Monday, December 13, 2010
Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury - Part 3 of "In His Arms"
Part 3 – Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Heart Injury
The first three days in the hospital went in slow motion for me. I walked through antiseptic jello, trying to comprehend what each doctor and nurse said. I think the moment that jarred me into reality was the moment on the second night that our nurse gave me some pamphlets entitled “Traumatic Brain Injuries.”
She gave me a look of pity and said, “It’s important to prepare yourself, Robbie.”
Lory stood beside me as this happened. When the nurse left, Lory suggested I look through them briefly and then put them away.
I now know that many folks who suffer a severe traumatic brain injury are changed forever. Their personality is different and depending on the person and the circumstances, life is never the same.
I saw a changed John the first few days in the ICU. When he did wake up for a couple of seconds at a time, he would often be angry and try to get up and pull out wires. His eyes were wild and crazed, like someone other than my husband. The doctors decided to put him in restraints. It was heart breaking to see him restrained in his bed like he was in some looney bin. But I understood. The man in that bed wanted to escape and in the process, possibly hurt himself or someone else.
Two moments gave me hope. The first one happened on day four when John was still on the ventilator. I was told they were going to extubate him that morning but after the rounds, the doctors decided he just wasn’t ready. Exhaustion, stress and disappointment exploded in me and I lost it. I left the hospital to have lunch with my friend Kay who often came and visited me.
When I came back, John was in his bed with no ventilator. I asked what happened, and a very upset nurse told me John had ripped out the ventilator. He extubated himself which is very dangerous. I laughed. The nurse told me again that he was lucky to be alive and he shouldn’t have done it. I laughed louder. To me, this was a sure sign that my warrior husband was still in there, craving his independence. He knew he didn’t need the ventilator and he was right. When I asked the nurse how he managed to do this while he was restrained she simply said, “I have no idea.”
She left the room as I howled in laughter.
The other moment that brought me hope and joy was on day eight. The night before, John's mother JoJo and I were discussing John’s progress. I told her that when John woke up he was either really angry or really funny. I told her I was praying that John would wake up as a gentle John.
The one that would look at me and smile and say “Hi sweetie” and melt my heart.
On day eight, JoJo and I walked up to John’s bed and said “Good morning, John.” He opened his eyes, smiled at me and said “Hi sweetie.” And then he went back to sleep. God answered my prayer.
I doubled over, crying. Hope for normalcy when abnormal circumstances prevail is a tremendous emotion.
As John was dealing with his severe traumatic brain injury, I was dealing with my own trauma. Was I going to have to get a job and support us? Was John going to be a different person? What did our future look like? These thoughts bombarded me.
But trauma came in another way, too. Have you ever been rear-ended in a car? I have and it feels jarring. After the hit, you think practically. Where is the insurance card? Do I need to call someone? Is everyone okay in their car?
Later on, the shock of the rear-ending descends and it’s as if your entire body starts reverberating with that one moment you endured.
My heart trauma worked that way. At first I was emotional, but extremely practical, thinking about what needed to be done. The reverberation of John’s accident would begin in me, months later in May, and it would take a little over a year for me to recover. (More about that later.)
Come back Wednesday when I share “Noah and his Dad.”