Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is nothing but a candle that turns into a roaring flame.
I arrived at the third hospital at the end of October, 2000; where they continued weaning me off the ventilator; my blood pressure was still high but they, now had that under control with medication. My eyes were opening off and on but, there was never a hint of recognition. While I was waiting in the hospital’s hallway, waiting for my room, my dad was asking me questions and I was trying to responded to him. As my parents were preparing to leave that night, my dad said “We’re going to pray” and my eyes closed, then they said” amen” my eyes opened. I was waking up.
Everyone comes out of a coma differently; once I started to wake up, it took me several days, maybe even weeks. The doctors had been saying all along that they thought I was blind, because my eyes had no movement and my pupils wouldn’t dilate when they shined a light into them. They could see that I was coming out of my almost four and a half month long coma. When my mind started to come back, the first day I remember; my parents came into my hospital room, I couldn’t see nor could I move any part of my body except my head. I knew that they were there. I knew their voices and though my vision was non-existent at the time I still knew it was my parents. When they were at my bedside I mouthed I love you to them. (my first day outside)
When I was a part of the Animal shelter, one of the things we did was a weekly television show at the local cable station, were we would show different adoptable dogs and cats on a local cable channel in hopes that we could get those animals adopted. My mom asked them if they could put some of the segments with me together, when my family got all the “me” segments together they, then rolled in a television set and VCR and played those tapes at my bedside. The hospital staff kept those tapes playing every waking hour and, I just stared in the direction of the voices I used to recognize.
When I got to the hospital initially the breathing tubes that were going down my throat, were helping me breathe but I was biting down so hard on them that I broke two of my teeth. To avoid more complications the doctors performed a Tracheotomy on me a few weeks after I fell into a coma. I don’t know if it is because I had tubes running down my throat or my brain injury but I never got my voice back and that hurts me the most. So I now had a hole in my neck and, therefore was unable to talk at all, so they had to come up with a way to communicate with me. People, who know me, know that I am not at all coordinated and since now I was unable to move any part of my body except my head and face my dad came up with, blink once for yes and twice for no. Sounds simple right? Not for me, I was just relearning how to control my face and it wasn’t easy, partly because I had receive quite a bit of nerve damage to the left side of my face from the cuts; I could blink but not really on command so it was decided, blink for yes and stick out my tongue for no.
I wasn’t totally blind but everything was very dark and I only had some peripheral vision due to the optic nerve damage from the anoxia. In the beginning, I couldn’t talk but my hearing was still good, so I knew a lot of what was happening with my roommates and in different parts of the hospital. I am not sure how I communicated but one of my therapists called me “a nosey momo”, whatever that is, because I always needed to know what was happening in the hospital.
My family made the decision to allow the doctor to amputate my leg as a group and they said that, when and if the time came they would all tell me as a group, Ya that didn’t happen. I was unaware that my leg was gone, after all I could still feel my ankle, foot and toes and sometimes they would really itch and usually my dad would scratch it for me. My therapist would work with me, they put a shoe on my right foot but never my left and the thing is I never thought about it. My mind was so injured, that I became like a child again, mentally and I wasn’t able to put two and two together. One day my sister, Melissa came to visit me and I asked her if she could have mom and dad bring me a shoe for my left foot. I think that scared her and she called my parents. My parents then called the rest of the family but no one wanted to come, they all chickened out, saying we don’t want her to hate us. Later that evening my parents arrived with no shoe. I had a lot of short term memory issues but I do think I remembered the shoe. I still couldn’t really move and I had no voice but when they told me I had no leg the whole hospital could hear me wail, the first sound I had made since that fateful night. I actually was so loud that nurses came into my room to see what was happening to me. That was a hard night, my parents trying to explain through their tears what had happened to me. My grandma was right; what was I going to do with just one leg?! I wasn’t angry with any one, just overwhelmingly sad.
God was with me and the shock of hearing that news was not long. My brain injury helped me not to focus on the bad news and by the next day I think I was pretty much over it. My therapist were amazing, My body was still traumatized, my muscles were tight and contracted and it was not easy for the therapist to get them stretched back out, which they never did. My speech therapist had her work cut out for her. I didn’t have a voice to work with and I hadn’t eaten, by mouth for more than five months and, I had a lot of nerve damage to my top lip
One of my many therapist over the years said,” I love working with brain injured people.”, “They only get better” We love that and it’s so true! In an effort to help my lips to regain their movement she used vibration; at first it felt like she was giving me an electrical shock but in just a short time it was starting to help. The best and the worst was when I finally regained enough control of my entire mouth to eat and drink. The worst was the thick liquids, thick water, yuck! The thick apple juice wasn’t that bad but when it came time to try foods they would only give me mashed potatoes. Normally mashed potatoes aren’t that bad, some are even good but, not these. I think the worst part was they gave me them with almost every meal. Like a kid throwing a temper tantrum I threw a fit and sometimes refused to eat. Then the day came when the speech pathologist said I can have my family bring me something from home or the store as long as it fit the criteria, soft and pasty. I picked liverwurst I used to love Liverwurst and Deviled Ham sandwiches, so my family brought them for me and they fed it to me with a spoon and I loved it.
Before we knew it, it was Thanksgiving, I still had pretty much no muscle control but they would sit me up in a wheelchair and take me around the hospital. I had no muscle control in my neck so my head would just fall forward if no one was holding it up for me. I got to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family there celebrating with me. I think that Thanksgiving was the best and the saddest Thanksgiving my family has ever celebrated. The unfortunate ending to that day was I wasn’t able to keep any of that dinner down.
I was sleeping a lot at the beginning but my family and some of my friends would still come to see me. My parents brought our family dog, that when I was still living with them I would take her horseback riding with me, her name was Sasha and my roommate brought me one of my dogs, Fred, the first dog I rescued. It was really good to see them but it just made me sad.
At Christmas my sister, Melissa came to spend the night with me, so they rolled in a kind of chair that could almost lie down and she spent the night with me in my hospital room. It was very sweet! After my brother and older sister moved out, on Christmas eves, my younger sister and I would sleep in the same room and she wanted to keep that tradition alive.(our Christmas card,2000)
My stay at that hospital seemed to come to an end very fast, before we knew it, it was time for me to move on again. On my last day in that long term care facility I got my first shower in over six months, it was awesome, a nice sendoff gift. (my therapists saying goodbye, I look so much better)
I was off to a new hospital that specialized in rehabilitation; we had no idea what would be in store for me.