Life After Stroke: Riccardo

Riccardo was born with a smile.

"Why don't you Cry?" "He smiles, he's just born but he's happy already!"

Here's what I remember of his birth, I remember his rosy face, plump and above all serene.

Maybe that's what I want to remember because in reality this feeling of peace, of extreme beauty lasted a moment and then I slipped away from my hands despite efforts to stop the memory of that beautiful perception of emotional perfection.

"Is hyporeactive; Let's do some exams, but you'll see that it's nothing, maybe it's just very, very quiet. "

Prenatal left hemisphere's Stroke, they told us. " There is no cause or better we do not know it. "

The thought hangs while everything around turns, you see people talking but you do not feel anything, you stay still, in apnea, I thought only of that wonderful smile in which you were recognized immediately and you think that it is not possible, that doctors are making a joke , a very ugly joke. "Go away! I'm not the one to communicate all this pain, please it's not me! "

"The brain lesion is very extensive unfortunately, we see, in the meantime we will see each other often, very frequently."

Are we going to see? See what? And now how can we stay here, so, waiting for answers..

Will he walk, speak, know how to reason?

We looked at each other, my husband and I, long, without saying anything and, continuing to say nothing we decided to fight with all possible resources; To fight for that smile by moving away any person approaching thinking that ours was a disgrace, we needed beautiful and positive thoughts: there were. 

I do not dwell on the long years of physiotherapy, speech therapy, visits, examinations, (at a distance of time we have inserted new modalities of intervention and more specialized teams).

US, one with the hospitals.

I, as a nurse, began to fear them hospitals, surgeries, waiting rooms with parents and the knot in my throat. I thought that while we waited, we could have embraced each other, giving strength to each other, instead, we could only cross gaze silently accomplices and frightened.

The memories of the intensive period have been very diluted, some I have just removed them. I stayed home from work for five years and then I resumed my assignment where I had left it, with a part time contract though. My work, which I love, has helped me so much, some colleagues have helped me so much. At home I was expecting Henry, son of four years older, wise and protective; He suffered our absence trying to become a perfect child and he risked to become it really if it were not for that mix of insecurity and fragility that I adore. I felt guilty for having given him less time but now that I see him independent in Padua while he is becoming a physicist who becomes a philosopher and perhaps a little poet, well, I'm very proud of it.

The relationship between him and his brother was not at all simple because Riccardo has always seen in him the healthy son "that came well", even a bit ' genius and the distances were made to feel and not little, ignoring more than anything else but now that the age seems to have come to us Born, Henry dedicated to him a letter expressing all the love of the world. Time, it always takes time, even the emotions need to be understood.

Riccardo walks, speaks, is autonomous, is intelligent, is passionate, is a swimmer and loves life. But Riccardo lost that initial smile and this was my biggest defeat.

At some point on the way he recognized his disability through the eyes of his peers and there he stopped.

His passions penalized him because they were adult and incomprehensible passions such as elementary politics or journalism in middle school. He was proud of it, I was proud, instead they were laying the foundations for an abysmal distance with peers, fans of play station or card games with characters with strange names.

So, it happened that one summer afternoon a so-called friend Spit ' for no reason, understood ' that others began to be ashamed of its bike with three wheels sowing it for the country. He realized that a confidence made to a little girl he was in love with turned into a horrible mockery.

These and other episodes made him believe that he was not enough and surrendered not to take the risk of trying again the failure, not to be chosen as a possible friend.

The effort to face the gaze of others took the upper hand to the point of living with their eyes lowered, always: the others no longer existed except as adults, only human being with whom to entertain meaningful relationships.

The surprise caught me too, I used to take care of the physical plan, he was so smiling and combative, what I had left out? I had certainly mistaken something; Errors of communication with the rest of the world maybe? We had to pull the plug from physical rehabilitation to take care of his emotional sphere, trying to break down that barrier that had been built. 

The epileptic seizures reached 12 years, in the midst of this emotional explosion; In front of the school, with the companions who surrounded him, screaming, he who perceived everything because the crises were partial without loss of conscience; He was the one lying there with the body shaking, helpless and terrified. Epileptic seizures don't forget.

"Mom, ask me everything you want but not to accept epilepsy, I can not do it too much for me."

From that moment he stopped his desire to fight and to be able to improve.

"I do not do anything of my physical performance if I am not accepted, if they are afraid or ashamed to go out with me." We have been helped by a psychotherapeutic course and by the professors of the high school that I will never finish thanking, not to believe that there can be professors like that.

Slowly, day after day we try to teach him to rely again to be less rigid, to shift the attention by himself to "feel" the other in a different way, more welcoming, without selecting in a fierce way. 

Our life has certainly changed; It is sucked into a vortex of pain and guilt, from a sense of impotence and fragility.

Too many things have to be kept under control, the priorities change.

Then when the vortex calices, you find yourself stronger. The relationship of the couple has strengthened by the complicity of the battle; United we have always been, we have put in the field each their own positive characteristics on which to rely.

Now Riccardo is 18 years old, is struggling to regain confidence and sketches of smile in spite of a shadow of melancholy always accompany him. If I joined together all the words spent to confront, to reorder the thoughts, to translate the events to give him positive and acceptable postpones, well I would do several times around the world.

Yes, my life has changed, our life has changed, but   

I can't imagine a different life.

This year we would like to celebrate the greatest age by organizing a party in which to invite all the important people in his life path: It is a wonderful and very long list, a list full of love.

"Have I been suffering for you mamma, for you?"

"I suffered Riccardo and I still suffer when I see you tired, surrendered, in the throes of fear.

But remember that among millions of people I would seek you, I would find your look and your wonderful smile that was absolutely destined to me, to us and to no one else. "