With this month’s edition of SpaceCoast LIVING, we’ve highlighted various individuals sharing their survivor stories and testimonials and how to thrive in these types of circumstances. In closing, we decided to ask one of our local residents, Tasha Flinchbaugh, what living with a survivor is like, what it means to cope and advice for others watching a loved one suffer. 

SCL: When you first heard the news about your father’s stroke and heart attack, what went through your mind? 

Tasha: My worst nightmare had come true. My dad is 87 years old, so it was always one of my fears that something would happen to him while I was away. When his stroke and heart attack happened, I was in Virginia Beach for a wedding and I feared he wouldn’t make it for me to get home and say goodbye. 

SCL: What is it like being the main caregiver for your dad, especially being in your 20s with a child on the way? 

Tasha: Since I was 14 years old, I have been the main caregiver for my dad, managing his accounts, making breakfast for him daily and keeping up the house for him. This level of care, however, has been a whole new adventure. It has truly given meaning to the concept of taking one day at a time. I’ve had to overcome and dive into things I have had no idea about, such as home health care, bathing/bathroom management and health insurance for a man of his age. 

Having a child on the way was the biggest light in the darkness. We found out I was pregnant the first week my dad was in the hospital. We told him a few days later since we were unsure if he would ever make it out of ICU. I really felt it helped him hang on, push through and get better in order to meet her. 

SCL: Do you have advice for someone watching a loved one suffer? How do you remain strong? 

Tasha: Faith. Whatever that means for you. For me that was praying on my hands and knees asking God to do whatever his will was and giving me the strength to handle it. At the beginning I was holding his hand as he repeatedly said he wanted to die. I had to tell him it was okay, and that I understood if he had to let go. I would just take each opportunity to tell him I loved him; if he passed away while we weren’t at the hospital, I wanted the last thing I said to him to be that I loved him. 

In order to stay strong I had to also cry, just to let out the emotion. I refused to cry in front of him, but sometimes at home I would take an hour long shower, play some music and just cry. Then I would come out, hug my husband and cry again. 

SCL: Is there a remedy or attitude that kicks in to be that encouraging support system for your dad when days are extra difficult? 

Tasha: I realized I needed a support system of my own. Someone that I can go and vent to, to cry with and who can make me laugh. You also need to get some time away. For me it is writing and scripture, to gain a new perspective that this is just a season. 

SCL: Have you discovered there’s hope on the horizon? 

Tasha: This has been one of the biggest trials of my life, but while I say that, it has also been one of the most rewarding. Witnessing my dad coming from a hospital bed saying he wanted to die and barely being able to grip a spoon to eat, to now doing physical therapy exercises six times a week, playing with his active kitten, and making it through with no speech issues and only minor coordination trouble is simply amazing. The doctor calls him the miracle man. Being a part of someone’s recovery story is a privilege and has taught me to be grateful for every day.