Looking over our recovery updates, it struck me yesterday that I have yet to share about my early days of consciousness back in the hospital. Ivan did a beautiful job giving you all the big picture of what we were going through each day, but my first-person “waking up experience” was such a bizarre mix of reality, fantasy, and every shade in between, that it is worth trying to capture…at least in part. 🙂
My first conscious memory is of staring up at the ceiling (I thought I had been taking a nap at home), and gradually realizing that it was NOT our apartment ceiling. In fact, the lights and beeping machines around me made it look a lot like a hospital, except that I couldn’t figure out why I would be at a hospital. I slowly rotated my head, and Ivan’s face came into focus, right next to mine. “Where am I?” I asked. “You’re in the hospital. You’ve been in an accident, but you’re going to be ok.” And then everything faded away again. I now know that this would have happened as I was waking up from the coma…and that apparently this happened several times, since I was confused every time I woke up.
Medication plays a giant part in my hospital memories..and lack of memories too! I was on such heavy narcotics that I remember very little of my actual days there, and the memories I do have are laced with hallucinations. For example, for a while I was convinced that I had gone to London, stayed in a Harry Potter hospital there, and developed an allergy to magical owls. I also thought an owl was living in a corner of my hospital room as a service animal. I kept asking people to get rid of it since I thought I was allergic…it turns out that my “allergy”symptoms were actually because I had a nasogastric tube at that point.
And then there’s Ivan..poor Ivan! He faithfully slept in my room every night once I was moved to Kaiser Fontana and was conscious. I loved him and always wanted him during the day, but when I was awake at night I found myself “transported” to bizarre settings (a church basement, a restaurant, a tea house…) where he had taken me out of the hospital and had either abandoned me without help or had fallen asleep or was awake but was blatantly ignoring me. I would get extremely angry and frustrated at Ivan for being so unkind and beg to be taken back to hospital, but to no avail -the other characters in these wild scenes (most likely “transformed” hospital staff) kept telling me that I was at the hospital, even though I knew for sure that I wasn’t. There also was at least one occasion where a night nurse caught me trying to throw a pillow at him with my “good hand” while he slept. Yikes.
There were many more outlandish medicine-induced “experiences” my brain concocted, but I will spare y’all those and move on to more of the real stuff!
My next “real” memory is of laying in bed, once again with Ivan sitting close by. He asked me if I wanted glasses, and I was shocked….I have glasses?? When he handed them to me, I didn’t recognize them at all, and thought he must have bought me some new ones (the truth is, they were the same ones I’ve had for the last three years).
And now the memories get a little clearer… probably because I was wearing glasses! 🙂 It took a long time for me to discover the nature and extent of my injuries (at that time I couldn’t move my body independently at all). It took me a long time to understand that both my knees were broken, since they weren’t in casts, and even longer to understand that I had had surgery on both of them (“Why are people always coming in and looking at my legs??”), but the real shocker came when I overheard Ivan talking to a doctor about a stroke. Immediately I got worried, wondering who of our friends or family had one. “Who had a stroke??” I asked. “You did, my love. Actually, you had two of them.” It took a long time for me to process that. I thought strokes were only for the elderly, and I didn’t understand how I could have had one at the tender age of 23, much less two of them. But at least it did begin to make much more sense as to why I couldn’t move or feel much of the left side of my body!
These are just a few of literally dozens of mental snapshots from those strange days, but I’ll end with a sweet one. When I woke up, I was in so much pain that the nurses recommended trying to distract me from it since even the narcotics weren’t always enough to keep it manageable. I have several memories of Ivan sitting next to me and reading…sometimes I think it was the Bible, and other times probably a story from a book, although I don’t remember what story it was. But I do remember the comfort of knowing he was close, the relief of giving my mind something to do other than focus on the pain…and most of all how kind and sweet and soothing his voice sounded. ❤