Atlanta, GA,
16:18 PM

Haley Hammock Reclaims the Joy of Being Mom

Mother’s Day is even more special for Haley as she continues to recover from a stroke.

A couple of months ago, Haley Hammock, 35, pulled out a 2012 article from her hometown newspaper in Moultrie, Ga. The story was about Haley’s ongoing recovery from a stroke she experienced on Sept. 18, 2011 – five days after giving birth to her second daughter, Kate.

Haley had her mother-in-law, Janet Hammock, read the article aloud to Haley’s children, 9-year-old Gracie and 4-year-old Kate. The article detailed the severity of the stroke, the brain bleeding and the weeklong coma. It also recounted her month-long stay in Archbold Medical Center's ICU in Thomasville, Ga., her slow but steady physical and cognitive rehabilitation at Shepherd Center and how the entire community had rallied to support Haley, her husband Jacob and the Hammock family.

When Janet finished reading the article, there was silence for a moment. Then Gracie turned to her younger sister and said, “See Kate, I told you our Momma almost died.”

“So you can tell it’s talked about,” Haley says. “We don’t hide this from the kids or pretend nothing has changed. We talk about it because it was tough, but we also talk about it because of how far we’ve come since then.”

The journey has been long. Haley’s stroke forced her to relearn everything. The second grade teacher – who has a master’s degree in early childhood education – had to relearn not only how to read, but also how to walk, how to speak, how to eat. Today, she can do all that and more. Aside from driving, she is completely independent – and her children have been part of the entire process.

When Haley first returned home from Shepherd Center, her right arm was essentially useless.

“I had to figure out how to hold Kate safely with one arm,” Haley remembers. “It was frustrating, but I did it. I wanted to bond with my daughter. The most important thing is to be adaptive. Figure it out. Don’t give up.”

As Haley’s strength and muscle memory returned, she started giving the kids baths again, brushing their hair, preparing their lunches – the little things that mean so much. It may have taken her a little longer than it did before, but that didn’t matter. Today, Haley still doesn’t have complete use of her once-dominant right hand, but she has mastered left-hand techniques on everything from tying her kids’ shoes to painting – a new creative endeavor for Haley.

She also makes sure she does everything possible with her children – from soccer matches to dance recitals and birthday parties. Haley volunteers once a week at Kate’s daycare and at vacation Bible school for Gracie.

“Everything that I accomplish just makes me think I can do something else, too,” Haley says.

She knows that stepping back into her role as mom would not have been possible without the support of her own mother, her mother-in-law and her husband, among many others. It was at Shepherd Center that nurses, therapists and doctors taught Haley’s family how they could help once Haley was mentally and physically prepared to relearn certain things.

“They were teaching her things at Shepherd, but we were the ones who really learned from it,” Janet says. “Her mother, Jacob, me. Shepherd Center loves family. And if you’re willing to be included in the recovery process, they’ll include you. They took as good a care of us as they did Haley. That helps everyone so much.”

For Haley, it’s still all about family. Her parents are farmers in Berlin, Ga., just outside Moultrie. Jacob’s parents run the dry cleaners in town. This Mother’s Day weekend, the Hammocks spent Saturday night at the farm with Haley’s parents, then went to First Baptist Church of Moultrie on Sunday morning before eating lunch with Jacob’s family and spending the afternoon in the pool. If it were up to the kids, every warm day would be spent at the pool.

“Gracie is quiet and reserved, like me,” Haley says. “Kate is the outgoing one. She’s funny, very independent. More like her daddy. Both of them have been wonderful with me the last few years. Kids are kids. Whatever I can do, they accept. Whatever I can’t, they accept. Kids are adaptive, too!”

Her children are also the source of inspiration for one of Haley’s biggest goals. She wants to learn to drive again, of course, and she is working on that during return visits to Shepherd Pathways a few times a year. But even more than that is this:  Haley, with Jacob, wants to be able to take Gracie and Kate to Disney World.

She laughs when she says it out loud.

“I know that might sound silly, but to me it’s extremely important. I want to be able to do that with my family.”

Janet is one of many who have witnessed the daily motivation that Haley’s daughters have provided.

“They’re her inspiration,” Janet says. “You have to have a reason to believe and to keep fighting. We’ve all believed she could conquer this – not alone, but with God’s help and with her family. And she has.”

More information about Shepherd Center's stroke rehabilitation program is available here.

Written by Phillip Jordan
Photos provided courtesy of Archbold Medical Center

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.