Much to my pleasure, my residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital was only temporary. The morning after watching the Home Run Derby, my parents were there to greet me as they had done for the past fifteen days and announced to me that I would be going home today. While waiting for the doctors and nurses to finalize the paperwork for my release and setting up follow-up appointments with my doctor, my parents began to engage in conversation with me. While I love to engage in conversation, it was embarrassing for me personally to have people talking to me, understanding every word that was being spoken but unable to verbalize a coherent response. In a quest to help me regain my memory, my dad asked me if I remembered what I did the night before. Well, the short version of the story was that I had no idea that I watched the Home Run Derby with him, nevermind the historic performance that lit up Yankee Stadium. I vividly recall the distinct look of sadness that overcame his face as he realized that this would be my life from now on.
With the paperwork in hand, I was wheeled out of my room and down the long corridor. I felt like a celebrity as all of my caregivers that strived so hard day in and day out to provide me a comfortable home said their goodbyes and well wishes to me. And at long last, there it was. My dad’s car….my ticket out of there.
Prior to that car ride, I had never realized the beauty of it all. The sky, the clouds, the trees and the grass. It was a dream come true. I knew where I was during the entire car ride home and as I approached my house, I knew that with one more right turn, I would heading down my street. Pulling into the driveway brought a tear to my eye, albeit a happy one. As I said before, I honestly never thought that I would see my home again or my dog Chip. But there it was and there he was, waiting for me to come into the house.
This was just the start to another chapter of a very long road ahead. Despite it all, I remained determined to regain my strength, cognitive skills and independence.
For me, I was Jean-Dominique Bauby, the main character in the “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” While I could not appreciate the analogy at the time, the speech and physical therapists that I worked with that summer compared me to Bauby when they told me I was locked-in. Five years later, I can say they were right. I was locked inside my body, unable to express myself or communicate. Yet, I was determined.
For the first few days of being home, I was as equally happy as I was frustrated. Two months previously, I was writing an appellate brief for my legal methods class and today, I was being shown flash cards with fishes and horses trying to name what I saw and I could not do it.
If nothing else, for the person who was just diagnosed, my words of advice are to stay determined and optimistic as you too will overcome and triumph. While I had days of misery and frustration, I can honestly say that I never lost the hope that I would be able to live my life the way I had envisioned. All you have to do is keep the faith.