In December of 2011, my Father suffered a debilitating stroke which left him with acute aphasia and paralysis on his right side. As part of his road to recovery, my Mother has brought him to The First Teaching Hospital of Tianjin University where he, at the time of this writing, is undergoing extensive stroke recovery treatments. This is her journal...

June 25

Well. Here we are on the plane. China bound. Peter had a rather anxious day today and seems to have some discomfort on one side. We are all a little anxious. He had a phone conversation with Ed this morning and said more than I've heard him say for a while. He is adding more and more vocabulary. The flight was pretty easy and we all slept a great deal.

June 26

We arrived and the hotel car from the one night in Beijing was waiting for us. The hotel was a 5 star and very comfortable. Too bad we couldn't have stayed longer. Got in at midnight and had to be in the lobby at 10:00 the next morning. With the 12 hour time difference it was exhausting.

June 27

Ruth Lycke was right on time. She poses a rather interesting figure. Tall, large and a little masculine and can't be missed among the mostly tiny Chinese. She's bright, compassionate, very knowledgeable and put me at ease right away. She was so encouraging. We drove the two hours to Tianjin engaged in conversation and the time flew by.

Arrived at the hospital and after reviewing his records they got right to work. Peters in bed and within minutes had needles stuck in him. He didn't seem to mind. Maybe he was just exhausted from all the traveling and jet lag. We are all feeling that way. Michelle is holding up well and is taking it all in. Ruth takes me to my hotel to drop off the luggage and we go to lunch. We stayed too long because when we got back to the hospital the doctors had already been there and I missed their first visit. Shoot.

The first night in the hotel and I wish I was back in Beijing, this bed is horrible. I feel like I'm sleeping on a slab of marble. Michelle said the same of her bed. What is it with these people? Maybe I should be glad it's not a mat on the floor. Ruth said she could get some foam mattress toppers for us in a few days. She also got me a router so I have wifi in my room. Sweet, remarkable woman.

June 28

We have our helper, Wong. Gentle, patient and attentive. Not bad looking either. Peter took to him right away. He massages Peters hand and arm almost constantly and encourages him to lift his right leg often throughout the day. It's going higher and higher, but there's nothing in his arm yet. He speaks no English and we communicated by gestures (and him by raising his voice in his Chinese thinking I would understand if only I could hear) Cute. I discover a translating app on my phone where I can speak and it writes it in Chinese characters. I can only hope it's accurate.

The head doctor/professor was in today with his entourage of students and doctors. Dr Shi. He had seen Peters MRI and written record and was concerned because of the severity. I could read that on his face. He proceeded to give him his first real acupuncture treatment. Larger needles and deeper too, I think. Then they manipulate them. They put one needle high on his cheeks under each eye. Peter really winced at those. The attending doctor, a very short, young woman speaks English very well and told us his main artery on his left side had been stopped by the clot. I think they will do another MRI to see how much blood is flowing now. Can't wait to know. He is verbalizing more and more.

Wong does everything for Peter now. Michelle told me he took him to the bathroom by simply picking him up by his body and walking him to the toilet. We are always so careful getting the wheelchair as close as possible, standing him up carefully and pivoting him onto the seat. Nope. Just picked him up and walked him with Michelle horrified right behind. Peter was looking over Wong's shoulder at her with a bewildered "what's going on" look. No worse for wear though. Maybe we coddle him too much.

He gave him an herbal treatment. He told Peter to put his leg in a bucket filled with water that had something in it that turned the water brown. He then used a cup to pour the water over his leg for at least a half hour. He told Peter to put his other leg in there too but Peter refused. Even with cajoling he wouldn't do it.

June 29

Pouring rain and I have to walk the four blocks to the hospital. Breakfast at the hotel is bewildering. Dishes I've never seen. Tried some noodle thing but it tasted like pure salt so didn't eat it. Ruth was supposed to be here early and I was hoping she could help me identify some things but couldn't get a cab in the rain so didn't make it. I can't get a cab either so I walk.

