Lilly and Morgan Govender on Overcoming Stroke Paralysis

Part one of Three
Lilly anf Morgan headshot
Lilly and Morgan Govender Dec 2014

Lilly and Morgan Govender are friends of my parents. Both couples are active in the senior athletics activities and bowling club in Verulam. When my mum told me that Morgan had been paralysed by a major bleed stroke and overcame it all with his wife’s patient and committed help, I couldn’t believe it. There is nothing in Morgan today to reveal to you his remarkable recovery from a condition most people consider as the end of their lives.
Lilly, a business woman, is vital and straightforward, humorous and very caring. Morgan is friendly, compassionate, very easy-going and energetic. Their story is amazing.
So, when my mum suggested I interview Lilly and Morgan, and they both agreed, I jumped at the opportunity to share their inspiring (and extremely educational) experience with you.


3rd December 2014

I: When did you have your stroke?
Morgan: 2006, 20th September.
(short pause as we all adjust to the interview)
Lilly: Don’t feel bad. You can ask us questions. We’re not feeling bad…
Morgan: No,I don’t feel bad. I’m…
Lilly: Maybe what Morgan and I have to say, it could help somebody.
I: Ok. that way. You know what I’m saying, so…It’s maybe a little bit…
Morgan: There’s nothing to hide…
Lilly: It’s hurtful.
I: It is.
Lilly: It’s very hurtful and painful…

Morgan: But I recovered.

Lilly: But he recovered. So we also want to give that…er… life to other people.
I: To help others recover.
Morgan: Ja.
Lilly: Yes, you know when we went for physio, and er..what’s that doctor’s name? What’s that physio’s name?
Morgan: Neilen.
Lilly: Neilen. His aunty had a stroke and she thought it was end of the road.
I: That’s what most people think.
Lilly: And, they actually called Morgan. He said: Please, come here and show her how you were, and how you are walking today. We were also…Patty Francis (interruption)…she said if we ever need someone to er…you know…give people a lift up in life, we will call you, because, look at you. So…maybe god has sent you here.
I (laughs): Ok. Well, I hope we can all help people today.
Lilly: Yes!
I: Yes, Ok. So, a lot of people talk about how they’ve had a stroke and their experiences in hospital and so on. So, I want to pick up on what happened after you got back from hospital.
Morgan: Not before that?
I: No, not before.
Morgan: Ok.
I: Ok. So, what was it like coming back home?
Morgan: Erm…Wasn’t easy. So, I was paralysed. I was sleeping in the bed. Can’t make no…no movements.
Lilly (to Morgan): And your hand and leg were swollen.

Morgan: My hand was like rubber. Ja, it was…no feelings…and…like a rag-doll, let’s put it that way.

I: Ok.
Morgan: Yes, simple English (smile). Ja. And er…er…It wasn’t a nice thing to see me (like that). Being a fit man, I used to do walking, cycling and er…to see me in bed…I really lost hope.
I: Ok.
Morgan: Ja, I really lost hope and er…I didn’t know what my future was gonna hold. ‘Cos every…you know people can talk;, I will never recover. I will never recover. But, er…I was positive…that I will walk one day.
I: So you always knew that you would walk again?
Morgan: Er…
Lilly: No, no.
Morgan: Not in the beginning.
Lilly: Not in the beginning.
Morgan: Not at all.

Lilly: But, he had this: I want...I must get better. I have to go work.

Morgan: That was my…
Lilly: He had to go back to the air-force base, Durban.
I: You had to get better to go to work?
Morgan: Yes.
Lilly: Yes, that’s the…motivation…
Morgan: Yes. Motivation.
I: Ok. So initially, you were very depressed?
Morgan: Yes.
I: Ok. And then… And then you got your motivation.
Morgan: Yes.
I: And how did you feel, aunty? When uncle…
Lilly: I also was very er…I was very depressed. I was angry with god. Very angry with him. I was so angry that I wouldn’t want to do any prayer  ̶  nothing.

And I was angry with the world. I didn’t know…What am I going to do? Or what must I do? Who do I talk to?

