Living with a traumatic brain injury is pretty much equivalent to riding a roller coaster you’re strapped into for life. This week brought highs and lows for which we were not prepared. After four weeks of total insanity, we were all met with the inevitable breakdowns of which we had been warned. Mine started Wednesday night.
After the long evening in the ER, I arrived home around 2am. Five hours later it was time to wake up, feed Jack, and get him ready for the nanny. Unfortunately, we all woke up sick. Still wearing my clothes from the day before, I made a pitiful call to my mother and asked her to come up and watch Jack for the day. He was wheezing, coughing, and snotting all over the place. So were my sister and I.
I wasn’t surprised by this sudden sickness. Four weeks of minimal sleep, eating, and general self-care are a guaranteed recipe for illness. Add to that the intensity of our emotional stress and it’s surprising no one became sick sooner.
Two days later, we are beginning to emerge from the fog. Rehabilitation has been a tough transition for everyone. We were accustomed to the same nursing and medical staff and now there are new faces, new routines, and new challenges to overcome. I was overjoyed to walk into TC’s room yesterday and be able to have an understandable conversation. “Honey, you’re here!” he said, “And you look hot!” His speech was more clear than I had heard it before. “You look hot and look at me,” he said sadly. Dejectedly, he pointed to his tubes, hospital gown, and right side. For the most part TC is still unable to use his right arm. It really upsets him. Occasionally he will use his left arm to pick it up and try to move it, but I know he is worried the damage is permanent. A few days ago, a rather unprofessional staff member told him that he would never have use of his arm again. Although we don’t know whether that’s true or not, TC became totally panicked. Quickly he began doing the arm exercises taught to him by his occupational therapist. He is intent on remobilizing the right side of his body. I have faith that he will.
Because he is new to the rehabilitation hospital, he has days of assessment from each of the therapy teams ahead. They will gather together next week and try to determine how long TC will need to stay there. I am told to expect somewhere around 8 weeks. Trying to convey the purpose of these therapies to T is not easy. Each day he tells me is going home tomorrow and I am forced to gently remind him that his recovery will be a long haul. These conversations end in a lot of frustration. I know that as TC becomes more aware of the situation, he will be better able to accept the circumstances. For now, he is stubborn and fiercely independent.
He tries to do everything by himself, despite multiple reminders from every staff member. Last night I received a call at midnight that TC had been found on the floor next to his bed. He fell while trying to escape from his restraints to get out of bed. Naturally, I lost it. It is essential that TC wear a safety helmet while he is out of bed. He has to protect the part of his head where there is no skull. I imagined him falling on that delicate side and becoming concussed. Luckily, it seems he was unscathed.
Frustrated, loving, emotional, angry – TC has a full range of feelings that are explored throughout the day. Tomorrow will be his first reunion with Jack. I am praying it is restorative for both of them. I know TC will be difficult to recognize. I’ve been trying to take photos and videos that Jack can watch so that he will understand that the man in the wheelchair wearing a helmet is his father. I know it will be frustrating for TC not to be able to pick up or walk around with his very mobile toddler. They speak of each other all the time and miss each other on a level that I can’t fully grasp. Tomorrow will undoubtedly be emotional. I hope it will also be joyous.
Thank you for all the powerful comments you have been leaving. They make me want to hug every neighbor, every friend, and every stranger who has been with us on this journey. In the moments where the terribleness of the situation becomes overwhelming, this love has been a testament that from tragedy can come greatness. Thank you, thank you, thank you.