I did that gut feeling about, “If it’s me, I’m going to need some space for a minute or two.” I’d let him have some space. For us, that’s how we’ve always worked like, “Give me a minute and I’ll be fine.” That’s what I did and then you started, you can, you shall, you are and you’re doing it.When we love, we love powerfully; when we fight, we fight powerfully; and when we cry, we cry a lot. Click To Tweet
Basically, you gave him some time to take a breath and you took a breath as well and you guys came back together. Is your life different now with Tony than it was before?
Yes, I think about things differently as far as if we’re going to go somewhere, do they have stairs? How many stairs? How crowded is this place we’re going to be? Are people going to jostle him around? Even he’s walking, he still got the left side weakness. Elsa and I can plant our feet and be fine if somebody jostles us, that’s not going to work always for Tony.
It creates anxiety for him.
I don’t ever want to put him in a position where he’s worried about that. I think about those things. I think if we go to a restaurant, depending on the seating, sometimes just getting up and down out of a booth can be a little bit of a challenge.
I’ve experienced that with Sean, whenever we go into a restaurant, I let him pick first where he wants to sit. I know he’s going to have to pick a spot where it’s going to be the easiest for him to get in and out.
It’s different, but it’s the same.
What are some of the positive things that have happened here on the other side? Personal growth? Anything that you guys have come out better with on the other side of this?
We are stronger in our relationship. We are a fine married couple, but we are far stronger in our marriage than ever before because we’ve weathered the storm and we’re still in it.
It’s not so much a storm anymore. It’s more like a light rain now.
You learn quickly what matters, like things that would irritate you before. It’s like, “That’s not a big deal anymore,” because it is very eye-opening. He amazes me.
It’s been several years now for you guys and it’s still very deeply emotional for you to talk about it obviously and rightfully so. No one would play me for that, in fact. It’s very touching to see how much he means to you and that you get to struggle as much as you can possibly get it, that he goes through every day. It’s still emotional for you sometimes.
It is. I’m sorry about that.
No, don’t ever be sorry about that.
Vicki, I’m proud of you. I love you. Everything you’re going through. Thank you so much for sharing this with us because I can feel it in my heart and my soul of what you’re going through and what you’re talking about. Our audience right now are taking it in too because it’s not easy. No one signed up for this. Nobody wanted this. You stepped up as a fighter and as a woman, a powerful woman who took on your family and your husband who is an Alpha male. Alpha males have issues. When we love, we love powerfully and when we fight, we fight powerfully and when we cry, we cry a lot. I get it and thank you for being here with us and getting through this. I really do appreciate that. I got one question for you and a couple of others. If you were to look back now and see if things were to happen again or somebody is reading this and their loved one just had a stroke, what do you tell them? What do you do with them?Looking forward to tomorrow is too much. Just focus on what's right in front of you right this second and it's going to get better. Click To Tweet
First thing, don’t give up. I have a thing like this too shall pass. This is not where you’re going to stay. One moment, one minute, one hour at a time. If looking forward to tomorrow is too much, just focus on what’s right in front of you right this second and it’s going to get better. One moment, one minute, one hour, one day, whatever gets you. Thinking one day is like I can’t even fathom what tomorrow’s going to be like and focus on right now, one minute right in front of you.
That’s incredible, I love that line. I’m stealing that. I’m taking that one now.
It’s so simple but we forget that that’s all it’s about as far as our happiness. This doesn’t mean forever. This doesn’t mean this is how your life is going to be. Your life is what you make it. That advice reminds me of the advice my father always gives me when I was in high school and I got invited to apply and accepted to a very elite Ivy League. There was no way my parents were going to be able to afford this. They were worried about how we were going to afford going to a state college or a university. I was upset because I wanted the prestige and my dad said, “It’s not what college you go to, it’s what you make of where you go.” He said, “There are a lot of people who go to these big Ivy League schools and maybe they take it for granted and it never means anything to them.” He goes, “You can’t do that. You are going to make of it where you go.” He was 100% right. I ended up going to UC Irvine and thank every day that I was able to go. It’s the same thing. Life is what you make of it. Thank you for pointing that out.