I don’t know about stroke. I know about a lot of things, but we don’t know about stroke. How do you handle it? Who to help me? Who do I ask… if I want to ask ten questions, who do I ask? So, I was angry at that moment. I was very upset. And looking at my husband, especially, he was a…er…fit man. And for him, for me to see him like that..was, like…it took me a thousand miles away.…he couldn’t eat. I had to feed him. You know, if he ate a quarter slice bread, you must be very grateful. If he ate a quarter slice bread…Anger! He used to be angry. And…
Morgan: Angry within my myself.
Lilly: Not angry with me. He was angry with himself. But, for me to see him like that, it tore me apart. It really tore me apart. I said to god: What can I do? How do I get him back on his feet. Where do I go? Where do I start. It was all why, why, why? And Who? So, er, it took me a while until…

Morgan: We went to the top specialists…

Lilly: And we went to physio. And when I started going to physio with Morgan, every session, the doctor told him (to go) every day for five days. And every session, I went with him. And I watched what they did to him; how they gave him the exercise; and how he must walk, and er…how he must…you know, his speech was slurring. So, that as well. I’m…I’m there with the doctors. So they taught me all that. So I would go one session in the morning; and the evening session I would do it with him.
I: Ok, so you’ll did the sessions twice a day?
Lilly: Yes. One at the hospital and one at home. So, at the same time, you also got – as a wife, a caregiver – you also gotta be loving, caring, and sharing. ‘Cos I gotta take all his nonsense. I don’t blame him from where he was coming…he’s frustrated for a fit man. And he was like that, so I had to tolerate him. There’s some times, if you asked him to do something, he didn’t want to do it. Like he felt like: Why must I do it? That anger. See where we coming from, his anger. So, if you gave him a slice of bread he’d eat that quarter slice. If he tried to eat anymore, he’d throw his bread. ‘I don’t want it.’ The reason for that is, why he did all those things, he didn’t want to burden me.

He felt he was a burden to me. But he wasn’t a burden.

I felt the day I married him ̶ for better or worse ̶ that I will take care of him right till the end. He never used to eat because he didn’t want to go to the toilet. He didn’t want me to carry him to the toilet. He didn’t want to drink anything. He didn’t want me to take him to the toilet. That’s how independent he was. Till the end, until I broke down one day and said to him:’Listen here, you cannot feel shame about anything. I am here and I will do the best for you.’
It’s painful, it’s stressful, because both my children were not here; my son is in London and my daughter in Pretoria. I mean, they volunteered to come and stay and come help me out. I said no. I said I will cope with daddy. I will take care of him.

Morgan: I must accept that I had a stroke… at that point.

Lilly: So, days and days went by. We tried to cope with each other. And erm…but the physio really helped him. It really, really helped. And er…taking him to the beach. In the morning we’d take him to the beach, and then we’d make him walk on the lawn.
Morgan: For the dew.
Lilly: For the dew. You know how a little baby; we put on the lawn (to walk).
I: Ok.
Lilly: He was a baby. The doctor told me that you must look after him like a baby because he cannot feel his one arm and a leg. When you push him with a wheelchair ̶ whoever is pushing him ̶ somebody must be in front. So that guy that you saw sitting here, his wife used to be with me when we used to push Morgan in the wheelchair. I used to be in front, for this leg not to fall from the rest, ‘cos he couldn’t feel (it).
Morgan (jokes): Shake and bake.
I: For your leg not to be run over?
Morgan: Ja.
Lilly: Yes, and also till now, his toe; he cannot feel it, you know. He’s got a little feeling, but the doctor says I must look after that toe as well. If he hits that thing, he won’t feel it.
Morgan: ‘Cos they control it. See the barrier…the brain controls the foot.
(reassurances and feedback on progress of interview)
I: So your toe still has no feeling?
Lilly: Ja, ja. And his toe right from his hip, just from the left part here is like…
Morgan: The right, the right.
Lilly: The right, sorry, the right, is like numbed, you know. But, if you put massaging machine, and it feels nice like, because it’s blocked out, you know. That’s what I do  ̶  all the time, and I give him a lot of massages…and I…er, buy a lot of aromatherapy oil and help him…you see his brain now on that side, you gotta  put the aromatherapy medicine and rub him, and er…rub his feet. And all that too, to keep it warm. Those are the things that we have to do for him.
I: Ja.
Lilly: And there’s some times when he dresses up…Like for those first three months were very, very tough. Very tough. Because if he didn’t want to do something, he wouldn’t do it.
Lilly: After three months now, when he used to have a bath, so, he’ll make me push him to his draw. So that was a very good sign. Push him to his draw, and he would choose his own clothes; match his clothes…mustn’t mismatch his clothes.
Lilly: …And he used to be very agitated ̶ very, very, very agitated about things.

