No. 4 – I am a monster

Mornings were hectic at the hospital. The doctors, or there appointees for the day if they were off, came around every morning at 6:30 a.m. Breakfast also arrived at that time. Breakfast was pretty good, lunch was okay and dinners were not that great at the hospital. But I made do and ate the best I could. I liked the fact that I could at least pick what I wanted, it was sort of fun. Tea, fruit and yogurt for sure for breakfast. Lunch, tuna or chicken sandwiches were the best. Dinner, mashed potatoes were good, paired with some sort of bland meat, chicken or beef, and some sort of bland and half cold veggies, broccoli, carrots, or green beans.

My Neurosurgeon came to see me at 6:30 in the morning. However, Dave would often be there at 6:00 a.m. and then leave to go get coffee for us. The coffee from the hospital was not great.  So he missed her a couple of times. She would ask me how I was doing, and at this point my speech was really impaired. I could literally just say good and prayed that my husband would show up. At least he could actually give her a snap shot of how my last day had been.  He asked me when he returned one time why I just didn’t phone him? I did not know, but said I could do that in the future. There were lots of things I wanted to say, but actually saying them was different. I learnt that eventually when I saw a speech pathologist from the hospital, that there were many parts of my speech that were impaired. I wont get into my test scores but they were low. I could not remember what I went to University for or what my degree was in, I could not remember what my husband did, or what he went to school for, I could not remember what my sisters did for a living. I remember I felt like crying. I also knew that the tests would illuminate to the specialists exactly what I needed help with. I told my self not to cry, this was part of the process.  And if I wanted t get through this, I would have to be honest, and deal with all of the parts I had forgotten.

Then they finally moved me into a more long term ward; it was late at night. Still lots of ‘crazy’ old people; I don’t know if they had been this way before they came to the hospital or had become this way after their surgery. But they were all old and all talked in their sleep. I forgot to mention this earlier, but this is exactly what I had been dealing with before I had went into surgery. And the nurses would come every four hours to check on you, take blood pressure, and give you a quiz. Which I hated because I often got it wrong. They would ask me which is my left and right hand; wrong. Where I was, I knew I was at the hospital but which one; wrong. What day, month and year it was, I had not been sleeping so it felt like one really long day; wrong. I remember once saying 1983, which was the year I was born, wrong. Of course I understood why they needed to know this and why it was so hard for me. But still, I was tired of being embarrassed. I remember repeating all night what day it was so when they would ask me I would get it right. It worked.

The left side of my face was very much swollen and not proportioned the first night I arrived to the longer-term ward. It was scary. I had no idea for how long, or if forever, it was going to stay like this. And then I also had the problem with sleeping pills. I still at this point had no idea that not sleeping was a by-product of the steroids I was on. I was on them to keep the swelling down in my brain. The nurses kept telling me I needed to sleep and that it was the best thing for me. But I couldn’t. I thought that maybe I was scared from the last time I had been in the hospital, for a broken wrist falling off a horse, when they had over-dosed me on morphine and I had ‘died’. I was told I was not breathing. I was told they had to bring in an emergency defibrillator; I woke up and there were nurses standing all around me.  Anyways, I thought that maybe that’s why I wasn’t sleeping. Maybe I was scared of going to sleep and not waking up. The nurses told me that the sleeping pills are addictive, and so needed to be prescribed by a doctor. They gave me one and it did nothing for me. The next night I was crying because I wanted to sleep so bad and tried another one. Also, nothing. I wore earplugs to bed every night, that did nothing. Shutting my eyes would make them flutter under my lids a million times a minute. Flashes of gold and blue. Nothing would put me at ease. Till my husband arrived in the morning. I was always so happy to have him with me.

At this point I had received two teddy bears, one, red, blue and white that’s coat reminded me of my Heeler dog named Palmer, named Brindle, and the other one that was brown with a cream colored heart on his chest, named Ramon. Brindle had come in a care package that I loved very much from my neighbors. How kind they were to pick everything out that had gone into it. Ramon was a Gund teddy, from my grandmother, that my parents had picked out for me. My grandmother was someone else who I was thinking of so very much. I still sleep with both of them every night. I don’t care if its childish, they provided me so much comfort when I was in the hospital, and still do in my recovery now.

I was weak and had lost so much weight by now. I am guessing about 25 lbs. My husband was helping me shower. I stunk and could not get rid of the smell. Even after I showered, with soap, I still could not get the stink to go away. My husband said he couldn’t really smell anything, but I sure did. I have heard from some people that this may have been from some of the drugs I was given. Anyways, nothing to prove it.

My husband has been so devoted through out this entire process. I can imagine if things had been reversed; if I had to help him through this instead. What sort of ‘oak tree’ I could be. Or probably not that type of tree for me. Unfortunately, love does not prescribe you to being an oak tree. That takes a lot more of deep grounded roots to hold up the strong wood of the beautiful tree. At least it is hard to imagine being an oak tree right now for me.

I had lots of visitors while I was in the hospital. It showed me how much my family and friends really cared about me. It was nice to have them stop by to have a snack with me. Take my husband for a meal too; it was really nice. I know he needed that. My husbands parents were so caring too. They brought us food from outside the hospital which was a nice treat. My husband’s sister’s family also were great; providing my husband with a place to sleep that was close to the hospital and lots of great food too. My husband’s sister is also a speech pathologist, so has been really helpful on the recovery side of things for me too.

I believe it was the evening of December 9, 2017 that I had the bandage removed from my head. I had about half of my head shaved for the surgery and about fifteen large staples holding my head together. The doctor had told me that they had put a piece of metal in my skull where they had to remove a piece. This piece of metal though would not go off when going through airport security. My sisters took pictures of this for me and I am glad they did, because I am putting together a small album of my time at the hospital. I will not post any pictures of this, I know there are a lot of people who do not want to see this. However, I have posted one of before the bandage came off, with my teddy, Ramon.

I remember the next morning my husband arrived and we walked to get a coffee. It was my first time out of my ward with no bandage on my head. I did not even think about how I was feeling until we were standing in line for coffee. Then I felt like a monster. I had had my head cut open. I had my head half shaved. I had staples sticking out of my head. I felt overcome with embarrassment. I knew we were at the hospital, but still, not many other people here that I saw had anything like this. I could not look the barista in the eye when I ordered. I felt so ashamed. Why did I think it was okay to walk around in public like this? Many people don’t even want to see a picture of me like this and somehow I thought it would be fine to walk up in person? I sat down after we finished ordering and cried.