Head injuries

I WANNA GO — HOME?

After three weeks in the hospital I was tansferred to a convalescent/rehab center and still felt — comfortable — if that’s the right word — being a patient.  “Just leave me alone in my bed so I can get better,” was my plea, but the goal at rehab is to get you up and going and out — and home.  However, when I looked down my road to recovery I found that I didn’t want to go home.  As injured as I was, I didn’t want to pick up and continue with where I had been in February.

Ken was home.  After the accident he stayed several days in the hospital as my daughter, Debbie, wrote about in her guest blog titled   “One Simple Phone Call. ”   From the beginning I felt at ease knowing he was being cared for by her and the caregivers she had managed to assemble: all good people.  With everything in place, Debbie returned to her home in Utah several weeks after the accident to be with her family.  For me, the thought of going home was beyond comprehension.  I wasn’t ready to assume the responsibility of home and Ken and all it entailed.  I was still too caught up with me.

A few years back my neighbor mentioned she felt my family wasn’t doing enough to help me with Ken.  “They should take time and be with him for a while so you could catch up on some rest, take a trip — something — just get away.”  I smiled at my friend and jokingly asked, “If you lived in Hell and someone told you they would be willing to take your place for a week so you could get away, and you took them up on it and managed to have a wonderful rest and vacation, would you come back?”  All joking aside, while I dearly love my husband and the life we have had together, living with Alzheimer’s is Hell.

Laying there in rehab, that’s how I was feeling.  I had been given time off from Hell and I didn’t want to go back.  “Time off.”  That was almost laughable.  I hardly considered my hospital experience a vacation of choice.  I felt terrible not wanting to go home, guilty in fact, and sad, but after six years of being Ken’s only caregiver watching helplessly while my husband slipped away into the awfulness of Alzheimer’s, the cycle — the routine — the dedication — all were gone; shattered by the thoughtless decision of someone who believed he could drink and drive.  My neck remained in a brace, my head and face were still healing from wounds, cuts and contusions, and my legs felt like cooked spaghetti when I managed to walk.  I just wanted to stay in bed.

Rehab was a zoo.  The halls were filled with visitors coming and going, and patients in all degrees of recovery.  Some strolled the halls hanging onto their walkers, some were wheeled about in wheel chairs either by friends, family or staff.  Doctors and nurses gathered around the nurses’ stations; medical aids, nurses’ aids and housekeepers busied themselves with whatever needed to be done while therapists of all kinds guided their charges to and from the exercise rooms.  The only time the halls were empty was after midnight.

No matter how badly I wanted to rest, it would only happen in rehab after I had done my part in getting stronger.  This was a workplace and I was part of their work.  So was Sabina.  They taught her how to change my neck brace making her an important part of recovery after I left.   I soon learned that it was necessary to turn my whole body, never my neck  if I needed to look around, how to shower safely,  to use my walker for support, to climb stairs even though my wobbly legs would rather do nothing, and to get into and out of a car without hurting my neck.

I went to therapy every afternoon at 2:30, and then returned to my room where I cried — not from pain — it was more from the frustration of  everything combined.  Hadn’t I had enough on my life’s plate taking care of Ken, our finances, our business, maintaining the house and lastly — myself — without this added burden of dealing with a long list of serious injuries.  And so I cried.  My afternoon sessions with weeping seemed to be a release of pent-up worries and struggles, prior unshed tears, so much time lost, and the long aftermath yet to come where I would be contemplating, “What’s next?”  But even more, I was homesick.

I thought of the orange tree growing to the side of our house.  This time of year it should still have been filled with the succulent fruit and I imagined myself picking one, and then sitting down on the steps.  In my daydream it was warm — spring was just beginning.  Slowly, I dug my finger nails into the peel pulling it away from the fruit and tossing the discarded evidence under the juniper bushes telling myself  it was good compost for the soil.  I could almost feel the juice run down my chin as I relished my prize.   The  reverie vanished and I cried some more.  I wanted so badly to leave, but I knew I didn’t want to go home.

“You don’t have to go home,” said Julie, her husband Tim agreeing.  “Come and stay at our house until you feel strong.  Stay as long as you like, we’d love to have you.”

