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Archive for the ‘Head injuries’ Category

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 houseguest 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.

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I grew up hearing the phrase, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”  I saw that emotion — hope — shining in the eyes of a desperate mother more than 30 years ago in an Idaho hospital, and I shall remember it always.  Our oldest son, Kevin, during his first week at college had been in a  horrible automobile accident and lay in a deep coma for three days while we waited for the unknown, seeing him minutes at a time in ICU, and then more waiting until we were permitted to see him again.  We met so many good, kind and concerned people during our stay near his bedside.  Some had family members in various stages of recovery so we all shared in the profound commonality of grief and worry.   However, uppermost in all of our thoughts, struggling to banish any negativity, was hope.

We watched our son lying there, seemingly so calm and relaxed, outwardly unscathed by his ordeal, all injuries being internal, including a severe concussion, leaving us to wonder if his brain had been permanently damaged.   He looked so normal sleeping peacefully, except for the occasional outbursts of profanity.  “It’s all right,” said the doctor.  “Base man is injured and angry, and he hurts.  That’s how he responds.  It’s normal.”

There was another couple whose son had been in ICU for some time, until his doctor had him moved to another ward.  Still hooked to his IVs, he needed additional nourishment so they inserted a feeding tube.  Ken and I visited with the parents as they watched over their 15-year-old who had been returning from a football game with a friend at night, his friend at the wheel.  It was dark and the RR crossing was unmarked.  Undoubtedly, they never knew what hit them, and now he lay there, still unconscious, but alive.

Unlike Kevin, the boy was rigid, his hands curled up into tight fists, his body responding not to any stimuli.  We spoke very little.  What could we say,  just giving them a hug for comfort.  My inward thoughts told me this boy would not recover, yet when I looked into his mother’s eyes, I saw the familiar agony and worry we all shared as we hovered over our injured children, but beyond that I could see there was also the most tenacious of all emotions: hope.  The boy was alive and where there’s  life, there’s  hope.

“Mr. and Mrs. Romick?”  asked a smiling nurse.  “Your son is awake.”  We wondered if he would recognize us — he did — but it would take a long time before he recovered.  We were able to fly him home two weeks later to begin his journey back.  I have always wondered about the boy from the train wreck.  We didn’t see the parents again following our visit with them.  Was he able to overcome those tremendous odds?  Were the prayers, faith and hope of his parents enough to bring him back?  I hope so.

And it’s hope that sometimes levels our roller coaster ride with Alzheimer’s — at least from time to time.  When Ken has longer periods of being Ken, and he calls me “Sweetheart,” I find myself hoping.  Treating him holistically, I must have  faith that what I give him in the way of supplements will do him some good, even though I have absolutely no medical training, and it’s because of hope that I continue.  After all, the medical community doesn’t have much to offer.

Today, it was a bit of joy and laughter from both of us that gave me my needed spark of hope.   We were out shopping and just before we returned home, I said that I should stop at one more store.  “Where?” Ken asked.  “The Dollar Tree,” I answered.   Having a bit of  a hearing problem, he hesitated, looked at me a little puzzled, yet smiling and said, “The Adult Tree?”  Then he laughed repeating himself, “Adultery — do they have a store for that?”  Then we both laughed.  Poking him in the ribs I said, “You made a funny.”

We had a wonderful afternoon, but at sundown, the moods returned as did the agitation and other symptoms of AD, but I was nourished with my spark of hope.  Reality check:  I know after nearly six years that his brain is ravaged, yet if he yoyos with good times to mellow the bad, then perhaps it will postpone that awful day when I must consider placing  him in a full-care facility.  Meanwhile, I too can keep in my thoughts that where there’s life, there’s hope.

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