He always asked: Why me? Why must it happen to me?

For all the good that I’ve done…and all the serva that I’ve done…and the good that I’ve done for people…lots of things like… And till now it affects him sometimes, it does. And erm… At the same time, he used to er…be very cross, at the same time. He would just start…he used to shout at me or he will er…he’ll just throw things. One time, we were fasting that month when he got sick, and he wanted Kentucky, September time. So, my daughter-in-law’s father, he bought the Kentucky and gave him. Morgan only took one bite of it. He flung the whole Kentucky. Don’t want it. Nothing.
I: So you had to deal with all his aggravations.
Lilly: I had to deal with that. And another thing, give him a bath, put him on the bed, and he said his bedding’s not nice. Take this bedding out. Then when that is finished, then he’s walking, these tiles are not right. These are the things I tolerated.

If you have a stroke patient, this is how you must tolerate them.

Even if you tell them this curtain is cream, and they tell you it’s red; you must agree. Instead you have a fight with him.
I: So you need to see the world as he sees it?
Lilly: Yes! And I, I’ll be honest with you, for that first three months, I was…hey I can’t find the right way to tell you… I felt the walls were closing in. Honestly, I felt everything was closing in. I mean, I’m such a talker, but for this…, I couldn’t talk at the time. Everything was closing in. There was a dark cloud over my…head; covering my vision. And I said: what is this? How am I going to handle this? And with Morgan being frustrated all the time, for any small thing and he was…he was just getting upset…and upset… So one day I sat him down. I said to him: What you want me to do? I sat just like this, I said; What you want me to do? Because, I had it as far as here. It went way from here (heart) right to my head. And I’m running a business. I actually put my business on hold for one and a half years.

And I said: God, doesn’t matter you let me down, but now I want you to pick me up, give me the strength; and I need to move on.

Because I can’t live here. There’s nobody’s gonna help me if I can’t help myself. I need to help my husband because, to me, he was everything. He was the world. He’s a good husband. He did a lot. he did a lot for me…and for his children, and I cannot leave him. I got to stand up. After that time, I stood up and I said: God, right, show me the path and I need to move on. So one day when I got up and I said to Morgan what you want me to do? He asked me this question: What you want me to do? I am here. I’m finished.

He said to me: I’m finished. I’m crippled. I’m disable…You know what is ‘disable’, he asked me. I said: I know you’re disable, but you’re not gonna be disable for long. It’s gonna be a short period.

Because, I had a lot of faith in going to that…for him to do his exercise, to go to physio. I had faith in those doctors that took…took Morgan from where he was; the day…the first session that I went, that doctors Neilen and Shaylen.
They…er…er…I cried. When I saw these guys, I cried. Neilen was such a jovial doctor, so he said to me: Don’t be sad. I said what you mean don’t be sad? He said, we’ll put uncle right. I said, you know what a fit man he was? He said, let’s talk. Watch this session.
The first session he put him on a bed. He said I want you to open your hands, do this exercise, strengthen your arms and strengthen your legs. And I looked at the doctor and I thought: God, what is wrong with him? What exercise is he giving this man? Is he going to get better, in my mind? So the next session, I said to him: Neilen, you know what? I want him to walk, man. I’m not worried about his hand. He said, no, you have to worry about his hands. His hands are rubber. We need to give him some muscle. I said Ok. He said come watch it and you do it. So I did it. I did the exercises with him. So the third session that I took Morgan, he put him on a walker. It had two rails; and they clamped his leg ̶ they’ve got this thing, I don’t know what they call it. They clamped it so the leg wouldn’t shake and they made him hold that rail ̶ and walk. For two sessions, he made him hold that rail and walk. So he walked forward and backward. And that’s the time that I felt the light ̶ I could feel the light. Then he started walking. So when he started walking, Shaylen said to me: Govender, now you go to the chemist and get him a walking stick. So, I went to the chemist and bought the walking stick…And anything the doctors asked to me buy, I ran to the chemist and bought it.

I said: you know what? I need him to walk. And he must walk! I never ever one day thought, even Morgan knows that, I never…most of them said a lot of things to me. But I never thought…I never thought what people thought. I said: God, I will make this man walk again.


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