There is an emotional piece to TBI that consistently surprises me.
Our daily ritual is regimented by an alarm clock, Morning medication, breakfast, exercise sessions, lunch/nap, afternoon medication, exercise sessions, dinner, evening medication, spa sessions, replenishing supplies in the backpack/nap bag for the next day’s journey and finally bedtime medications. If Corey will cooperate, the minutes in between are utilized by me for household chores, returning phone calls, cooking and (if I’m very lucky) 5 minutes to sit down and unwind.
Despite our ritual, and her improved behavior, there are days her outbursts are unexpected and catch me off guard.
As Corey emerges, she is becoming more aware of her surroundings but the injury has erased the consistent familiarity of her world. Today she was very upset. It is a common occurrence to see several nurses and therapists that cared for her during her first stay in the halls and cafeteria. They are thrilled to see Corey and her progress. Most of them just want to hear her voice and interact with her. There are days these reunions are not welcomed by her. She doesn’t remember the hospital or the staff.
In addition to seeing “strangers”, some days she has difficulty strolling through the halls. Today is a good example. We take one path every day to see our therapists. We can be with Kate in Speech Therapy, leave her office using the same hallway we use multiple times per week/visit and Corey has no idea where she is. Furthermore, she often forgets I’m pushing her wheelchair and panics that she’s alone. She feels as if she is being driven into the abyss of strangers in an unfamiliar place. She screams out for me as she kicks and flails her arms. Our “friends” from the Maple unit and our current therapists are not surprised by her reaction but they are visibly saddened. Corey grabs my arm horrified, “I don’t remember people”!
I try to comfort her. “Today you don’t remember them, and that’s okay”. “Your memory is getting stronger and before you know it, you will be saying hello and telling me how to take short cuts through these halls”. Corey settled down but was not convinced.
Her panic is not reserved for public places. Tonight we walked from the family room into the kitchen. Corey needed to use her bathroom. She pointed to her left and confidently told me “the Dining Room is not over there”. Then pointing to her right; “it’s over there”. I congratulated her, “that’s right!” “Now what’s in this room”? She walked through the threshold of the renovated bathroom looked around and didn’t recognize where she was; “where is the washer and dryer”? She remembered the “old laundry room”. Once again, I am surprised; we have used this renovated bathroom every day for the last 18 months.
In addition to the day shifts, I have had the night shift for the last 9 nights due to the holiday. Sherice is our Thursday overnight nurse. I am currently in my room, looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. As I write this entry, I hear Corey calling for me from her room at the end of the hall. She is not going to sleep well tonight. Her cry reminds me of when she was a toddler learning to sleep in her own bed. Or the days I would drop her off at pre-school and she would cling to me so I wouldn’t leave. She is learning that she and I are separate people but the unfamiliar surroundings (even the room she’s slept in for the last 7 years) are so frightening to her she is in a state of panic.
It’s difficult to write when the tears blur your vision. It’s hard to breathe when the lump in your throat is stealing your breath. Music, earphones and the 2nd pillow over my head do not muffle the cries…for either of us. I know where I need to stay but my heart wants me to run towards the door. This is part of her recovery. My recovery must rely on a familiar mantra, “Matter of Time”
We survived this phase 17 years ago…we can do it again, xoxo