This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.
It was my 33rd birthday yesterday, by far, the most difficult birthday I've ever had. It's not the age that bothers me. Sure, I've told people I'm going to knock it back ten years and start telling people I'm 23, not 33.
I first thought of it while I was in the hospital; doctors and nurses were shocked when they discovered I was in my thirties. They told me I looked like I was still in my early twenties. And considering the brain injury shot my intellect back to my teens, I thought it would be funny to split the difference; a harmless joke from a victim of Traumatic Brain Injury.
The truth is, I've never felt older in my life. The day before, during rehab, I jogged for thirty feet, climbed five flights of stairs, and was on the stationary bike for fifteen minutes. When I woke up the next morning my calves felt like they had turned to stone. I shuffled my feet trying to avoid the pain in my legs. The pain didn't stop there, my lower back felt like it had bone lesions. I felt closer to 73 than I did 33.
That disappeared when my sister, two nieces, a nephew, and my niece's boyfriend showed up to wish me happy birthday. They brought thoughtful gifts and love. They were happy to see my progress since their last visit, when I was zapped of energy and unable to move. This visit, we laughed, and talked about our lives. After they left, I felt refreshed and, albeit a bit gingerly, I walked around my house, no longer shuffling from room to room. My posture returned. I felt like I was back in my twenties again.
Then evening came, besides morning, it's the hardest part of the day. By six o'clock, one hour before we were supposed to be at our friends house to celebrate my birthday, a piercing pain appeared in front of my right ear, just behind the bulge left from when they removed the top half of my skull to give room for my brain to swell. This pain is normal and is from fatigue, though it's something I can't get used to and can't forget about when it's there. Shortly after, my shuffle returned, my back, once again, seized up. By seven o'clock my condition hadn't changed, but Aimee and I got in the car and left anyway. Each bump in the road jarred my brain, like a basketball bouncing against the metal rim.
Ten minutes after arriving, after seeing my friends, opening gifts, laughing, and, of course, answering questions about my condition, I felt like my old my old self again. I've spent most of this past month in a coma, or thinking about my injury and about the pain and discomfort I feel. During that month, I forgot how it felt to be with friends.
For ninety minutes, that pain and discomfort no longer affected me. For ninety minutes, my injury wasn't the only thing to talk about. Instead, we talked about music, surfing, skateboarding, about the two beautiful baby boys at the party, four-month old Ollie B, and nine-day old Joey. It was a great time; that is, until my curtain dropped. Suddenly, I no longer had the energy to listen or talk. I did my best not to show it. The pain in my head returned. We left shortly after. The ride home was spent holding my head still, trying to keep my brain from bouncing against my disfigured skull as Aimee found every bump in the road.
The pain remained through the night. By bedtime, it had not dissipated. After some nervous thoughts, I fell asleep, my hands on top of my head. Today I awoke feeling refreshed. The pain and discomfort is still there, but there's another feeling, added appreciation for my wife, my friends, and my family. Without them, all I would have is pain.