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.
Yesterday, by evening time, my curtain had not only fallen, but it wrapped around my entire body, paralyzing me, making my disfigured head throb. I had no energy to talk, to listen, to sit. I was a pile of nothing, a useless being with nothing to offer. This is what fatigue feels like, this is the effect that my first day of rehabilitation had on my fragile mind and weak body. And it didn't take long for that fatigue to set in. Only five minutes after I arrived, to what will be an eighteen hour per week obligation, did it set in and I hadn't yet left the lobby.
It was in that lobby where my fellow brain injury victims, "clients" as they are referred to in the program, arrived. They came in wheelchairs, used walkers, and limped in on uneasy legs with trembling arms. Some had experienced massive strokes, leaving half their bodies useless and still. Others wore helmets similar to mine, the only difference was their eyes went off in different directions; they were glassy and teary. One other client was young, maybe in his late teens or early twenties. He sat in his wheelchair while his dad flashed colored objects in front of his face. A scar ran halfway across that face. His eyes pointed up at the ceiling. He talked in a slow, deep voice and said he was hit on the head by a hatchet. He also said he was happy with his progress and how important it was to keep a positive and a confident mindset.
Seeing my fellow clients and their conditions weighed heavy on my mind. Lucky isn't the right word to use, but words don't come as easy as they did before my fall, so, lucky is my only option. I'm lucky because of my condition. It's been just under three weeks since waking from my coma and my condition is among the best of the group. And while I am thankful and confident a full recovery will be realized, meeting the other clients, seeing them working through their disability, not sure of which eye I should look into while speaking to them, or not sure if they will understand me when I speak , was something I didn't expect. Suddenly it turned in to more than just my injury. I vowed to try and help them through. I vowed to use my condition and experience as an example.
It wasn't long after that promise, while undergoing a physical therapy evaluation, when I learned my self-diagnosis was rash and foolhardy. I was asked to put one foot in front of the other and cross my arms against my chest while closing my eyes. Within five seconds my eyes had reopened and I struggled to ease my weak, wobbling legs. I was told a normal person could hold this pose for thirty seconds, that my Vestibular System, the part that manages balance and spatial orientation, had been compromised. Soon after, I learned my strength was low, that my ability to remember numbers and work puzzles had deteriorated. Not long into the day I realized my brain was truly damaged and that I needed not to focus on my fellow clients, or spend my time trying to impress the therapists, but to keep the focus on my recovery and to keep a positive and confident mindset. I realized I had more in common with the young man who was hit on the head with a hatchet than I do with anyone else. It's a hard pill to swallow but at least I can swallow.