How 1/10th of a second CAN change your whole life! (my story) - part five
Posted Jul 19 2009 10:13pm
an article written by Dave Breezy (A.K.A. Chairdozer)
After almost a week had passed, they upgraded me to "He might make it, but he’ll probably never wake up". After I started to stir slightly the story changed again to "Don’t expect him to be the Dave you knew" (referring to the brain injury). After 5 weeks of total unconsciousness, I started to come around somewhat. Mentally I was soon all there, I just couldn’t move or communicate in any way. When they noticed that I was responding to simple requests like "squeeze my hand if you can hear me" they started trying to explain to me where I was. They didn’t want me to know too much about just how bad I was though, "they thought it would be best." Like I wouldn’t find out? Thankfully my family was there and would explain things to me so I could begin to try to understand where I was & what was happening to me.
What a terrifying experience, to be conscious, not knowing where you were or what was happening to you, have no feeling below the ribs, massive pain in the ribs, have your arms restrained, to not be able to feel your legs, and not be able to speak to ask anyone. I couldn’t talk because in order to save my life, they had to put in a trach tube. Therefore I could not move any air across my vocal chords to speak. I could feel a weird somewhat painful sensation in my throat, but didn’t realize I had a tube in it, I just knew no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t speak! Their first attempt to let me try to communicate was to allow me to try to write notes. They would untie my right hand, and hold a clipboard over me with one of their hands. I’m still flat on my back at this point. Try it! Lay flat on your back, have someone hold a clipboard over you with one hand, at arms length, and you try to write on it using only one hand. And then they wonder why my penmanship wasn’t so good! (it wasn’t all that great to before the accident!) Not as easy as it sounds! Then, after they knew I was alert enough that I wouldn’t tear out my tubes, a Doctor showed me how to place my finger over my trach tube, blocking it so I could speak a few words. Real words! I could talk at last! I’ll bet they soon regretted that! Then, after several more days passed, They brought me a cap that would let me breathe in through my trach, but still let me speak.
After I came to, I had been, in my own mind, doing the "what if" thing. What if we had taken the car? (We almost did!) What if we hadn’t went on vacation at all? I thought that I would always need somebody to care for me, do all the simple things I couldn’t do anymore. I couldn’t blow my nose by myself. I felt like I was going to just be like a stone around my wife’s neck. That hurt, the feeling that I was dragging her down with me. I felt hopeless and depressed. Like I had ruined both our lives, dark times indeed! They kept sending in "shrinks" (psychiatrists) to try to talk to me. They highly annoyed me because they all thought they knew what I was going through and what I was thinking. It was always the same, they all said "we know what you’re going through". This frustrated me to no end! I would tell them "No, no you don’t. In the first place, you’ll walk out of here tonight, won’t you? to your life as normal. Mine will never be the same! And secondly, Your not me! How can you presume to know how I think or how I feel! Have you ever been through this?" I asked them. "No! I don’t give a damn what your books say I am going through, they aren’t me! If you really cared, you would ask, not just assume you already know!"
About this time they moved me to the physical therapy floor. For the first few days there, the therapist ladies were just doing range of motion stretches, very painful to say the least, but I understood the necessity of them. Then, one fine day, these ladies decide to set me up in bed! This is a forerunner to getting me in a wheelchair. Hurray! At last! "Not so fast", they said. "You see, you have to be able to set upright without passing out!" Sounds simple enough, right? I used to sit upright easy enough. At this point, I can’t move anything below my armpits. Still, if they help me to get to a sitting position, no problem, right?
WRONG! I had been flat on my back for at least 6-7 weeks by this time. That has effects on one’s body that I was totally unaware of! So, the two of them swing my feet off the edge of the bed and proceed to sit me upright. WHAM! Instant dizzy. My therapists are staying close. One of them is standing directly in front of me, holding me up by the shoulders, so I don’t fall. She’s wearing a button up shirt, with the first button or two undone. Nothing suggestive or indecent, just feminine. I’m sitting there, dizzy as hell, about ready to chuff, with my head hung down, almost touching her. As dizzy as I could be, but I will admit, I was rather enjoying the view. She asks if I’m still dizzy. I said "yes, very". Then she says "Stare at a fixed point until the dizziness passes". My first thought was "let’s see…. Which one?" My second thought wasn’t any better. "Oh how cute, you’ve dressed them up as twins today". Thankfully, I said neither, having enough sense to keep my mouth shut for once.
As time passed I slowly improved. Eventually they had me in a wheelchair. It was a manual, but at least it gave me the opportunity to FINALLY see something other than this one room! When I could find someone to push me that is. I had to have someone push me because of nerve damage in my left shoulder, that affects my left arm and hand. They would wheel me down to therapy, then to dinner. Finally, a meal somewhere other than my bed! I never was one to eat in bed. And now I had other people to talk to as well! On the first day, I met a lady I’ll call Mrs. K. My second miracle. As I waited for lunch, In came a woman approximately my own age in a wheelchair. The nurse introduced us, then she left. Mrs. K. asked what happened to me. I told her about my accident. She told me about hers. As we visited, I noticed an uncanny similarity in our stories. She had also been in an auto accident. They were in a minivan. Her back was broken, very similarly to mine and she was hurt otherwise every bit as bad as I was. Her husband broke his neck, just as my wife did, only he had a "halo". A type of brace that rests on your shoulders, and actually screws right into your skull! Ouch!. We had both had trach tubes and so on. The similarities in our injuries were quite remarkable.
We talked several times over the next few weeks, And I began to see things differently. They had been in a minivan. Made no difference, they were busted up every bit as bad as we were. I looked forward to our conversations. She showed me that the hospital had a beautiful park on the grounds. It had statues, shade trees, and benches among various flower beds. It was well maintained and quite beautiful. Sometimes when my family was up to visit, if the weather was nice, they would take me out there. Sometimes we would run into Mrs. K. and stop and visit. By this time, Therapy was beginning to seriously work with me. Although it wasn’t any fun and it was quite painful at times, I realized it was a necessary evil. Anything I was going to get back I would have to work damn hard for. And I did, and still do to this day. I’m still in outpatient therapy 1 ½ years later. I have never been afraid of work, and have always had determination (some would say stubbornness). Now I have to use that to get back as much as I can of my life.
At this time, they also began assessing my "Mental capacity", in other words, To see if I was going to have lasting effects from the brain injury. I started out with simple math and word problems. At night I was on the phone talking our son through how to set up and run our dj equipment, troubleshooting dmx lighting and all that. He stepped in to run the business while we were laid up, but he had no idea how the new system (we had only had it a couple months before the accident) worked. Then, they advanced me to testing my memory. My mother would sometimes sit in on these sessions. And, to amuse herself, she would take the test along with me, silently, in her head. One test, for instance went like this. They would read 15 unrelated words off a list. Then visit with you for 5, 10 or even 15 minuets. Then you would recite as many of the words back to them as you could remember. I scored 11 out of 15. Mom, who was healthy, scored 4. Mrs. K. was released during this time and probably never realized the good she did for me. All I can say is THANK YOU!