When it all comes down
My stay in the rehab hospital became routine. Up at 8, breakfast, therapies until 3 with lunch somewhere in between, dinner at 6, asleep by 9. I went to sleep earlier toward the beginning of my stay and gradually began staying up later. At first, I would fall asleep on the shower bed during my shower. Those early days were the worst. I wasn’t able to sit up by myself and took showers on a vinyl lined bed. A tech would roll me onto a body lift and then position me on the shower bed. That was back when I couldn’t move my right side effectively at all. It was terrifying.
To help the tech who was showering me, I would grab the side of the shower bed with my left arm and pull my body as far as I could onto my right side so she could wash my back. My arm would be trembling and I would be exhausted after, and shivering, but I was determined to help. One evening, shortly before I was graduated to a shower chair, the helplessness of my situation hit me. This is humiliating, I thought, taking advantage of the water and using it to mask the pesky tears that began rolling down my cheeks. I would think that many times throughout my stay; I would just become far much better at controlling the annoying tears.
At first, I was in a wheelchair with a seatbelt and could recline it to take pressure off of my hindquarters. Then I was moved to a chair that didn’t recline, but still had the seatbelt. At first, people would look over my head as though I weren’t there. I wanted to shake those people and scream at them, I’m still in here! Don’t leave me like this! I simply didn’t realize that they were treating me the same as they treated anyone who wasn’t the person had come to see.
My favorite parts of each day were my speech sessions with Jessica (save for the fact that they were ungodly early), occupational therapy with Anna and Victor, and physical therapy with Danielle. So my primary therapies, basically. Jessica would make our sessions fun with speech oriented card games like Taboo. Games, first thing in the morning. It seemed appropriate since speech sessions began so early – why not have fun with it? She certainly helped me feel more comfortable with my new voice, which was a good deal higher. She had the best smile. It would immediately cheer me up, even if I’d just had a recurrence of part of my coma dream.
Anna was tough. OT sessions were something I looked forward to, though. I liked the challenge and how she would make me feel like I’d accomplished something huge even if I didn’t fully complete a task. Anna was the same age, which made me incredibly jealous for about an hour. That was around the extent of time before something that bothered me would be retained as fact. For the hour that I was jealous, it was because we were the same age, but she was lucky because she hadn’t had a stroke. It wouldn’t take long at all for her to become someone I looked up to and admired.
I admit that I was a tad terrified of Victor. My fault, not his. At one point, after the first wheelchair, he had to put a pen lock on my seatbelt. I’d decided that I didn’t need the seatbelt anymore and had begun taking it off. After the pen lock was added, I refused to leave my chair before checking to see if Victor was nearby. My PT at the following outpatient facility would occasionally playfully threaten to tell Victor if I tried to stand without supervision. It was a bizarrely effective joke.
I looked forward to sessions with Danielle most. She let me walk. Granted, it was with a lot of assistance and effort on her part, but it was still walking. I would come out of her sessions drenched in sweat and exuberant, and just a bit too tired to show it. She treated me as though I were completely normal, which meant more to me than I could express. At one point, I had a cast put on my right leg to help with the high amount of tone in my leg. It was nearing the end of my stay, closing in on the end of November, and she used green and red wrap for the cast, to make a Christmas themed candy cane. Her reaction when I blurted out my Jewish heritage was priceless.
These are a few of the people who shaped who I would become. I don’t think I could ever express how thankful I am, even though it was simply part of their daily to-do list. Truthfully, I haven’t changed a great deal, except that I now have no time and little patience for people I simply don’t like. I’m a bit more outspoken in some ways and more passive about things that don’t really matter. When it all comes down to it, I’m the same as before, just with drastic changes where changes came about. Some of those changes can’t be fully realized – only the ripples effecting other areas in me.