Before beginning to read this piece you should know that it includes some words which in years past my family and friends were not accustomed to hearing from me. I do believe they properly represent the message of the piece.
Lori, my wife, and I came home early from visiting my brother and relatives in Salesville, Arkansas to get to an appointment with a neurologist. This doctor had not seen me before. It was my understanding that he was one of the few medical people who could examine me and decide whether the motor vehicle prohibition could be lifted or if indeed I needed to be prevented from joining the public masses on the motorized roadways.
We had some casual conversation, he and I, and then he asked me a couple of rather pointed questions.
“Do you know what day it is?”
“Yes, of course. Today is Tuesday, 3 September.”
“Do you know what city you’re in?”
“Let’s see. We crossed the state line so your office must be located in Kansas City, Missouri. I’d say we’re in Kansas City, Missouri.”
I do understand that those really basic questions had to be asked to determine whether I was completely out of touch with reality, but even that realization causes one to lift his eyebrows as the questions took place after a few minutes of casual conversation. I expected some more questions, possibly increasing in complexity to determine just how far displaced from reality my perception was. He did ask me a couple. He told me three unrelated words and then asked me a few sentences later if I remembered them. I did.
Then he asked me, “Have you noticed that when someone tells you something a little sad that you have a tendency to cry?”
“Well, yes, I’m a little more emotional than I used to be.”
“Well I have some samples and I can write you a prescription for something that will take the edge off for you.”
“I’m not interested in any more medication.”
“That’s because you’re not capable of understanding what you need.”
We had a short conversation during which he asked me to explain why I had stopped taking the Prozac that another doctor had prescribed. After that conversation I told him once more that I wasn’t interested in any more medication. He retorted again that I wasn’t capable of understanding what I really need and then began talking to Lori instead of to me.
He handed Lori the bag with sample pills. He explained that I should take two pills per day for the first two weeks and one pill per day after that. He commented to me that these pills would possibly help me get back the privilege of driving.
As he left the room, I told my wife to fire this doctor. I used one and possibly a second word that should not be used in public professional conversation.
On the way home she snatched the bag out of my hand to stop me from tossing it out the car window.
Interestingly enough, about six days later I received a call from my neurosurgeon’s office saying they had reviewed the neuro-psychologist’s report and they saw no reason I should any longer be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. I cried.
Interestingly, the psychologist’s report they reviewed was from seventeen days earlier. If you’re doing the math that means the test and interview with the psychologist was fully ten days before the neurologist wanted to put me on mind altering medication and threatened by implication that I would need to follow his recommendation to be re-allowed the privilege to drive.
Here’s where I am. I have a large gap in my memory from just before the incident resulting in brain injuries until at least two and a half weeks later. I do struggle with short term memory and most especially with losing words and names during my attempts to communicate. I am an asshole. I’ve always been an asshole, but it’s a little easier to determine these days. I am, if you can believe it, one of the kindest and most generous assholes you’d ever want to meet. I’m still working on dealing with life as it occurs, but what it takes for me to improve in that effort is more attention and work, not necessarily medication to alter how my mind works.
I truly don’t like mind altering medication. I don’t even like the few times I’ve been required to use morphine. I do understand that I needed to have it in me as I could not have otherwise endured the pain, but I don’t like what it did to my mind and memory.
I don’t like doctors who are so wrapped up in their own agenda that they couldn’t possibly care about the patient’s perspective or how their agenda would alter what the patient desires. Honestly I really don’t like most doctors. I have a couple of doctors whom I trust and at least one that I love dearly, and I am deeply grateful for what the medical community has been able to do for me. Mostly I appreciate the nurses at least as much and maybe more than most doctors.
I said I had no recollection of the two and a half weeks beginning with just before the incident occurrence. That’s not entirely correct. I do have two very short memories. One is from what I believe to be the wee morning hours of 23 May or the waning hours of 22 May. The occurrences surrounding the memory have been related to me by Lori whose memory is much better than my own.
Mama had been sitting with me in the CCU hospital room through the evening. Somewhere near the end of the day she was repeatedly putting the oxygen mask on my face after I’d pulled it off and taken measures several times to keep me in the bed. My legs didn’t work. Both my knees were shot. My mouth was recently reconstructed and in need of being left alone to allow the stitching to heal. My mind simply was not working.
Sometime late in the evening I angrily told the one who loves me most, “Why don’t you just go home and leave me alone. You’re only stopping me from what I want to do.”
She cried all the way home. On her way off the wing she alerted the nurses that I was trying to get out of bed. They assured her that the alarm on the bed would let them know as soon as I had shifted and they would keep a close watch on me. I had been moved to the room directly next to the nurses’ station for that specific purpose. In the early hours of the morning Lori got a call from the female nurse explaining that she had not wanted to make this call, but her husband had gotten out of bed.
What I do remember is being on the floor with my face slipping around in what seemed to be a pool of blood. There was a male standing directly over me and putting his hands on me. There was a female, it seems she was younger, also in the room. He was not happy and was instructing me in a loud voice.
“Stay down. Why don’t you just stay down!?”
“No. It’s alright. I’ve got this.”
Obviously no matter how I tried I could not get up. I think someone was very much concerned about getting into trouble as a result of that event. I do remember that I was in a hotel room in Washington and couldn’t understand what those people were doing in my room.
I am better today than I was just a few weeks ago. I am still struggling to some degree with the process of dealing with life as it happens. I do find the struggle part of the efforts to be reducing as time goes by. I cry very easily. I use the word love much more than I did before. I’m impulsive. If you needed it, I would give you my left arm in a heartbeat. I’m not inclined to take any crap off anyone and I have a very low tolerance for pretending that stupidity makes sense and no patience at all for deceit. You will find me to be one of the most forgiving people you’ll ever meet unless you treat me with disrespect. I’m still working on that.
So that’s what’s going on in my world. I am not taking any drugs intended to alter one’s state of mind. I still do not drink alcohol and don’t smoke anything at all. I do not watch my mouth as much as some would prefer I do.
I’m really pretty satisfied with who I am and as time goes by I am more and more accepting the wisdom and insight of the last thing my friend, Jodi, said to me. What she said was, “Carl I don’t think you’re hurt nearly as badly as you let people think you are. I think you’re milking this for all you can get out of it.”
I love Jodi and I believe she is smarter than a lot of people who are getting paid a lot of money to determine where I am on the road to recovery.
In most ways I am getting better every day. That progress is not due primarily to my efforts but to the grace that has been freely given me. I expect sometime in the near future (near is a relative term, isn’t it?) I will be out from under the direct influence of the injuries my brain has sustained. Some differences will certainly remain as we are all finally an accumulation of our life’s experiences with the most catastrophic of those experiences certainly resulting in the most change. Recently Lori said to me, “I’ll be glad when this is all over and we can go back to normal.”
“Don’t you bet on it,” I replied. “I may have gotten used to some of this and may just keep those things even after the healing is complete.”
As you read this you do need to know that it is only my own recollection of events. Some of the details are seen very differently by other involved parties.
Fortunately I am at an age at which we cannot be certain which of the issues are age related and which are injury related.
You all take care; enjoy life; and I’ll hope to see you somewhere down the road.