This summer I ventured into the pool at Ai Ai and Tim’s house. I was minding my own business, hanging on to a fun noodle per my sister’s instructions, and my niece Hannah popped up from out of nowhere and chirped, “Hi, Po Fro!” (“Po Fro” is one of my nicknames.) Ai Ai heard this and said, “That’s Aunty Po Fro, to you!” Karine just came to visit me and said, “Hi, Po Fro,” as she walked in. I feel like we have passed a significant milestone – akin to but obviously not as distressing as when your child stops calling you “Mommy” and just says, “Mom.” Or when your child refuses to hold hands in public with you anymore. Has this happened to you?
The reverse has happened to my parents. I cannot recall referring to them as “Mommy” and “Daddy” when I was a child, but ever since I was well enough to talk after my injury, I have consistently referred to them with “y’s.” I also hold hands with them whenever we’re in public, and sometimes when we’re just at home. The only person to refuse holding hands with me is PT37, on the day we walked in the Therapeutic Garden. I had never walked outside without Leo the Cane, so we went for a stroll (no hand-holding allowed; she just kept tabs on my gait belt). BTW, I’m looking forward to warmer weather since we’ll be able to go on more garden strolls.
Do you remember when I said I can’t really help people anymore? Well, we passed a significant milestone last week. There was a gentleman who was very brave and went to his first session of Pool Therapy. It was a real effort for him to move around with his walker, but he managed to go change and do what he needed to do to participate in HydroT. As he was leaving, I was walking to the ladies’ dressing room, which is on the way out, so I was able to open the door for him (via the automatic/handicapped button) and tell him he was doing really well (which he was). When I was moving like that, I was still sitting in a wheelchair most of the time and being rehabilitated under protest.
Mommy also told me of another significant occurrence that day. She saw someone walking very slowly with a walker, with someone following close behind with a wheelchair. When I was an inpatient, Mommy almost always followed behind me with the chair if my PT and I attempted any walking. Seeing someone else doing the same thing made her think of all those walks, and all the time that has passed as I’ve healed and gotten better.
For a long time – until around ~5 months ago – I figuratively held my breath while I tried to press my doctors to give me a timeline for recovery. For example, a question I rehearsed mentally but never asked was, “So at what point in time do you become concerned…” I meant to ask if there was a point in recovery when I would have regained whatever I was going to regain. I never asked point blank since I was afraid of hearing the answer. After the 1-year mark I understood that after that point, the bulk of recovery and the most dramatic gains were likely passed, but I decided not to worry about timelines anymore since we’re kind of in “wait-and see” mode. My life has been full of surprises thus far, and I’m okay with not knowing the outcome of all this right now. Don’t get me wrong – I’d LOVE to be privy to certain details, but I’m on a need-to-know basis, and I actually don’t need to know all that stuff about my future.
What I do know, though, is that I have gotten better in the ~22 months that have passed since my brain bled. I also know that it takes guts to get up and out of the house while you lean on your walker when you’re used to wheeling around in a chair. It also takes guts to go anywhere while you’re in a chair, too – e.g. you’re not sure if there will be steps or a ramp, and I can’t tell you how many times I got stuck in my own bathroom since if I didn’t angle my chair just so I couldn’t turn around. Okay, in that last example I didn’t actually go anywhere – I was in my own house…but you can imagine that the fear increased exponentially when we ventured into public. I went home after the 1st meeting at church for a couple of months since I wasn’t sure if my wheelchair would fit into our bathrooms. So to all those people I see at rehab – you have a choice, and you’ve chosen to get up and move when you’d probably prefer to stay in bed (I know I would). My hat’s off to you.