Featured Guest {Heather Brantingham: The Spotted Owl Photography}

Thursday, January 9, 2014

“These Hands”  is a personal project I have been imagining for some time now.
I am a stroke survivor. At just seven years old I had suffered a series of multiple strokes. Back then (1986) it was not a normal occurance for someone as young as me to have the kinds of problems I began having. Over the course of two weeks I experienced loss of motor skills, I slowly began to not be able to do simple things like button my shirt or tie my shoes. My mom noticed that I stopped hugging her with both arms at night, I would suddenly feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. After my mom realized this wasn’t just a normal thing I was taken to my regular pediatrician who told her to immediately take me to the city and to Childrens Medical Center and he would call ahead. I can only imagine would it felt like for my mom not knowing what was going on, but what was worse was me not knowing what was happening to me, and now seeing all the adults around me acting scared. As I sat staring out the window watching the familiar scenery flash by me I remember I began to feel sick again and my mom telling me to lay my head down in her lap. That is all I remember before I woke up to what felt like a nightmare. My mom had the car door open and was pulling me from the car, I remember trying to get myself up, I remember my brain telling my body to get up, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t talk. My face felt funny now and my body felt weird, like I had just slept on my arm funny. It had the pens and needles, cold prickling feeling. My mom picked me up in her arms and ran. I remember her running but not being able to feel my body shake, but I could see the slober stringing out of my mouth and flinging in the wind like it was slow motion.

The next thing I remember is being pushed around in a wheel chair and being poked with needles, I just wanted my daddy. Then I remember a room that felt like a box. I remember laying on a hospital bed and feeling like I was looking down on myself. There were a lot of people there looking over me and I was screaming and panicking and couldn’t breathe. I remember telling my parents they were not my parents and that they were trying to kill me. We say crazy things when we are in crazy situations. I think I was given a sedative because that is all I remember from that day.

After numerous tests the neurologists at Children’s Medical Center Dallas found a spot about the size of an acorn in the center of my brain that they thought was a tumor. After a brain surgery to retrieve a sample of brain tissue the tests came back negative and my family still had no answers, I was still completely paralyzed on the left side of my body. I saw several specialists over the next couple of weeks and everyone was stumped as to what the spot was and why I was paralyzed. After a few more weeks I slowly began to regain feeling in my left side. After grueling physical therapy and multiple specialty casts and time I was finally able to walk on my own. After about 6 months with no answers the doctors told my parents that I must have suffered from a series of massive strokes and that I was lucky to be alive, then I was sent home. My family was told I would never be able to do things normal people did, I would not drive, I would not run, I would not have children of my own etc…

Now 27 years later, I can run 6 min miles, I have two precious children, I drive (with lead in my foot). I have never regained the full use of my left side. I have constant pain in my joints I have moderate – severe muscle atrophy as well as loss of most of the motor function in my left arm and leg, simple tasks like typing, holding anything with any precision, opening jars, buttoning  things, tying things are all hard for me but I have adapted (mostly by learning to do things one handed), I am just thankful I am alive to spend time with my family and experience all the moments life has to offer me, I am grateful for my children who bring joy into the everyday life that is ours.

Although I am grateful for all the things I have and am I still find myself being envious of how easy it is for other people to do things that may not be so easy for me, like holding both my kids hands at the same time. I was never able to raise my babies up into the air and experience spit-up to the face (silly, I know). I think to myself about the things in our lives that we take for granted every day. It is a lot…. we might not have a tomorrow, anything could happen at any moment.

We all go along in our daily routines and we are unaware of what we have and the importance of  it all. Since my biggest challenge in life is the lack of use in my left hand I have decided to document a year of hands. I challenge you to go a day with one arm bound. Challenge yourself to find ways to do the normal everyday things without that hand. I’d love for anyone to join me and I’d love to hear your stories.

  Hi, I'm Heather. I wish I had something more clever to say but I'm oddly shy when it comes to talking about myself. . I'm married to my best friend ( I could literally be alone with only him for the rest of my life). We have two magical kiddos Avery (14) and Ethan (10). My husband is a pretty busy guy so a lot of days it's just me and the kids, we like to watch movies and take nature hikes, the kids absolutely LOVE nature! Let's see, I have been taking pictures since I was about 5. I used to carry around a Polaroid camera and take pictures of anything and everything, mostly because I loved the magic of the image appearing out of nowhere. I began taking photography classes in high school and I fell in love with the photo-journalistic photography style. I like to look at a picture and feel something from it. I am currently transitioning into a new name ( Heather Brantingham Photography from The Spotted Owl Photography ) and my goals this year are too blob, blog, blog, and work on my composition and capturing emotion.

I hope you will join me on this project, I would love to follow you :)

Heather Brantingham Photography/The Spotted Owl Photography:


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