The day of the phenol injections arrived quickly. I was helped onto a bed and wheeled downstairs to the surgery room. Adam, thankfully, insisted on going with me. I rolled onto my stomach when instructed to and focused on Adam’s face though the bed rails. I gripped tightly to his hand when they began the injections. It felt as though loosening my grip would allow it to hurt more, even though I already had diminished feeling in my right leg. The good part of that was knowing that my overall grip was still reasonable.
I forced a grin onto my face while I stared at Adam. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. I chanted it over and over in my head, frustrated with myself when tears snuck out and began to roll down my face. Adam leaned close to the bed and began to softly sing, I only want the things that matter / I only want the things that you can share / Don’t give me diamond rings / All those so called finer things / They don’t matter when they are not there. He sang some of my favorites, but two portions of two songs kept rolling through my head: Wake me up when it’s all over / When I’m wiser and I’m older / All this time I was finding myself / And I / Didn’t know I was lost and Summer has come and passed / The innocent can never last / Wake me up / When September ends.
At the end of what seemed like a year, I was helped to a wheelchair and rolled to the patient gym. I was strapped into the Bioness Vector harness and helped by Danielle and Adam to walk around the gym while my neurologist, who’d done the injections, watched. In the end it was decided that I would need another round of injections on Thursday.
Three weeks into my stay in npatient, I wrestled my cell phone into my left hand and tapped out a text with my thumb to Adam#2. The response, “Dude wtf”, was quick and familiar. I knew then that it would take a long time for my hands to respond as well as they used to. It was reassuring to talk to him – I didn’t know then that he would become one of the few people who treated me the same as before the stroke, who I could send a random ‘How’s it going?’ to whenever I’d need to feel completely normal for just a minute. Just like how the other changes in my life would be determined so suddenly, I would suddenly came to depend heavily on him, and, just as stubbornly as suddenly, never tell him.
It took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that my hands didn’t work the way they were supposed to. Not only had my right side been taken away from me, but my left side had extreme ataxia – ‘old person shakes’, as one patient described it – as well. It would improve, though at a frustratingly slow rate, over time, just like everything else.
It would also take a long time to get past the strange feeling that I had been born in the rehab hospital, at the age of twenty-four, with a lifetime of someone else’s memories implanted in my brain. At night I would scroll through those memories and think about how much I disliked the girl who owned those memories, but felt deeply saddened and sympathetic to some of the more difficult choices she had to make. Summarized, I hated that mental movie.
Adam eventually coaxed me into nightly ‘homework’, where he would set my laptop on my lap tray and set up Luminosity and a math program for me to work on. We didn’t know what my new deficits would be, so we started at first grade math and worked up from there. During the last week of my stay, I had three hours worth of cognitive testing done to determine my weakest areas. I scored devastatingly average in all areas, save for attention/memory and math/reasoning. I had always been proud of my higher than average intelligence. It would take months to understand that I would just need to relearn the book knowledge portions of what I had lost – not that I was actually any less intelligent.
Early on I had some weird ‘waking dreams’ where I wouldn’t be able to tell when a dream would begin or end. One night, while Mimzy (Adam’s mother) sat with me, I slipped into one of those dreams. Adam had left for the day and Mimzy had come to visit with me that evening. She left at the end of visiting hours and Adam was to return for the night later on, though to me, Mimzy left for the night and I received a phone call shortly after that Adam had been in a devastating accident and had passed away in the car crash on his way back to see me.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. Mercy, one of the techs for my floor, popped in to remind me to eat dinner. She helped me into my wheelchair and set me up in front of my dinner tray.
Before she left, she popped her head back in the doorway, “What’s wrong?”
“Adam was in a wreck,” I couldn’t get the rest of the words out.
Mercy pursed her lips and nodded before asking if I wanted anything and stepping out. I shook my head and turned to my food, which had somehow become disgusting and unappealing. I set a fork full of meat back on my plate and lowered my head as tearless sobs shook me. I forced down four bites and wheeled myself to the hallway to ask Mercy to help me to bed.
A short while later, I heard Adam’s voice and Mercy’s very confused voice in the hallway. I don’t remember if I explained what had happened, but I felt horrible for causing unnecessary concern. If only my brain would work properly! I got great sleep that night though.