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...

July 16

It's Monday so full therapies today. I wanted Peter to do some of his language computer programs but he was just kept too busy. We will have to do them tomorrow, for sure. Back in the hyperbaric chamber. This time at 1:00 but it was just as crowded. Peter thinks its a waste of time but gamely goes in there. At dinner, I was showing Pam the pictures of us at the bakery in Paris helping to make the bread. I showed Peter the picture and asked him if he remembered that. He said, "yes we were making bread". It's getting better and better. Maybe it's the extra oxygen?

I won't be there till lunchtime tomorrow, cause I'm having morning coffee with a Dutch guy and his wife that Ruth introduced me to. He's black, which surprised me because he is native born Dutch. Accent and all. His wife is Chinese and they moved here to be close to her family. They're expecting a baby any moment. Should be an interesting looking child. They don't know the sex because the Chinese government forbids disclosing that. Seems they all want boys, at least in the countryside. In the city, I hear, they prefer girls because then they don't have to buy it a house when it grows up.

July 17

Had coffee this morning with Hensley and Annie, the Dutch/Chinese couple. She's super pregnant and very cute. Can't wait to see that baby. They are so sweet. Gave me their telephone number in case I need anything and offered to get together on a regular basis to relieve boredom. Now wonderful. His mother is coming to visit soon for the baby and he said she and I would really get along. Can't wait. Old fashioned Dutch coffee and pastries. They came in to meet Peter and Peter was really pleased. They promised to bring the baby by when it's old enough. He'll love it.

Peter is getting his extra physical therapy now. Whoo-hoo! He came back from that exhausted, but that's good. Had a big misunderstanding down there. His therapist speaks some English and I asked her if she had any idea when he might be ready to walk. She said never. Huh? I was crushed and couldn't handle the disappointment. Wong saw the tears and wanted to know what was wrong. I used my translator app to tell him and he ran to her. She came over and said, oh, no, no ,no. She said she didn't know the correct meaning of that word and didn't mean that. She said he'll walk, we just don't know when. Boy, talk about lost in translation.

Qinninbo (that's his name), the clerk from the bakery that wanted to better his English, has been coming by most afternoons when he gets off. Pam, Adrian and I teach him English and he is teaching us tai chi. It's very complicated and I feel pretty awkward but I hope to get better. His English is improving by the day. I learned that English is taught in peculiar ways. They teach words but not their usage or pronunciations. He was just unsure of how to use the words that he already knew but hearing them has made him more confident. It's great to watch him develop. I'm sure he'll learn English better than I'll learn tai chi.

Annie, the Chinese wife of the Dutch guy told me something about their methods of teaching English too. It seems many teachers don't even speak it. They just write down a word and ask which form of a verb goes with it. Almost all choose one ending in ing and they're done. No meaning, no context, nothing. Very stupid. No wonder so few of them can speak it. She also told me that people here are paying native English speakers a lot of money just to converse with them to learn it better. Hmmmmm. Qinninbo is getting off cheap!!

July 18

The elevators are getting more ridiculous by the day. There are two in the small lobby and always a bunch of people waiting. They actually do have an upper limit for passengers but they ignore it. It buzzes if it is overloaded. I see this once in a while. As many as possible push their way in and then it starts to buzz. Then they all start talking at once in high pitched Chinese, sounding like a bunch of chattering birds. Then someone pops out. If it is an overweight one they look embarrassed and if it's a big guy he just looks pissed. It's pretty funny

Saw something interesting at the hospital today. There is a plaque on the wall with a commendation about developing an acupuncture method for hypertension. My blood pressure has been through the roof since this happened and I hate the medicine for it. I'm going to give it a shot!!!! Twice a day for a month. Peter and me, together like porcupines. When I told him I was going to do that he said really loud "ALLRIGHT, YEAH"!!! guess misery really does love company. Hope it works.

Heard from Michelle finally. She's due back in a few days and had a horror story. She went to Beijing by herself to go home and forgot all of her Chinese character cards to get where she needed to go. I looked in her drawer and, sure enough, there they all were. She couldn't communicate with anybody, least of all cab drivers, but somehow she made it to the airport. Thank god she didn't leave her passport behind. Don't know how she's going to get back to the hospital though. Can't mail her anything; takes too long. Maybe I can get someone at the hospital to email her what she needs in Chinese characters. I'll have to see.

July 19

Peter is not in the best mood today. I wonder if the extra therapy wore him out too much. He's also refusing to go into the hyperbaric chamber. Don't know why but I know he thinks it's nonsense. I'm trying to convince him otherwise as this is a therapy I looked for in the states too. He said "I will think" but was adamant about not going today. Ok then.

