My Story - Tramatic Brain Injury
The car wreck was fatal. D.A. was dead (no blood pressure) when paramedics arrived on the freeway median. One pounded my chest (so hard he broke my sternum) and my heart started beating. D.A. was still dead. D.A 2 was alive in D.A. 1's body.
I was flown by helicoptor to E.R., where D.A. 2 was not expected to stay alive very long. I did. But I wouldn't come to. I had multiple hemmorrhages of my right brain. While I was in deep coma, my father learned I might not wake up, but if I did there was good chance of me being a paralyzed idiot.
However, I woke up from the 5 week coma and was able to talk--I talked in quotes from TV shows. My memory was only able to find reruns--shows I'd seen many times like Andy Griffith. I alluded to characters from shows, used catch-phrases and even referred to plots.
My left side was paralyzed, but I was not a total idiot. I just seemed like one to strangers.
Friends who knew what I was talking about understood me. The hospital personnel thought I was out of what was left of my mind. They'd ask a question and I'd respond in a seemingly nonsensical manner. If friends were there who had watched TV with me, they'd know instantly what I meant and that I was making a joke (I was a humor freak.)
That's all I did my first month after awakening--make jokes which alluded to TV shows. This was the only way I could communicate Most people use TV or movies to elucidate a point--"She loves her home like Tara." I used TV as my only source of description or meaning--the words would not come, only pictures in my head of TV sitcoms.
The Germans would have had a hard time breaking my code!
I went from I.C.U. to Stroke Rehab. I was in a daze (see Tunnel Vision). I was D.A. 2. For a month, I thought I had had a stroke. Told different many times, I would just forget and ask over and over "Why am I here?"
It was almost Thanksgiving and the doctors suggested a day trip home for the meal. I went happily. Seeing my family and friends in my house made things click in my head. I now understood and would remember what had happenned and was happening. I was now D.A. 3. (D.A. 1 with all of D.A.2's thoughts.)(See "Going Home" below.)
I am at the back of a long tunnel.
I see light at the other end.
It is an opening
I look at this opening and it gets bigger.
There is movement. There is sound.
The end of the tunnel has people in it.
They are looking directly into the tunnel.
Their mouths are moving. I hear sound. The faces are big now.
I hear sounds I do not understand. I somehow know these moving mouths want me to understand something. I listen carefully.
I make noise, too. Their lips pull into upturned arcs and shake at each other. I make more noise. And I listen. I should know what the sounds mean. I don't know why, I just should know.
I hear a noise. I turn the tunnel to the side. A mouth on that face just said "Popeye." I know it is a sailor who eats spinach. I am interested.
"Popeye?" It is a sound I made. The mouths on the faces are smiling. My mouth does the same. I now understand that this tunnel is my field of vision and the faces belong to people. I recognize the faces.
No names, no connections to events, these are just faces I have seen before. When? Somebody spoke. I know they're talking. I listen, understand, speak. I forget about my "When?" question.
That was 5 years ago. I had been in the "awake" phase of coma for a week--eyes open and speaking. But I have no memory of that first week post-coma. That is the tunnel I see the light at the end of here. They transferred me to Stroke Rehab.
I stayed in that tunnel for 3 years--able to communicate or do just one thing at a time--whatever was at the end of the tunnel got my attention.
I had no "mental peripheral vision". A lot of coma survivors stay in that tunnel. Any excess input confuses them and they can only do one thing at a time. And it better be only one thing. No baseball: stand here, look at the pitcher, hold your bat up, practice swing, watch his arm, follow the ball as it comes towards you, swing the bat to hit it, run to the white square up there before that man gets the ball. AARRGGHH!! We're still watching his arm.
I was 39 and unmarried. My only immediate family was my traveling evangelist father--he could not afford to stay home with me. We shared a duplex. None of my relatives close by were single. What to do with me?
My father looked into a nursing home. Friends who knew me well said "Ack! She'll never get better unless she's home." Two that were single offered to stay with me. One worked days, the other worked nights, so I would never be left alone.
They took me to physical therapy at the hospital. I was learning to walk with a quad cane. I had completed speech and occupational while still in hospital. I graduated PT when insurance ran out. Good. I hated it. I did more at home with my friends.
I received $110,000 in liability settlements and we moved from Springfield, Missouri to Belen (near Albuquerque), NM. The move was their way of alleviating my depression--I had planned to seek a Ph.D. at the UNM campus near there.
The New Mexico Nightmare
My friends got bored. They met people out there to move in with me (as I had all that money) to be my caregivers when they moved out. The new "caregivers" were unscrupulous people who "scruped" me out of all my money.
Friends from Springfield visited on 1-1-95. They found hypodermic syringes in a bathroom I never went in with the dregs of white powder in spoons. They whisked me away.
I spent a month in an Albuquerque hotel on my credit cards. (I had AAA credit prior to my wreck on 9-13-92.) My future was being pondered by relatives and friends. Nursing home again was my father's thought.
I was flown home in February, 1995. More hotels. I smoked. No relatives would take me as all are non-smokers. Another 2 months on credit cards. Then--freedom!
My cousin located an apartment with managers there all day. It had a pool, dishwashwer and a/c. She arranged for Meals on Wheels and a home health care facility to provide grooming, housecleaning (& laundry) and PT. I would be well taken care of--the kindness of strangers much better than that of "friends."
But I didn't like the idea of being alone. Except for the times the bad caregivers had left me alone with no food (I had lost 20 pounds) I had not been alone for almost 3 years. So I got one of those "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up" call devices for when I fell and couldn't get up.
It gave me confidence to live alone. I did fine. I would fall, but figured out a way to stand again using a sturdy chair. After 3 months I'd never used the "Help!" button, so I gave it up.
It has been over 2 years since I've lived here. Living alone has been the best mental therapy I have had. I HAVE to think, and think correctly, so I do. And it's given me confidence that I never had when living with "normal" people. Seeing their "normalcy" was just a reminder of my inadequacies.
The hotels and unscrupulous caregivers took their toll in my finances. I owed a lot more than I had in assets. I went bankrupt in July, 1997. Good riddance. No more credit--no more bills. I am happy. I get enough from SSDI. I am confident in my ability to survive--I am a severe traumatic brain injury survivor and thriver.
An example of my confidence--I now jump in the pool and swim one-armed across the deep end. In shallow, I do hand-stands! I plan to swim at the indoor pool this winter (1997). I'm going to walk with a regular cane someday!
Purple a.k.a. D.A.Watters © 1998
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