Friday, September 16, 2011

You'll have to forgive me while I get serious a little.

One of my friends on Facebook- and I count this person as a real friend because we've met in real life then "friended" on Facebook- posted this video of Jill Bolte Taylor. The summary of the video is this: "Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness -- shut down one by one. An astonishing story."

Its about 19ish minutes long, but it is well worth watching. I ended up crying more than once- because I was pissed off at her for making it sound so wonderful and because some of what she said is so true, even for Jerry now. Yes, yes, I know I usually call him the Disabled Guy, but up till that day in 1995, he was Jerry and that's what I'm going to call him right now.

Jerry didn't have any kind of enlightenment or any kind of amazing recovery. He doesn't remember our kids' births. He only knows we're married because he's seen the photos but doesn't remember our wedding, and has very little memory from the few months leading up to the stroke itself and doesn't even remember the two weeks he spent in the ICU in the hospital in Maryland (we lived in Georgia, after the Army, he became an over-the-road trucker).

The only reason I know what happened to him when he had the stroke was because I had to go to the company where he was when he had it to unload his personal belongings from his semi-truck. The guy who was with him told me that they were unloading the trailer together, talking about normal, every day stuff when Jerry staggered, dropped the box he was holding and started to fall. And this guy- who had just met him an hour or two before- caught him and kept him from hitting the metal floor of the trailer. They thought he was maybe diabetic or even a drug addict, they didn't know. And I got a call from the trucking company that no wife ever wants to get. (believe me, when I met that man and spoke with him, I thanked him. By catching him, he saved Jerry from further and serious injury).

I made the trip from Savannah, Georgia to a suburb of DC called Laurel, Maryland in two hours less time than the trucking company told me it would take. When we got there, he was in and out of consciousness, unable to talk, unable to express himself, and he looked absolutely shocked every time I walked into the room.

He has no memory of any of this. He doesn’t remember unloading that truck, he doesn’t remember collapsing or even having that big guy with the weight belt catch him. He doesn’t remember the doctors asking him questions that he obviously could not answer. All he knew was that they needed to call me and I needed to be there. Except he didn’t know he was nine hours away from where we lived at the time and he didn’t know that they HAD called me or that I’d stopped twice along the way to call them and get an update (this was in the day before everyone had a cell phone).

I’ve already shared with you the very first conversation we had. And I always try to keep this blog light and funny, because some of the stuff he does say is quite funny. But there was nothing he could do about what happened to him. And there’s nothing he can tell me about what happened to him. All we know is that he had a plain, old-fashioned stroke that should have killed him. But it didn’t. He didn’t have any sense of euphoria. All he can remember from that time is fear. And during his recovery, all he can remember is frustration. In that video, Jill Bolte Taylor talks about all the noise and not being able to pick one voice out of all of it. That’s how it still is for him. Too much noise, too many people, and he cannot discern one from another. So, mostly he doesn’t listen. And that's why he'll never go to a ren faire with me and meet my friends. That's why he never went to a parent/teacher conference for the entire time our kids were in school. Too much activity and noise frustrates him and he doesn't enjoy it. He doesn't outwardly show his dislike, he saves it up and then acts out at home like a spoiled child.

He isn’t ever going to recover. This is it. He’s paralyzed on his right side and he’s got speech and communication problems that will never go away. The blood clot wasn’t just pressing on his brain; it destroyed that part of it. He had to re-learn how to walk and talk and feed and dress himself.

Interestingly, Jill Bolte Taylor says it took her about eight years to recover fully. I think it took eight years for him to figure out he could still work with wood. I don’t remember exactly when he started building things again, but I do remember that I was both relieved and tense. Relieved that he found something to do that would occupy him, but tense in that he was working with power tools and is on blood thinners.

And as you all know, he can do amazing things with wood. Linky-link to photos. And another, and there's the deck he built.

Just now, while I was getting the links for his woodworking photos, he just got all goofy about the theatrical trailer for "Star Trek IV, the Voyage Home" (you know, the one with the whales). "Oh, that's AWESOME! I can't wait till it comes out in theaters! Whew!" and then he laughed so hard he had to sit down. Now he's walking around in the kitchen, "I can't believe it. That movie is gonna be so awesome! Just awesome, man!" and then giggling. He walked by me just now with a bag of fun-size candy bars. "I'm gonna go watch 'Star Trek' and go through some Milky Ways!"

I told him he's not allowed to talk to me anymore today. Then he giggled again.

So yeah, I don't think I'll have him watch the video today. He's in a good mood right now and I don't need to dredge up those feelings of frustrations he gets when he's reminded of what he's lost. Instead, I'll let him sit in the living room, covered in Chis (say it out loud), and watch his nerd movies while eating candy.