An unexpected journey

by Fran Haring, DCW staff

This article originally appeared in the April 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 1).

The 2007 summer drum corps season was off to a good start for my wife Barbara and me. In June, I was the announcer/emcee for the DCA season opener in Wildwood, NJ, and then at the DCI show in Westminster, MD.

Barbara was there at both shows and we had a great time, getting a chance to see several of the top DCA and DCI corps in action, and looking forward to seeing many more corps as the summer wore on.

We had a lot of drum corps on our plate for July and August. The heart of our DCA schedule was coming up, with shows in towns ranging from Clifton, NJ, to Nashville, TN, and, of course, our big weekend was ahead, at the DCA Championship in Rochester, NY, over Labor Day weekend.

Everything changed in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 11. I arrived home from my part-time job at about 1:30 that morning to find Barbara lying on the floor next to our bed, unable to speak coherently and struggling to sit up.

Her entire left side was paralyzed. I quickly called 911, the paramedics arrived within minutes, and off we went to a local hospital. I was near panic.

My adrenalin was pumping, with questions and worst-case scenarios racing through my mind. My God, what had happened to Barbara? Will she survive? What happens next?

The next several hours were rough, to say the least. The emergency room doctors told me Barbara most likely had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which is a stroke that involves bleeding in the brain. The doctors said the damage was “significant” and they were not yet able to stop the bleeding.

If they could not stop the blood from flowing into her brain tissue, they said, Barbara most likely would not make it through the day.

To make a long story short, the doctors eventually were able to stop the bleeding and then a neurosurgeon operated on Barbara’s brain to drain the blood, which had clotted and was causing severe pressure on her brain. I could finally exhale; she was going to live.

For the first eight days after her surgery, Barbara was unable to talk or open her eyes. She was able to move only her right hand and arm, to acknowledge that someone was in the room with her.

Since then, she has been through several stages of rehabilitation, undergoing therapy aimed at restoring her left side, speech and brain functions.

She’s been home since late November and as of right now she’s continuing her therapy on an outpatient basis at a local hospital/rehab center. She is receiving excellent care; we are very fortunate to live in the Baltimore area, where there are a lot of great hospitals and therapy facilities.

Our therapists and doctors have told us that Barbara’s progress has been remarkable, considering the blow her brain received last July. She has regained use of most of her left leg and is now able to take some steps with the use of a cane and with assistance.

We anticipate that she eventually will regain full use of that leg and be able to walk again on her own. Her left arm has not yet come around, but is showing some small signs that it might be ready to come back to life at some point in the future.

Barbara’s voice and speech are improving, as is her concentration and focus. She hopes to resume her career in the computer field sometime this summer.

We have experienced some very frustrating moments and days during this whole process; after all, Barbara is basically re-learning skills she had taken for granted for most of her life. But there also have been many “little victories” when she is able to perform a task or achieve a physical goal that was beyond her reach even a few days before.

Quite frankly, this entire journey has brought us closer together. We realize that after being married for 16 years, we had gotten perhaps a bit too comfortable; we sometimes forgot what was important to both of us.

Now, little things matter more to us. We cherish the time we have with each other, even if that time is spent simply sitting at home watching a movie or TV show together.

And yes, even though our schedule might not be as busy as in years past, we both plan to be back on the drum corps trail this summer!

If I have learned one lesson from this experience, it is that none of us should ever take anything for granted.

You never know when something or someone important will be taken away at a moment’s notice.

You never know when life will change, perhaps forever.

This truly has been an unexpected journey for Barbara and me.