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Local woman recovering from stroke with help of family, community (sponsored)

Chris Bishop doesn't linger in the past, or think much about the future since his wife, Jodanna, had a stroke in June 2016.

"I don't know what our future holds," he said. "Honestly, I can't think about that. We're in the moment."

Despite the uncertainty, theirs is a story of hope, hard work — and measured success in her ongoing efforts to find whatever will be normal from now on.

Jodanna, now 48, had a devastating stroke while on an outing at Bullards Bar. An air ambulance flew her to a trauma center in Sacramento.

Doctors there traced the cause to a blood clot in her brain. Then they found that the clot was actually a piece of a noncancerous tumor in her heart that had broken off and traveled.

Open-heart surgery was required to remove the tumor. Seemingly endless rehabilitation has been required ever since to overcome — as much as possible — the damage done.

Bishop describes it like this.

"When Jodanna came home from acute rehab at Sutter Roseville, she couldn't walk, feed herself, bathe, groom, dress, go to the bathroom, or get in or out of a car. She was under a 24/7 watch. She slept most of the afternoon. To get her ready for the day would take upwards of two hours. To get her to rehab would take about an hour."

Bishop, a teacher at Nevada Union High School for nearly three decades, found he had become a caregiver (he is now back in the classroom).

Family, friends, and professionals gathered around in support, held fundraisers, and even now there is a website outlining how one can help the Bishop family.

"Our family and friends have been tremendous," he said. "My mom, Carol Bishop, takes her to rehab, and her friends, Julie Fraser, Cara Heppe, Carol White, and Sara Casey help her during the week. Many others contribute. Her boss, Mimi Simmons, has been irreplaceable. It's been overwhelming and humbling."

But at the center of all this effort was Jodanna. She was a mother, a real estate agent, skilled at skiing, active in her life and doing all that modern women do. After the stroke she was nearly helpless, faced with starting her life all over again.

"Not to downplay other conditions like heart disease or cancer," Bishop said. "But when your brain is injured, you are truly disabled. When you can't move or talk, you have nothing."

That was true in the summer of 2016. But since then, Jodanna has created a comeback story worthy of a movie.

"Now," Bishop said, "she can do all of those things she couldn't do. She's home alone in the afternoon. She walks around Nevada City by herself, goes to coffee, does laundry, makes her own meals. We haven't used the wheelchair since New Year's. We can go on vacation, stay in hotels. We went to a baseball game for Mother's Day!"

The work takes great effort and is tedious. "She started walking in mid-September," Bishop said. "Her gait, distance, and speed improved greatly over the next few months. I'd say she kind of plateaued in December. We had huge growth in January and February. She started leaving the house by herself in mid-March."

Still, the work goes on.

"Right now, we're trying to gain functionality of her right arm and hand," Bishop said. "She can move it voluntarily, but it's not functional at this time."

Physical Therapist Josh Soria, who works with Jodanna at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Neuro Rehabilitation Services, noted that everyone's stroke is unique. It can take eight to 12 months to get back to being able to do at least some "normal" things.

"Jodanna works hard," Soria said. "Our goal is to get as near to normal as we can, and most stroke patients can eventually do much of what they used to do."

"I'm working hard and I'm doing good," said Jodanna Bishop. "We're doing better and better, working harder and harder. Working hard and feeling good are my goals."

The Bishops know that Jodanna may never fully be like she was.

"Time will tell," said Chris Bishop.

Lessons?

"I don't worry anymore," he said. "I used to worry about things. I look at the stuff people get fired up about and I chuckle. I can shut my brain off, now. It must be a defense mechanism."

He offered high praise for the therapists who have worked with Jodanna.

"We couldn't be more pleased," he said. "They have been awesome." He cited Soria and Michelle Sena (physical therapy and occupational therapy respectively) at SNMH, along with Stephanie Ash (speech therapy) and Kim Carnahan (physical therapy) at Spring Hill Manor.

Aside from that, caregivers must take care of themselves, he emphasized.

"This has been the hardest thing I've ever done," said Chris Bishop. "Caregiver fatigue is real. Remember to eat. Eat healthy. Stay hydrated. Learn to let go and trust other people. You can't do it all. You can't worry about it all."

May is National Stroke Awareness month.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.