It was one month ago today that I fell and hurt myself on an early morning walk. I've had a number of folks ask me why I haven't blogged about this when I manage to blog about so many silly things. The answer is simple: I wanted to make sure it wouldn't come off sounding like a cry for attention - not that I haven't had a human moment or two when that wasn't nice, of course.
Once Henry and I felt confident that neither my life nor the long-term quality of my life were in danger, I became much less interested in being fussed over than in observing and noting some of the strange and interesting things that have happened and continue to happen in my recovery. That's what I have wanted this post to be about, and that's what it will be about.
Granted, the "interesting" part of that will be in the eye of the beholder, and it will not bother me in the least if you read this far and go on to something else, or if you read the whole thing and don't comment. I'm doing this as a record for myself, because for me this injury has changed some very fundamental things about how I maneuver through life, at least for now.
For those who may be late to this party, I wound up with a concussion and two acute subdural hematomas after my fall: one a coup injury (where my head hit the pavement/curb/whatever on the right side); the other a contrecoup injury (where the force of the coup injury jostled my brain sufficiently to cause it to collide with my skull on the left side). As these sorts of injuries go, mine were low on the scale of severity, but this has not meant that I have not had to be patient while my brain healed, or that I have escaped unscathed. A CT scan done several days after my accident as a follow-up to the initial CT scan showed that the contrecoup injury has resolved just fine; the bleed from the coup injury had not (although it was not actively bleeding), and an area of swelling had developed around it (which is, as far as I can tell, a natural and not wholly unwelcome development, although it adds another temporary glitch to the brain get-a-long).
I have what I hope will be my final appointment with the neurosurgeon tomorrow morning, at which I fully expect to be cleared to resume all normal physical activities.
In the meantime, though, I decided I would use this forum to answer the questions I have fielded most often, and to update you on exactly where my head is right now. (Yes, it's okay to laugh. In fact, I insist.)
Q: What made you fall?
A: My feet. I gee'd when I oughta have hawed.
Q: Did you black out?
A: I don't know. I swore not, but the neurosurgeon's notes say "high probability for loss of consciousness." I mean, how in the heck would I even know?
Q: What was the freakiest moment?
A: It was when Margaret Borders found me in the road. I was sort of zig-zagging into the middle of it, and she thought I had been shot in the head. She stopped and jumped out of her car, and I looked at her and knew I knew her, but could not figure out who in the heck she was. I don't mean I couldn't call her name -- there was just a connection there I was incapable of making. I have since learned that the location of my coup injury -- the right temporal lobe - often causes a condition called prosopagnosia (face blindness). Thankfully, in my case it was very temporary (if that is indeed what it was).
Q: Why weren't you in the hospital longer?
A: The neurosurgeon wanted me to stay at least an additional night; I refused. I knew I was very close to the hospital, felt a whole lot better, and wanted to go home. Obviously, that decision was okay and nothing bad came of it, but I also recognize that it could have landed me in a whole mess of trouble.
Q: Don't you just feel blessed?
A: No. I feel lucky. I don't require favors from God to feel blessed. To believe I was somehow especially blessed in this circumstance necessarily brings with it an air of arrogance and a sense of pious entitlement that I neither possess nor deserve. I feel secure in the knowledge that God loves me even when I am at my worst, and trust me, that is as blessed as I ever need to feel, and it is a blessing in which each of us shares equally.
Q: Are you okay now?
A. Physically, yes. I continue to have some cognitive and speech difficulties. I am easily overwhelmed by visual/audio stimulation which makes me feel confused and unable to make decisions. For instance, Henry and I took a run to Publix yesterday afternoon. I was using it as a test to see if I were up to a solo trip there after having done nothing but short little runs to the much smaller Super Foods since I was cleared to drive. It quickly became apparent that I was not ready to do this on my own. I froze in the ethnic food aisle, for goodness' sake, "stuck" because not only could I not decide what brand of black beans was the better buy, but because I was aware there was criteria I was supposed to use to make this decision that I could not remember. Henry was off looking for horseradish or something equally mysterious, but when he discovered me there -- in a total fog, in a near panic, and unable to complete a sentence, he never left my side again. My speech troubles are sporadic, and arise when I am tired, or overwhelmed, or nervous, and consist of stumbling over words, and stammering, and repeating a word/phrase several times before I am able to move on.
Q: Oh, my goodness. Is this going to last forever?
A: I don't know. I don't know if the neurosurgeon will be able to tell me. What I do know is that I am finding ways daily to adapt, to understand, and to compensate in case they do.
Q: What about the dizziness and walking stuff?
A: The episodes of dizziness have dropped off so sharply they aren't even daily occurrences, and when they do happen they are very brief and I have no trouble covering for them. I am sometimes aware that my gait doesn't feel natural, but I am as certain as I know the sun comes up tomorrow that when I am cleared to begin my walking regimen again my body will remember how I used to walk, and retrain itself. In the meantime, it's not a life-altering thing.
Q: What is hardest for you?
A: Right now? It's realizing that most people don't have any reason to realize something is not exactly right, since I appear to be just fine. I have found myself occasionally feeling quite alone realizing that things are not exactly right. I don't like to whine (although I am awfully good at it when I do), nobody likes to listen to a whiner, and I want this to all be distant memory, and I know that most likely it will be a distant memory in time. It's that patience thing with which I struggle most! (Well, that and being unable to remember to turn the stove off. Thank goodness for Post-It notes!)
That's pretty much the list of questions, and the best answers I can give. It is my fondest wish that I'll come back and read this post in a couple months and have this all be ancient history. I have faith that it will be -- and confidence that if it is not I will have integrated the "new normal" so seamlessly I won't even think about it any more.
Two things, two persistent thoughts I want to share, though, before I close this chapter:
First, the strangest coincidence is that my arthritis had been relatively quiet for about a week before this accident. My fingers and hands ached, but weren't painful, so I had left off taking my aspirin. It did not take me long to realize that had this not been the case I might well have been in much, much worse shape.
Second, one of the strangest realizations I have had was when I was contemplating how I would explain here the lingering cognitive issues I'm having, and it occurred to me that generally we don't have to think about how to think, but when I'm in the fog every step of the thought process becomes a decision I have to make. I don't know how to explain it any other way -- and I'm tired of thinking about it!
Anyway, if you have gotten this far it means you are one of those folks who may have held me up in prayer (for which I thank you a million times over) or that you are just bored and vaguely interested (in which case you're visiting territory I live in a whole lot!). If you are inclined to continue prayers for me I won't turn them down, but I would ask that you send a few Henry's way - this has been very difficult for him, too.
I appreciate the opportunity this has given me to "celebrate" this strange anniversary -- and it will be the last time I write about it, and this is the sum total of my new wisdom:
Life is tough. I recommend getting a manicure and a really cute helmet.