I got another line that’s saying, “You find the comfort in being uncomfortable all the time.” Unfortunately, Tony and I live in that world of being uncomfortable, but we have to find our comfort in that because this is our new us, our new norm. The reason he’s as good as he is, is because of you, Vicki. It is the tribute, the intent and the place you stand for him. I know Tony is strong and amazing, but he’s only that way because of you. I want to give another thank you to who you are and for showing up on the show. We love you dearly. Even though we’ve never met, I feel like Tony’s one of my best friends. We must talk eight times a week or whenever he said it but if I started acting up, she says, “I’m calling Tony.” I guess you do the same thing, “Tony, I’m calling Seany.”
I have said, “I’m going to call Sean if you don’t knock it off.”
Vicki, I wanted to ask you. Sometimes I know you must see Tony struggle at some point during this or maybe early on, with acceptance. What does acceptance mean to you? I imagine there was some point where Tony was struggling with accepting.
For me it’s like, “This has happened. This is what we’re dealing with right now. Accept it, deal with it, and move on. What’s the next step? What can we do to make it better or make it more doable?” I never accepted, “You’re not going to walk again. Let’s get you a wheelchair. Let’s start living our lives that way.” Acceptance for me is what’s the best life that we can live to where you’re living your fullest life that you can right now and whatever it takes to accomplish that.
You are not thinking about all the things like, “I used to be able to do this or I was once this.” It’s beyond that. You have to accept what is now and move forward from there.
The question is, has Tony accepted his place of where he’s at right now?
Most of the time.
I understand that completely.
He did say when we interviewed him that he’s surprised you haven’t smothered him with a pillow here and there.
It’s through this few years. There has been a couple of good yelling matches, which that happens in everyday married life whether you had a stroke or not. Emotions can be a little higher. We get it out, deal with it and then have some space. I’m more like, “Do you feel better now? Let’s move on.”
What’s amazing too is you just watched your son get married to a great girl and Tony was able to be there. He wasn’t supposed to be there at all and I’m sure that the wedding ceremony of them walking down the aisle gave you such joy that your husband and you are there to watch something so amazing.Your life is what you make it. Click To Tweet
We had some little goals. That’s one of the things that we set during his recovery. His stroke was in February of 2017 and we wanted to go to see our son and future daughter-in-law, where they live by Labor Day weekend. We set that as a long-range goal through his therapy. We did that and then the next goal was, “You’re going to be at the wedding walking and you’ll dance with our daughter-in-law.” One dance and he did that. Those were the little things and you appreciate things a lot more. Like the wedding, you look around and think things could have been very different.
That to me is the gratitude right there. He could not have been there but he was. That’s a victory. After all of this experience and the experience that continues on now, what is your why?
Tony is the first thing. He is my why like, “Why you’ll get better, why now isn’t the worst it’s ever going to be, why life is not as bad as you think it is right now?” Sometimes I might get irritated with something and I’ll think, “Tony was in a wheelchair and now Tony drives to his work every day. Get over yourself.” He’s a good example for me and others of like, “You can change your life by working hard even after a devastating medical event or maybe even not medical, a physical thing happening too.” That’s the loop that plays in my head sometimes if I get frustrated with things that really don’t matter.
That’s a great perspective for anyone in everyday life. Even if nothing traumatic has happened to somebody at this point in their lives or somebody they love. That’s what it’s all about. The gratitude and looking at things that I’m really happy and lucky I have what I have right now. I can’t thank you enough. Sean, can’t thank you enough.
It’s amazing. You inspire me so much.
For opening up and for being raw and exposing the emotions because if people try to pretend that this is not going to affect you in that way, it’s going to be harder. It wasn’t an easy road for you guys to take from the beginning. Thank you for being vulnerable with us and for everybody because it’s okay. You’re allowed.
It’s not easy or it wasn’t easy. It’s much easier now. You just roll with it and it’s going to get better.
Thank you, Vicki.
About Vicki Boudia
Vicki Boudia is the wife of Tony Boudia, who was featured on a podcast episode.