With my walker for support, Rehab discharged me after three weeks.  I walked to the car, got in without banging my head or straining  my neck.  Sabina drove me to Julie and Tim’s home, where they were waiting to welcome me.    Having been there countless times, it now felt rather odd.  No longer was I just Mom paying a visit, I was a house-guest with a room of my own.

That day was sunny, bright and blue — April — I have always loved April.  The countryside flourished green with spring and a few scattered daffodils bounced their yellow heads as if bowing to a passing breeze.  I sat on the front porch wrapped in a warm blanket on pleasant days just watching the season awaken.  Blossoms opened before my eyes as the days and weeks passed.  Wisteria vines flowered into full cascading clusters, followed by tiny leaves wiggling free from deep inside the gnarled branches.  Spring was healing winter’s visit — and me — making everything new again.   How grateful I was for this bonus time so badly needed to mend my body, my sadness and my broken spirit.

Originally posted 2010-06-28 07:22:40.

SOME KIND OF ACCIDENT?

“Ow!  That hurts my back,” I groaned, not knowing where I was, who was moving me or why.  Aware of bright lights, sirens and men’s voices, I heard someone say, while enclosing my neck in a brace, “Broken neck, possible broken leg.”  I thought, “Are they talking about me?  I don’t want a broken leg, much less a broken neck.”  I had no way of knowing what had happened, but suddenly the thought ran through my mind that I had been in some kind of accident.

Across the inside of my head stretched a blackboard which appeared to be blank.  Slowly, printed in white, as if someone were writing with chalk, there flashed a phone number.  Call my son,” I mumbled, repeating the numbers before me.  Then, as surely as I knew Keith’s phone number, I repeated both Ken’s and my HMO medical numbers.   “I have a pacemaker and my husband has severe Alzheimer’s.  Don’t let him wander away,” I added, somehow knowing he would need all of the important information.  “Can you tell me your name and birth date?” another voice asked.  I answered his question and gave him Ken’s name and birth date as well, then faded into an unconscious place.

Obviously, the driver of the maverick car did not correct as I had assumed.  Instead, his vehicle must have remained in the diagonal line aimed in my direction.  I was like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery, the trajectory of his set course was fixed on me.  He couldn’t miss.  In retrospect, who could have known he had spent the afternoon drinking and was drunk out of his mind?   Authorities could only calculate the speed of his car as it broadsided my SUV just behind the driver’s seat.  Out of control, the maverick bounced off before slamming once again into the rear of my vehicle, spinning it wildly before coming to a stop — facing in a southerly direction.

Inside, I had been unaware of  impact, the first blow no doubt knowking me out cold.  I can only speculate on what followed.  The seat belt, which I had buckled, failed.  I believe it retracted on impact, and in so doing snapped the metal-locking end into my lip, cutting it just left of my nose at the same time knocking out one bottom tooth.  The air bag deployed, but without the seat belt holding me in place it was ineffective.  Lacking any restraint, I became air born and was somehow hurled through the driver’s side window onto the street where I lay until paramedics arrived.  (By comparison, Ken’s injuries were minor, but still required several days of observation in the hospital.  Restrained, confused, combative and unhappy, our concerned children insisted he be released for better care at home).

While my family waited and worried outside the trauma unit, I was finally stablized by a group of dedicated and extraordinarily skilled doctors following an hour and a half  of intense effort.  Medically, I was a mess.  The team of professionals battled shut-down kidneys, stabilization worries; there were cuts, contusions, blood loss, massive bruising, broken ribs, a broken neck, head fracture with concussion and I had inhaled glass shards while exiting through the closed window  They worried I could suffer a stroke or be paralyzed as the neck fracture was a top vertebrae protecting vital areas and nerves which commanded life itself.

During a moment of consciousness I requested a blessing of healing from the clergy of my church.  Their anointing words of comfort, hope and promise fell upon me like a warm blanket on a cold night.  Finding peace among the turmoil I also found rest, allowingy myself to let go and let God further work His  miracles.  When awareness allowed me to ponder, I reviewed my broken and bruised body and while I will never dismiss the seriousness of my many and varied injuries, I am still amazed that I only suffered a broken neck, head fracture and broken ribs.  In actuality, I should be dead.  I can only believe there must be some part of my life’s mission which has not been completed.  Why else would Heavenly guided unseen hands cushion my descent to the pavement?

Originally posted 2010-05-09 00:35:36.

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