Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday September 22 – Three letters and a few kicks to the head

Tuesday September 22 – Three letters and few kicks to the head.

Being a veterinarian, I have always been interested in the perception of animals. Things like; how do dogs think with their noses, how is a cat’s night-vision different from ours. What perceptions do my patients have about their environment? How can I understand it better?

Now I’m interested in your perceptions. What do you see? How do you perceive sound? What about touch? Is it amplified or dampened down? Maybe it is distorted and is frightening or is it strange in a comfortable sort of way?

Recently I’ve have talked to some people who are recovering from head injuries. Listening to their memories and perceptions of their past experiences has helped me a lot to understand how you might be feeling.

I got an email a few weeks ago from a woman whose husband, also a marathoner, had a similar brain injury about 1 ½ years ago. His recovery has been steady … and quite remarkable. She suggested reading a book entitled ‘My Stroke of Insight’ by Jill Bolte Taylor. As soon as I read the email I remember reading a book review about the book. I had mentally put it on my ‘must read sometime’ list, but that list is long and it was just added – so I hadn’t acted on it yet.

That night I went online and ordered it – received it last week and started reading it. I had planned for it to be my nighttime reading, but my bedtime is rather irregular at this time. Perhaps I’ll get more read today.

Your perceptions must be erratic. I think you tune in and tune out and there is no predicting when it will happen. Your facial expression and body language are misleading. I imagine your brain to be like a radio receiver. Input (stimulation: sound, sights, feelings, touch even smells) turns the tuning dial but the frequency is passed by in a moment so you get a moment of lucidity and then you receive only static again. Thinking of it this way helps me to understand.

I hope it’s not like that Mr. Bean episode where Mr. Bean tries to watch TV with an antennae this is not working well. The viewer only sees Mr. Bean trying to get reception by manipulating the antennae, you don’t see the TV screen but you can hear either static or a BBC broadcast depending whether Mr. Bean beside the TV or in front of the TV. He gets clear reception when he is beside or behind the TV, but as soon as he turns to watch the TV, the static returns.

This continues for sometime. He finally realizes if he simulates his presence elsewhere in the room, he can fix the problem. So, he undresses and places his clothes in such a way as to resemble himself by the antennae. The plan works! He finishes the skit, watching TV in his underwear.

I shall sit by your bed, and wait for those moments when you tuned in to your channel 29.

This morning you are in a new room … #7341. I know you would have preferred 7329 but I checked around – there is 7329. There is a 7328 and 7330 but no 7329. Maybe 7329 is a hypothetical place in this brain injury unit. Maybe it’s somewhere here in a different dimension and that’s where you are when your eyes are open but you are not responsive.

Physio Steve and Linda got you sitting up. You had to work at lifting your head. You still needed help to balance your torso. Steve and Linda tried to get you to stand – you are not able to … yet.

Dr. McNeely came in to visit again. He seems like a quiet and gentle man. I didn’t know who he was – he had stopped in yesterday … I thought he was a resident. (I asked the physio Steve after he left.) He doesn’t look especially young – but he doesn’t looked worn or jaded - attitudes that seem to come with age and experience. Dr McNeely just looked kind and interested. He asked you to lift your head up – he seemed pleased when you did.

You have two nurses today, Serena and Jenn. Together, they look after 7 patients. A little different from ICU where had a whole nurse to yourself and in the intermediate unit where you had 2 nurses for 4 patients. They stop in regularly to check on you.

The short physio session wore you out – you are asleep again.

When cracking the cover of a book of fiction, I have the somewhat annoying habit of reading the last page first. I only read the last page – nothing more. Then I start the book from the beginning. I like doing this because I am intrigued about how the story is going to go from one point to another.

This is a habit that I will have to drop. Yesterday’s epiphany – one day at a time and live in the moment has to override this urge. If I can then we can count the moments together.

Can’t write as much today – You are more alert then ever and for longer too. I don’t want to miss a lucid moment – so I am not as long winded as before.

At noon, Serena ‘corks’ your tracheotomy tube (clamps it off – so you have to breath through your mouth and nose). A monitor is place on your finger to measure the oxygen level in the blood. I am instructed to watch your percentage of oxygen. This is a test to see if you have a good airway. The oxygen hovers around 97%. That’s pretty good. You are passing the test – and you didn’t even study… Well that’s not really true – all those bad coughs you got from our infectious snotty nosed kids – have paid off – “He has a really good cough” the nurses say. Who would have thought that all that practice coughing (your pet peeve) would help save you now.

If you can keep your oxygen level up for 48 hours – you get to say good bye to the tracheotomy tube. I don’t expect you will miss it.

When I get back to Truro, I pick up Tara and Quinn from their swimming lessons at the pool. Then we go and mail three letters to Rod Carew. Thanks to some amateur detectives I have three different mailing addresses for him with possibly more leads to come.

We sent one letter to him in Anaheim CA, his home town, one to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, and one to a baseball bat company in Connecticut. The three of us stamped the letters, said a special magic spell (‘Go 29’ hey – it can’t hurt) and handed them off to the postal clerk.

My friend Julia, who experienced an aneurysm a few years ago, suggested to me that as the brain tries to connect with reality, the sense of time is lost. “You close your eyes and you don’t know if you have been asleep for 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days.” injured So to help you reconnect to time and reality we bought a large display clock/radio and a white board to write the date each day.

It’s an early bedtime for us all tonight, I must get up early for a lift with Marsha. I rushed around to get things ready for the next day. When I go up stairs to kiss Tara and Quinn good night, Quinn is hiding under the blankets of our bed. I thought he was just being silly – so I pulled the blankets down … he was crying. “What’s the matter?” I asked. He mumbles. I ask again. He says “I thought you forgot to kiss me good night.” Oh God, I got so busy planning and doing things, I didn’t see his pain.

Quinn slept in our bed again … and kicked me in the head several times in the middle of the night … I deserved it.

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