Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Draining The Brain

"Senora, respires profundo. Senora, respires. Doctor, we have an emergency at bed 2. The patient stopped breathing."

Bed two was next to bed one, my bed. I rubbed my aching and swollen head, reminding myself to stay away from the right side of my head, where dozens of stitches and several staples stretched my scalp over my newly inserted bone flap. I looked down at the small, plastic bottle half full of blood and puss draped over my right shoulder. A clear plastic tube fed the bottle and ran from the back of my head where my neurosurgeon had inserted a drain inside my scalp.

"Maam, breathe now, maam. We need to intubate."

"Respires, profundo."

I watched as doctors and nurses rush towards the woman's bed. Another pain shot through my bandaged head. During the next ten minutes the sounds of the room came from bed two. I listened to staff talk about breathing tubes and the need to perform a tracheotomy and I heard the slurping sound as nurses sucked the saliva and phlegm from the woman's throat.

Tears welled up in my eyes; not just for the woman next to me and her family but for my family as well. It was only a month and a half earlier when they had to watch doctors and nurses scramble towards my bed in the same room, in the same manner, and heard the same sounds.

Moments later, the commotion disappeared. Doctors and nurses intubated the woman and a ventilator pumped oxygen into her lungs. Not long after, my nurse arrived at my bedside pushing a wheelchair; it was time for my transfer from the Intensive Care Unit to the upstairs trauma floor.

I was happy to leave the ICU. The night before had been a sleepless one. The constant beeps from heart monitors, the discomfort from my catheter, and the pain in my head kept me from sleeping. By five in the morning, I had already had a CAT-scan. The scan showed no swelling and no hemorrhaging; the operation was a success.

Upstairs, on the trauma floor, nurses and doctors recognized me. They all were surprised by my condition, that I was able to walk and talk. Standing near the nurses desk was the older Mexican man whom I shared a room with after waking from my coma. Neither of us remembered one another. Aimee, however, remembered him well. He too, had injured his brain. He too, had a scar from his forehead to the back of his ear. He, however, appeared in a near vegetative state, standing motionless, confused in a leather jacket and jeans, leaning against the desk. He had been in the hospital the entire time. I felt sorry for him, I felt fortunate for my condition, my head ached, the plastic bottle on my right shoulder dangling, tugging at the stitch that held the drain inside my scalp.

Soon after nurses worried over my irregular heartbeat. More blood was collected, another EKG performed. I couldn't stop from thinking about my mortality, my poor health.

"Please, one organ at a time," I said to them as they ripped the tape from my chest where the leads for the EKG were placed.

Two hours later, I was asleep. The pain pills had done their job.

Minutes after I awoke, my doctor appeared outside my door. He stood over me as I sat on the bed.

"Okay, this is going to sting a bit," he said before cutting the stitch from the back of my head and pulled the drain from my scalp.

"Another sting coming," he said as he stitched up the hole in my head where the drain had been placed.

"All right, you can leave today. Leave the bandage on your head, no showers for two days and call my office to schedule a check-up."

Forty minutes later, a nurse wheeled me out of the hospital with a fresh wound on my head and a swollen mind, and fresh hopes for recovery.


  1. I'm really glad to hear that the operation was a success and that you have your skull back.

    - Rick

  2. So glad everything went well...

    More great writing here... Sure didn't expect you to be writing so soon after surgery...