A long day at work today after having three weeks off… then to the hospital. I remember this grueling schedule…working all day then camping at the hospital. It’s funny how these things come flooding back in your memory like it was yesterday. Louise even has familiar brain injured behaviors very similar to Bills, such as trying to get out of her bed and pulling all wires and monitors off. The difference is that Bill was strong enough to actually get loose even from his wrist, ankle, and chest restraints that tied him to the bed. He was able to remove heart monitors, IV’s, oxygen tubes and make it out of the bed before anyone knew what was happening. It caused quite a commotion in the ICU, let me tell you.
Louise is far easier to get back in bed, and some brilliant person invented bed alarms sometime in the past 25 years, which means as soon as she sits up the nurses know it. The blank confused look in her eyes is the same. The grabbing at tubes because she cannot understand what has happened and why all these wires hamper her is so familiar to me, even as I tell her she cannot unplug herself. The bright spot is that after an entire day of trying unsuccessfully to get a verbal response, the nurse was pulling Louise’s hand away from the oxygen monitor that she was attempting to disconnect, when, clear as day, Louise said, “Let go of my hand!” That has been her only verbal communication, but it was full of all the spunk that makes her who she is. It made us all smile for a moment or two, because it was evidence that she is still in there.
Tonight they brought her puréed chicken, potatoes and chocolate pudding. I watched my husband feed his mother, wiping her chin when she could not hold the food in her mouth. It was a tender and sweet moment to see, even with the tears that welled up in my eyes. He found that somehow, the chocolate pudding stayed in longer, (Louise has always had a sweet tooth) and a few mouthfuls made it down the throat. It reminded me of feeding Bill English peas in the hospital all those years ago. (Except he spit them back at me…no more peas for him, ever!) Next, she sipped iced tea through a straw…another major accomplishment for the day. Once she took some nourishment, they moved her to a regular room. Doesn’t seem to matter that we don’t really know yet what happened to her. All of the tests she has had so far have come back negative, and she seems somewhat stable. They finally were able to get an MRI today after three tries (being still that long was an issue) but it was after 5:00 so the results won’t be back until tomorrow. We expect tomorrow they will fill us in on everything they have done so far and hopefully offer some explanation and maybe a prognosis. My guess, from my experience with neurologists, is they will say “we’re not sure” and “time will tell.” I have always thought I could be one because it is the only thing they say in brain trauma cases.
I had my own moment with Louise once she got moved. I noticed her hands were moving around and I was checking her to make sure she wasn’t pulling out any tubes under her blanket. When she felt my hands on hers, she opened her eyes wide and looked at me right in the eye. I saw her recognize me. Then a big smile broke out over her face. I stood there, fixed in her gaze knowing that she was communicating in the only way she could. She knew me for an instant, then faded back to a blank stare. I have said I have learned to cherish every moment since cancer, and this was one moment I will remember for a very long time.

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