So you’re probably wondering whether the story is over now. Well, fortunately for you but unfortunately for me, it’s not.
Once I was released home with the shunt in place, I was in a “wait and see” holding pattern. Sure, things were going really well immediately after the procedure but everyone, myself included, was curious what the following weeks and months would bring. Just as quickly as I had my cognitive functions restored, my life was placed back on hold some more. Nevertheless, I was not deterred and was prepared to move onward in this fight.
Good riddance to the powder I used to have to add to my liquids due to this cough thing I developed at some point. Goodbye Dr. Seuss, thanks for the memories! “Red fish, blue fish”– how about “no more fish”? And how could I forget to say goodbye and thanks for the torment from those daily quizzes about news stories I’d have to read and try to write about. It was all quite easy to push this off to the side and focus on getting back where I had left off.
There was plenty of stuff to do to occupy my time. I had to close the doors on certain things but also needed to regain my independence with various tasks. I knew that the road back would not be easy by any means, but I had to be optimistic and hopeful. I wanted so badly to return to Rhode Island and rejoin my classmates and be a 24-year-old kid again, but I grew up immensely in that two-month span. One thing at a time…
To start, the rehabilitation center wanted to see me again so they could conduct an independent evaluation and “close their file” on me if they determined there was nothing more for them to do.
For once, I was excited to go to rehab. I’m not typically one to boast, but I was chomping at the bit to go there as I continually recalled the conversations between the therapists and my family where it was doubted that I would ever recover.
I’ve said it a lot, and I’m saying it again – I knew all along that I was in there. So on the day that I returned to Gaylord, I could not wait to walk in there and show them the “real” me. When I stepped off the elevator, amidst the buzz in the common area with patients coming and going, I saw my speech pathologist wrapping up her session with a fellow speech therapy patient. When she saw me, she eagerly waved and indicated that she would be right with me. I raised my chin proudly and exclaimed, “Take your time, no problem!” Yea, this was going to be a great day.
During our one-on-one time, she asked the typical questions – this time however, I answered each with ease. Her face said it all. “Go ahead, pinch yourself” I felt like saying, “but this is no dream.” I proclaimed that a medical miracle had occurred. In all my years of living, I have never seen someone look at me in such awe. But that’s the reason I’m sharing my story – to exemplify the beauty and amazement of the brain. As I said a few paragraphs ago, my ability to recover was doubted. I have grown accustomed to hearing people doubt the ability of the human brain.
There was still one last thing she wanted me to do before signing off on my release from therapy. As part of my homework during the months of July and August, I had been keeping a folder of worksheets and journal entries detailing my daily activities to submit it to her (looking back on that folder now, it was full of nonsensical and illegible papers). This was her method of tracking my ability to find the words to express myself, but also to see where I was on a cognitive scale. I had become accustomed to hearing her say what the assignment was and then having forgotten it completely by the time I even arrived home. This time though, the assignment was to write the story of my recovery.
My eyes lit up and I said in my head “a ha! A theme!” Though I hate to borrow from “A Christmas Story” again, I must. I was having flashbacks of the many moments from the past two months, just as Ralphie had of Old Bart and his Red Ryder BB gun when Mrs. Shields asked her class to write “a theme – what I want for Christmas”. It’s sick, I know…but I love that movie! But I digress…
I could not wait to get writing. For the first time in a long time, letters had meaning to me again and the words just poured out onto that paper. The picture on the top was an assignment I completed prior to the surgery…the one below is my essay I wrote days surgery. Note the dates on each…
I couldn’t wait to hand-deliver it to her and when I did, she read it there and then. She smiled, shook her head in shock and awe and said there was nothing further for her to do.
Things went very similarly with the physical therapist. Not only did I regain my cognitive functions but I also regained strength on the right side of my body. The facial droop had diminished, my handwriting drastically improved, I was able to walk on the balance beam again and could lift the five-pound weight ball with my right arm.
Did I ever think I’d be freed from own brain? At times, no. But with hard work and persistence, the brain can adapt to any set of circumstances and overcome even the toughest of obstacles. Even still, while I was able to write a short story and converse, as well as use my mental energy to think, I needed to put all this to practical everyday use before I could even attempt to get back to law school.