Denise McEwen doesn’t believe she ever heard the term “caregiver” before 2005.
It was that November that her husband suffered a devastating stroke and she became one.
“The strong man I married couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk and couldn’t take care of his family like he had anymore,” she said. “I had to become the caregiver. No choice.”
Denise’s husband, Mark McEwen, is best known for his time as weatherman and entertainment reporter on CBS’ The Early Show. A mainstay at the network for 15 years, he left to anchor the news in Orlando, Florida, and spend more time with his family.
Shortly after, he suffered a massive stroke while traveling. The family’s plans changed dramatically and Mrs. McEwen, who has worked in the beauty industry for 20 years, found herself in the caregiver role.
She hopes sharing her experience can help others in similar situations and cautions survivors and caretakers to remember that rehabilitation can be long and hard, but it does work. She also believes it’s best to ignore naysayers.
“I was told that what functionality Mark had back by six months would be it and at five and a half months I was frantic,” she said. “But he still continues to get better and better. I also was told he would never get his ‘old’ voice back. He’s 99 percent there.”
She found that celebrating any improvements during rehabilitation helped honor the struggle.
“The first time my husband walked just half a hallway I carried on like we had just won the lottery” she said. “We still have on tape the day he got rid of his walker.”
The first time he drove to their children’s playground? The couple cried with joy.
Another piece of advice she offers other caregivers is to keep as many routines the same as possible.
“This was so important, especially for our children. Mark had his stroke in November. I still had Thanksgiving at our house. Christmas was as big and bright as always.”
She said that she has done her best to take care of herself. She would drive her husband to rehab every day and found a gym nearby with childcare.
“We both were rehabbing at the same time. It was one of the best things I could do for me,” she said.
She also prayed, reached out to other caregivers and she cried.
“Cry,” she said. “It’s a great release. Cry alone, cry with friends. Then buck up. This will not defeat or define you.”
Nine years later, the couple now spends time working with other stroke survivors and caregivers.
And McEwen is back on television regularly. He has appeared in numerous interviews and the series Popular Mark, appearing on WKMG Local 6 in Orlando. He has also authored the book “After the Stroke.”
He credits his wife for her caregiving devotion.
“She helped bring me back to life,” he wrote on Iammarkmcewen.blogspot.com, a website that shares his story.
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