Well, we were together for our acupuncture session this morning. He got his and I got mine. We made a cute looking couple, I thought. It hurts a little when it goes in but not too bad. After they're in you don't feel them anymore. It's just boring to lay there for 20 minutes not moving. He gets them all over his right side and a few on his left, but I only get them in my legs, my neck, head hands and feet. Only?

Adrianna had a difficult day yesterday. She's the one that had only been married a short time. Her husband, Christian, has made enormous gains in his cognitive ability while here. But, with awareness comes...........awareness. He has been moody and had been switching between depression and anger that afternoon. Pam and I were trying to console her, when we decided to have a girls night out. We got pizzas for the guys and went out to the YY Beer House. This is a misnamed little Thai restaurant that was serving wine that night. We all drank too much naturally, and ended up in conversations with other westerners that were there. One was a group of young students that were here on a study abroad program. Among them was a good-looking young guy with a prominent jutting chin. I was referring to him as Dudley DoRight when he came up to us and started talking to Adrianna. She gushed in the taxi later that he had propositioned her. She was as happy as she had been sad earlier. Mission accomplished.

July 20

Walked in this morning at 7:30 and he was already in the gym on the bike. I think his leg is getting stronger. He's also talking a lot more and saying things in appropriate context. Like a loud NO when I brought up the hyperbaric chamber again. I pushed him on it and got a sarcastic "yes, mother". Yup, he's still in there. I asked him why he was refusing, and he said "I want to be surprised". Don't know exactly what that means but I love that he said it.

One of the more bizarre treatments he is getting is called "cupping". It involves a number of glass globes that look a little like small goldfish bowls. They are heated with a flame for an instant and then placed on his back. The heat creates a sucking action so his skin gets pulled into the globe. It's supposed to increase circulation and draw out toxins. It's weird looking and makes him look a little like a turtle with eggs. They leave huge round hickeys on his back.

Wow, wow, wow. Peter picked up his daily medicine vial and said "what's this for". Then picked up a pill and clearly said" I don't know what this is". He wanted to know everything he was taking. It's only three weeks. I'm so impressed. Maybe he doesn't need the hyperbolic chamber.

I have to wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device tonight. It's an ugly looking machine that hangs around my neck and I'll have to walk to and from the hotel with it. Wonderful, like I don't get stared at enough.

July 21

We can finally communicate fully with Wong. The translator app I have works fine from English to Chinese but not the other way around. I did a little looking and found you can get a Chinese character keyboard. I installed it and I felt like we were Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. He took that thing and thumbs started flying. He wanted to talk, talk, talk. It's great to have a two way conversation finally. I found out that his family lives far away and he only sees them twice a year. He has two children. They live in the countryside and farm some land. He earns money in the city for the planting. There are thousands of young men like this all over China. They're either in the factories making cheap stuff for Walmart or they're doing something like this. Americans don't know how lucky they are.

Today is our anniversary. 33 years. We made reservations at a fancy restaurant at the Renaissance for this evening with, Pam, Trevor, Adrianna and Christian. And, of course, Wong. He's been so wonderful to have around. Every time we go into a restaurant around here for Chinese food (except here they just call it food :-), we just let him order. None of the menus are in English although most have pictures. Even then, though there's no way to know what's in them. He usually orders the best stuff and then we have him write it down in a notebook in Chinese characters so we can order it again. We don't have to worry about that tonight though. The fancy restaurants always have an English version. We'll have to be the ones to order for him tonight because it's a steak house and that's unusual in China.

I just hope they get this ugly looking thing from around my neck before we go. The 24 hours is up but they're not here yet. Oh, good, here they come.

Peter is becoming more cooperative with his treatments and even asked for one of the electrical stimulation treatments that he had been refusing. He also promised to go back into the hyperbaric chamber on Monday. Yay! We did decide to skip the extra physical therapy for the time being. Wore him out too much.

July 22

The dinner last night was wonderful. Everybody had either steak or salmon. The restaurant was beautiful and we went through 2 bottles of wine. I don't think Wong had ever had an experience like that before. All the service and attention. He ate every morsel on his plate and some of Peter's too. He even drank the white wine. I'm sure that was a first too.

It's Sunday so no therapies in the afternoon and we are deciding what to do. It's hot and humid outside so we stay in and have a sing-along with Christian, Adriana and Pam. Problem was, Christian and Peter have very different taste in music so when one was singing the other wasn't. Christian does not verbalized well but when he sings the words come out. It's really remarkable what music does. Same thing with Peter but Peter's speech is better. In fact, Christian didn't want to join us at first and we asked Peter if he would go and talk to him to convince him to join us. Peter went to their room and said to Christian. " you want to have a good time". Christian came.

At dinner in the neighborhood tonight, Wong ordered as usual but this time he had some of the wine with us. Oh, oh, what have we done?