Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday September 23 – From Realist to Optimist

I feel that I shortchanged you that first night – I accepted the ‘No Hope’ message too easily. All I could think of at the time - was – I have to accept the ‘No Hope’ message and assimilate it quickly so I could help the children through their paths of grief. I felt if I denied the ‘No Hope’ message myself – I couldn’t help them. Denial breeds hope and I felt that giving the children false hope would be more destructive. I felt I had to be a realist.

I hope you will forgive me.

You have a very attentive student nurse today, Kim. Her father had a big stroke 10 years ago – he is still quite active but has some right-sided weakness but most people wouldn’t know. He can still put in a garden – I smile upon hearing this … I wonder if you would ever want to garden ... I doubt it – ‘Busy work’ you call it. Oh well, that’s OK – that’s my passion.

I help clean you up with Kim and another student. Poor you, you have two lovely young ladies fussing over you and you can’t even appreciate it. Hopefully, reading this will help you enjoy the thought! The muscle atrophy in your legs and back is astounding – muscle doesn’t stick around long if you don’t use it. All those hours of training – gone in three weeks. There is weight loss too. You were always trying to lose those extra love handles – this is a heck of a way to lose them.

Your tracheotomy tube has been corked for 24 hrs - so far so good. Maybe tomorrow you will get your tube out.

Dr. Walling was in to visit. He says you will have periods of lucidity and they will increase and get longer as you connect back to reality. “It’s like watching a child grow – but faster”. I am really happy. Last week’s emotional turmoil seems like a year ago.

Physio Jill did range of motion with arms and legs – “Hamstrings a little tight” she says. I told her you didn’t like to stretch much. I told her how you had read in a marathon-running book that if you don’t normally stretch – then you shouldn’t. You felt this gave you permission not to stretch.

Jill feels there is a little tone in your left leg, but “Nothing in the left arm today.” Jill says, sounding positive – as if maybe tomorrow there will be some strength. Is her optimism real or a put-on for our benefit?

I ask her about the Rehabilitation Hospital. “Oh he is not ready for that yet – that’s at least a few weeks away. He has to be aware enough to cooperate with the treatments. Then, there may be a wait of a few weeks to get into it – there’s been lots of head injuries this summer – you know motorcycles etc.” she says.

Great  Mental note – don’t get a head injury in the summer – probably the winter is bad time with falls and motor vehicle accidents. I guess if you plan to have a brain injury then do it in the spring or fall!

Steve and Jill get you sitting up on the edge of the bed of about 5 minutes. They help you stretch out your back. “He seems sleepier today” Steve says. He’s right – you are sleeping more – I remind myself – sleep is restorative to the brain – for normal brains and injured brains.

I wash your back. Your strong back muscles are small and your back is boney – it doesn’t look like your back.

I think you spotted the clock The children and I got for you – it’s 11 AM and your eyes are open but I’m not sure if you are here or somewhere else (in that mystery room 7329 perhaps).

You are having problems passing your urine. The nurses have a small ultrasound machine that is called a ‘Bladder Scanner’. They have to catheterize you regularly. There is an increased risk of bladder infection when this is done often. An urologist is supposed to check you out sometime soon.

We get you in the chair just as I have to go back to Truro. I kiss you good bye – you are sleeping.

Your first marathon was in 1986. About 6 months after we started going out. You were 22 at the time – young and foolish and didn’t believe that serious training was something you to do at that age. You would run from your home to my apartment and you called it a training run. I think the very most you ran at once, before the race day, was 17 km.

You ran that race on guts and faith that you could do it. You even had a half descent time, considering the ‘effort’ you put into training. About 3:35 I think. You were so casual about the training, I didn’t think it would be big deal to bike home from the marathon after – so we brought our bikes. You didn’t think it was a big deal either.

Fran was visiting me that weekend in Ottawa and we navigated the streets of Ottawa to various spots throughout the course and cheered you on. We met you at the finish line at Carleton University with your bike to go home. You even tried to ride the bike – it was a no go. Your quads quit. You had to walk home (about 2 km) and push the bike!

You really did run that marathon on guts and faith. The marathon you are running now has a similar theme. You didn’t train much for this one either – not to recover from such a massive brain injury – but I know you will finish this challenge too … on sheer guts and faith.

Since then you have tried different training strategies with many different results. There was the:
- ‘Stay up all night and run 2 legs of the Cabot Trail Relay while nursing a cold, and then cough so bad that you vomit on the road’ strategy.
- ‘Get as many long runs in as possible within 2 weeks of the race’ strategy.
- ‘Eat NO carbohydrates for 2 weeks before a race – then 2 days before lots of carbs’ strategy.
- ‘Run in as many marathons in a row as you can (preferably every 2 weeks) – because you may get lucky’ strategy.
- ‘Run fast in the first half and ‘bank some time’ then slow down in the last half’ strategy.

Thankfully, the latest strategies that you got from a book seem to work. You researched the ideas and it worked for you in the Johnny Miles Marathon. And at Boston, you stumbled across a new one … start slow and your race will have very consist speed right to the end. You were the most proud of this tactic.

On Tuesday, I drove down with Karen, a friend from Tara and Quinn’s school and her husband, Hollis. Next Tuesday will make the 1-year anniversary of Hollis’ stroke. He has made a remarkable recovery. He had some speech and memory issues but he is still improving every day .

I got the sense from both Karen and Hollis, that Hollis’ determination to get better was a big part of his recovery. That stubborn streak can be a blessing at times like this. Karen did her best to maintain a positive attitude and that helped make a difference.

I asked Hollis if he had any memories of his stay at the QE2. He was there for about 6 weeks. He said no significant memories, just a few vivid pictures (like photographs). “It seems like it was yesterday, and yet it was a year ago”. He says. His first significant memories are of moving to the Rehabilitation Hospital. I suppose that is a good sign his brain was ready to move on to the next chapter and restore itself.

This knowledge comforts me a lot. Even after meeting Hollis of the first time – I wouldn’t know he had a stroke. He still feels the effects of the stroke, at times, but is learning to adapt. Recovery is part healing and part adapting.

Knowing that some memories will likely never return also gives me comfort. I cringe when I think of the three frightening hours you spent on the bathroom floor, conscious, wondering what had happened to your body – feeling helpless, scared and alone. I hope those memories are not written to your hard drive. They are best forgotten. The same applies to your few lucid moments in ICU when the intracranial pressure increased – that must have been the worst headache ever. I don’t want you remembering that.

I look forward to the day when you can remember things and start the new chapter of healing in this story.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful writing in such troubling times.
    Best wishes.