Peter seemed a little dazed when I got there and Michelle told me the morning needles had just been taken out. He came around later. He sat at the desk eating and seemed pensive. I asked him what was he thinking and he said "something from the past". He's lost more weight and I'm concerned. Michelle and I finally found a place for coffee that makes pizza too. We brought him back one and he devoured the whole thing. I'm still talking to the doctors about it though. Later, he wouldn't follow Wong's direction about soaking the leg and I said "so, you're ornery today". He replied with "no, I'm not ornery at all". Great sentence.

Wong got him to move his toes!!! His leg and hand have not been anywhere near as swollen as they have been. Don't know what's doing it. Acupuncture? The herbs they have him swallow daily? The herbal soaks? The constant massage? Maybe all. In any case, he moved his toes for the first time today.

Tomorrow he gets an ultrasound early and an MRI in the afternoon. The nurse's English was not good enough to elaborate so don't know what they're imaging. I'll find out later. Another night in my bed of concrete.

June 30

The acupuncture and ultrasound are done by the time I get here. Michelle said they did it right here in the room on his abdomen???? No idea. Will find out Monday. Ruth came about noon to check up but still no bed toppers. I hope she brings them tomorrow cause I can't stand that bed another night. Haven't slept through once. Michelle says that Peter sleeps like a log through the night but she's sleeping on concrete too.

Ruth introduced me to two other Americans here. One a 21 year-old, Trevor, who had a stroke from a medical mistake. His mother, Pam, is with him He seems pretty well recovered to me but he's not happy cause his arm isn't exactly right yet. Wish we were at that point. The other is a fairly young couple from California that have only been married a little over a year, Adriana and Christian. He's 50 and his stroke was very similar to Peter's but he seems a little more engaged already. He's walking pretty well. They've been here six weeks now. They took us to a nearby bakery. Great, just what I need, eclairs and napoleons. I thought this was China!

When we got back the room was locked and we remembered he was having an MRI at 2:00. Wong must have taken him already. We go to look for where he is but in the three building complex we can't find him. The nurse said in her limited English "maybe he tests" great, thanks. We're locked out so hang out in our new friends room. Three hours later, after a few more unsuccessful inquiries, and not a little worry, we see Wong pushing him down the hall. Jeez. He's tired and doesn't want to meet the new people. Tomorrow we're going to a fourth of July party with some expatriates that Ruth is involved with. She invited us all so he'll meet them there. The party is at the St Regis hotel so we will get to see the fancy part of town.

July 1

He's walking!!! Ok, with help, but still... The day is starting out well. This afternoon we're getting picked up for the party. He doesn't really want to go but realizes he needs to get out of the hospital for a little while. We have to take taxis and they don't always want to take a wheelchair. We are all out in front. Pam and Trevor, Michelle, Ruth, Peter and me. We need three taxis. The first one refused the wheelchair but we lucked out with the second. It's about a 20 minute ride to the St. Regis and we're seeing the city get cleaner and more impressive. It's pretty grimy in our neck of the woods.

The hotel is beautiful and we get whisked to the 8th floor. This party is being held by the American chapter of the chamber of commerce in Tianjin. I'm amazed at the number of westerners there. All nationalities. They made it as authentic as they could with red white and blue banners, balloons and five grills set up outside. However, the cook was a German so we had sausages and German potato salad. Michelle ate three plates. She hates the food at the hospital and was ravished. Peter had his fill too. Right after dinner he said he had to go to the bathroom. We had seen the door with a wheelchair sign on it earlier and Peter started off in that direction. Michelle walked with him. She opened that door and couldn't believe what she saw. It was filled with stuff they were storing and a little Chinese guy was asleep on top of it . He woke up with a start and began bowing furiously before running out. The embarrassed staff quickly cleared out the bathroom. So much for five stars.

Before the dinner, Ruth had a talk with him about her own stroke and how she's one of the few people that can really know what he's going through. She mentioned a number of emotions that she experienced and Peter listened very intently and nodded once or twice. He could also see the remarkable recovery she had made and was heartened by that I believe. When we got back, he was in a better mood and was glad he had gone.