On the 1st year anniversary of my second life, I wonder where am I now? I still feel lost. A year ago, I remember standing in our living room, turning to my husband to ask a question, and then face planting on our tile floor.
Days later, I woke up in a hospital thrashing against my bed rail and shrieking “Let me out! What am I doing here?”
My head hurt, my face hurt, my right side hurt. One side of my head was shaved. I reached up and traced the scar dissecting my skull from my forehead to my earlobe.
On the telephone, my husband tried to explain why my head was sliced open in a 5 hour surgery and why no one, not even him, was allowed to visit me due to the COVID pandemic.
And so began a long year filled with fear, self-doubt and hopelessness.
Recovery required a team effort - a neurologist, physical therapist, speech therapist, neuropsychiatrist, rheumatologist, chiropractor and psychiatrist.
But my front line family care team kept me going day to day.
At the same time 4,000 miles away, my 89-year-old dad fought a daily battle to keep moving.
Recently, he was released from the hospital after a series of health crises that created the perfect storm. Wearing a special therapeutic boot for an infected toe, he walked off balance, leading to sciatica. Unable to sleep due to excruciating pain, the combination of pain meds and lack of sleep led to hallucinations.
I relived my accident in hearing about his. Ever the coach, in his delusions, he called out, “Keep hustling team!” And shot a wadded up pillow at a wastebasket. Ever the athlete, in mine, I blamed the nurses for hiding my basketball shoes and stealing my uniform making late for the big game.
With my daughter, nieces, siblings and dear mom, helping him regain mobility and self care, my determined dad learned how to push out of his chair and walk unassisted again. Just like I once I relearned how to tie my shoes, grasp utensils, and button my shirt.
When I got out of hospital, I couldn't walk 60 yards without sitting down, now I walk 6 miles a day.
At first, I was so frustrated. I couldn’t grip my guitar and play chords with my left hand. My left arm hung limp like dead weight. Then Gerald told me about Melody Gardot, an American jazz singer, who was hit by a car while riding her bike at age 19.
She suffered severe brain injury, broke her back and pelvis and could no longer sit to play the piano, so she taught herself to play guitar lying in her hospital bed. Like me, hypersensitive to light, Gardot, still wears dark glasses too.
Without a voice, no longer able to sing, she hummed. Unable to remember words, she wrote them down. Eventually she composed and performed again.
After my accident, intubation during surgery and hours with a speech therapist, my voice was a whisper. On long distance phone calls, I asked my daughter to sing with me like she did when she was a child.
Inspired by Gardot’s story I picked up my old guitar, practiced in 5, 10, 15 minutes increments and hummed too. I dreamed of being able to strum and sing around a campfire with family this summer at Summit Lake.
Thinking about my dad and remembering my own accident, I am reminded of our vulnerability. No one knows how much time we have left. Or how long we will retain our capabilities.
The human condition is humbling.
Life offers no guarantees. Will I ever recover completely? Maybe not.
I may never drive again or ride a bike, but I can still play a song, type a blog, read a book, walk a mile and cherish a new day.