Sweetness

After days of watching TC in a state of extreme agitation, today was filled with some brief moments of sweetness and relief. When I arrived at the hospital this morning, TC was awake. Each day I tend to be surprised by how good TC looks physically. His left eye, which days ago was swollen and protruding from his eye socket, is now much healed. He still can’t open it and he is not yet alert enough for doctors to assess any type of vision impairment, but it certainly looks less painful. His head also looks much better. During the first few days of TC’s hospital stay, it was almost unbearable to look at his left side. His skull was stapled together, with a very large piece missing just above his left ear. This allowed the brain to swell as it needs to until the day doctors can replace the part of the skull that was removed. Now the staples that used to occupy both hemispheres of his brain are gone. Left behind are long scars that will likely be covered by TC’s hair after it grows back. In short, he is beginning to look more like my husband again.

The only aspect of his appearance that is still startling is the sunken part of his head where there is no skull bone. Once a swollen brain begins to heal, it actually sinks in like a small crater. TC is curious about his reflection, trying to pull his body up toward the mirror that faces his bed. Today we spent a few moments examining his new appearance. I quickly adopted the tone of a reassuring mother. “See? You don’t look so bad. You’ve been through a lot and you look so handsome to me.” While I’d like to think I eased some of his anxiety, I know that if the situation were reversed, I would have been freaking out in TC’s position. However, I’m also far more vain than TC is. And certainly more obsessed with my hair.

Despite his new mullet cut, TC handled his reflection better than I expected. In fact, he mostly just seemed grateful to have me there today. I cuddled next to him in his bed as he stroked my hair and I played some of our favorite songs on my iPhone. While listening to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” (which we walked down the aisle to), I began to lose it a little. Noticing my tears, TC’s eyes flickered with concern and he gently wiped my face dry. A moment later he began pushing his body to the side, trying to turn over. I assumed this was another attempt to escape from his bed, but he stopped short in his movement, turning over just enough so that he could give me a deep hug. 

In that moment I stopped worrying whether TC will ever be able to speak clearly again, or return to work, or take care of me in the ways that he used to. I recognized my husband in this mute stranger, felt his concern for me, and his love enveloped my fears. If I only get 50% of my husband back, it will be OK, I decided. It will be enough.

Affection was the theme of the day. From the way he kissed pictures of Jack over and over, to the way he shook hands firmly and lovingly with some of our closest friends who visited, the real TC was there. Present. Consistent. Authentic. I never doubted TC would still love me, but these snippets of intimacy were essential in restoring some of the strength and hope I will need as he begins rehabilitation.

In the next few days TC will be transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital across the street. He will spend weeks in intensive therapy as we try to get him functioning more independently. I know it will be a test of patience for everyone involved, but I pray that the stubbornness and determination that defined TC before will carry him through this challenging time. Thank you for continuing to keep us in your prayers and thoughts.

8 thoughts on “Sweetness

  1. Abby, you are so incredible. To face what you are facing with such strength and determination is inspiring. Jeff and I have been praying so hard for you, TC, and Jack. I truly believe God will heal TC, not 50%, but 100%. I know everyone has been sending you quotations and words of strength. Here is mine:

    “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones: and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”
    -Victor Hugo-

    Love and prayers,

    Jess, Jeff, and June Browne

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  2. Please know that not just your friends and family, but also many, many total strangers — neighbors like us that you've never even met — are pulling for you and praying for you. We follow TC's progress through your blog and cried with joy for you, TC and Jack on seeing this post. Thank you for allowing others in your community to receive these updates. We may not know you personally, but we truly do care.

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  3. Abby,
    I went to high school with one of your cousins. My family and I have been following your story and pray every day for TC, you, Jack, and your doctors and nurses. We are thrilled to hear of all the small triumphs that you have experienced. It reinforces for my 11 and 13 year old sons that prayer really does work.
    So as hard as we realize this blog must be for you, you are helping many of us rediscover our priorities. Thank you.
    Continuing to keep you in our prayers.

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  4. Your words mean so much to me, everyone. I gain strength from your love, concern, and faith. You give me the courage to write about this experience and the trust to share it with everyone. Thank you for reading.

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  5. Abby,

    We have also never met but like so many in our community, we are pulling for you, TC and your family and have checked back in on your blog for updates, smiling with relief and fighting back tears at the same time when we've read of his progress to date. Know that there are countless families on Capitol Hill who are with you in thought and spirit.

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  6. I am so happy to read your blog today! I am following your story through your cousin Erin. My 9 year old daughter and I continue to pray for TC, you and Jack every night. You have made our daily prayer intention list. May God continue to be with you on your journey.

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  7. Abby, we've never met, but I would imagine most of the people reading your awe-inspiring updates have never met you or TC or Jack. I just wanted to say that I have never seen a community come together as Capitol Hill has following this attack on TC, and around your shared process of slow, steady healing. This is not just any community. It's one filled with important people deciding big things for the country every day. These busy, often jaded, but passionate people – your neighbors – are rooting for your family so hard. We're crying with you, praying for you, thinking about you guys all the time. I'm not sure how aware you are of all this enormous positive energy and empathy. I'm sure I'm not the first to report on it, or even the 100th. But hospitals can be kind of a closed circuit experience. Out here on the Hill, it's truly inspiring to see this outpouring – especially for three people that so richly deserve it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We're behind you all the way.

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