Finally a Diagnosis. Now what??? Not a damn thing.

413 days later. Finally diagnosed with Conjugate Gaze Palsy. Everything with my eyes is neurological. SURPRISE.

Was I shocked? No.

Was I depressed that this was permanent? No.

Was I disappointed that there’s nothing to be done? Yes and No


I’ve been thinking a lot about last year. It’s a lot to think about...and honestly I have processed maybe 1-5% of it.


I keep being asked:

how depressed I am?

How upset I am with my abilities, or disabilities?

How’s life treating you now?


I definitely get very sad, lost in emotions, memories.

I cry most everyday. At least 3 times

I feel like I’ve been washed on the not so gentle cycle three times, and then put through the ringer to dry - but as soon as I was pretty dry someone set fire to me.


Life is treating me like it’s one issue after the other after the other after the other after the other...and so on.


‘Mr. Thomas - that’s all normal after a stroke....you just have to stay positive...’


Oh. Your talking about my stroke? Oh that was last year - that was nothing. I’m over that. That’s fine. No problems at all.


I recall everything. I remember a lot. Brenda sent me some pictures this weekend of my in the hospital and it all came flooding back to me. The ugly green gown with the snaps. My Trach collar. The red stop sign on the wall. Me staring off into space like always.

I look like crap. But I don’t really care. It was such a big time in my life. I’m glad I was there to look like crap.


I do remember when I was very VERY depressed. I was so scared that I was just useless and going to be left in the hospital. That was scary. My last few days, or last day at trident everything changed. I had hope. Something was different. Things started to get brighter. It may have been the drugs Trey asked them to put me on, I don’t know, but it worked. I was so excited to get to roper and start rehab.

I just remember holding on to mr monkey, and having my eyes closed the entire ride and crying. Not pretty crying...the ambulance ladies kept asking if I was okay. It was a mess. Trey wasn’t there to see me leave Trident, and I was scared I was going to the dump. I was alone and scared. Who knows where they were taking me. At the hospital I was a mess. The nurse was trying to put some weird thing on my bed pumping it up like a bike tire. I wanted none of it. I must have asked for Trey 572 times. All these people I didn’t recognize. Where was I?


And then I heard Missy’s laugh.


Ahhhhhhh I relaxed. She had to be with Trey. All I remember was Trey telling me to calm down. I kept asking him was this really roper? Or just a fake room they tried to make look like roper? I was scared to death. you can see it in my face as I was talking to my occupational Therapist that first day. PURE FEAR.

But, everything changed for me there. Everything.

It didn’t matter, I was going to be able to do it.


I wanted my Trach out. Almost every day I would ask. Finally the flight attendant said look. You have to keep it in for 6 weeks. As soon as that times up...we will take it out. Okay. When’s that? Next Tuesday. You better damn well believe I remembered that....Tuesday morning I heard the flight attendant making rounds, I got in my chair-hauled ass til I found her. Pointed straight at my neck, and said ‘This comes out - Today. Don’t forget to schedule it. I have therapy at these times but I can skip it. This comes out.’ She laughed at me and said well, okay. At my lunch break, and I am NOT making this up or exaggerating one single bit - someone comes in from respiratory says hi mr Sheppard it’s time for your Trach to come out....I’m thinking we are off to surgery or something. Nope. She walks over takes off my collar-and yanks the Trach tube out of my throat. Covers the hole with a bandaid and throws the tube in the trash. What? But it was gone. And I felt a million times better. With a hole in my throat.

They were scared I wasn’t going to be able to get in our sequoia...I was like ummm no I’ll get in. I jumped right in...and then Katie was like ummm okay. Well let’s do it this way. So I learned how to get in correctly.

I was tired of no privacy...so I begged BEGGED for a green sticker on my door. Green meant you were okay to be alone. Having to show someone that you know how to go to the bathroom...that’s a treat. I had to do it twice. Once for my PT....I didn’t care. I asked Katie ‘do I need to pull my pants down?’ I was ready for that green. She said no. Then I had to show her how I transferred from my bed to the chair. In and out. Out and in. Then I had to show Angie. Come on. Let’s do this. I got places to go. I got green. That day was everything. As soon as Trey got there I got out of bed. Wheeled him out of my room and pointed. He was so happy I got green. I remember that.

Something in me made me decide I was not gonna be some stroke victim. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t anything...but, that wasn’t going to be me.


I was going back to work. ASAP. And I was.


I was released from the hospital on a Thursday. Friday I went to work with Benton. Saturday and Sunday at home.


Monday morning March 2, 2020 we checked Trey into the hospital.


Everything that I had previously just been through was nothing. It failed in comparison in every way to what began on that March 2 for me in 2020.


I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. And I honestly truly believe that. I’ve said it before, but I know Everything with me happened for many reasons.


  1. There’s no way I would have been able to handle anything that was going on. At all.

  2. Trey needed that time with his parents. I know that meant everything to him. In every way.

  3. And this is probably the one thing I remember the most, and the one thing Trey talked about multiple times. Time with Missy.


As I’ve said before Trey and Missy were always very close. As of late that had changed. Life happens. Trey missed his sister. Always. I won’t get into all of that. I’ll just say it was my fault. Totally, and 100%. Yes, the Strocks are hard headed....but throw in a Thomas, and well, it’s a mess.


Trey needed his family time. And, yes I would not have been able to hold anything together during that time.


So, in a way the stroke was preparation of what was to come...and allowed Trey the time for things that he needed.


So, it’s really hard for me to look at my ‘conditions’ in a bad, or negative way. I will work to overcome everything that I can. I have, and will continue to become a better, stronger person from everything that’s happened to me. I just keep telling myself now that everything’s going to be okay.

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