I had a stroke a week after giving birth to my son, Aidan, he is now seven. When he was between two and three years old he began noticing I was different. How do you explain a stroke to a child? While playing with Aidan, he wanted me to do something with both hands. I told him, “Mama’s one hand doesn’t work,” for a while that satisfied his curiosity. Eventually he asked me why my hand does not work. I told Aidan, “Mama had a stroke and it affected my arm and my leg.” He accepted this, but it brought many ideas; He was comparing me with the other adults in this life, he wanted to fix me. I could see the wheels turning in his head, Aidan said, “Just turn it on.” I explained there was no on and off switch. Then Aidan said, “Just shake it,” like he does with some of his toys to get them to work. I am surprised he did not say to change the batteries.
Awhile later, Aidan was playing with something that required both hands. He said, “Look Mama, I can do this because my hands don’t have strokes in them, when your hand doesn’t have a stroke, you can do it too.” My son is always trying to make sense of my stroke and why my right arm is different from my left arm.
I wanted a book pertinent to my circumstance that expressed the challenges of living with a parent who had a stroke. I looked online for a children’s book to explain my situation, but I only came across literature meant for grandchildren of stroke survivors. That’s why I wrote a children’s book entitled, “Mamma, Just Shake It.” The book better explains aphasia and extremity weakness by clarifying what a stroke is in words that children can understand. My book has helped not only Aidan, but his friends too. It was read in his kindergarten and first grade classes. It has helped to alleviate some questions that I used to get from Aidan’s classmates and increased their understanding of what makes me different.
By Rachel Eagly
“Momma, Just Shake It” was published by the National Aphasia Association. The book is available for purchase at the National Aphasia Association website.