Schenectady County

Schenectady councilwoman progressing after sudden illness

Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard is improving after being suddenly stricken early last month.

Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard is improving after being suddenly stricken early last month.

She is in intensive speech and physical therapy, and is still working to put together full sentences. But she has made steady improvement, her husband, Art Edelstein, said.

He said the sudden illness was unrelated to her progressive neurological illness.

She was well enough a week ago Sunday to visit the Greenmarket, a farmers market that she championed and co-founded.

“Saturday night she said she wanted to go to the Greenmarket,” Edelstein said. “A whole sentence, which is very unusual. She couldn’t do that a week ago.”

He promised to find a way to set up the trip — even though her rehab facility wants a week’s notice before any excursions.

“She asked for it, and imagine how frustrating it is trying to communicate. To communicate and have it happen, she was very happy,” he said. “No matter how difficult it was getting her in and out of the car, it was totally worth it.”

She was delighted to see her friends at the market, and was able to communicate somewhat.

“She wasn’t overwhelmed,” he added. “She was really happy to see people. And people got to see her. She was out and around.”

She loves strawberries, so he bought some, but as he drove her back, he told her he wouldn’t bring the strawberries inside.

She has difficulty swallowing, and the strawberries would be banned because they might cause her to choke.

She responded just as tartly as she might have before her sudden illness.

“Bring it in anyway,” she told him.

He did, and aides mashed them up for her to eat.

“I didn’t care about the strawberries, I cared about the phrase,” Edelstein said, delighting in the indication that her speech is getting better.

Blanchard is now in rehab at Daughters of Sarah in Albany. She reads The Daily Gazette every day, Edelstein said, but commenting on the stories about Schenectady is too difficult for her. Even a yes-or-no question is difficult, Edelstein said.

But, he said, she’s fine mentally.

“I think she understands everything. She can’t express it,” he said.

The situation is frustrating, but he said Blanchard is focusing on speech therapy instead of getting annoyed at her limitations.

“You know how calm she is,” he said. “She does not seem agitated.”

It’s too soon to know whether she will be able to return to the City Council.

“It’s too soon to know, but she is making improvements,” Edelstein said. “She’s making steady improvements.”

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