On Sunday night the P’s sat down next to me and I enjoyed Mrs. P’s alto as she sang through the hymns. If I hadn’t been sitting next to them I would have recognized her voice and known they were visiting. I was also happily seated right behind EOHR – I always recognize and enjoy her sound.
A few weeks ago, though, I was sitting with J one Sunday morning and I heard JLSS singing somewhere behind me. Her voice caught me by surprise and filled my eyes with tears (but I pulled it together). I wasn’t expecting it – I hadn’t seen her family sit down so I didn’t know where they were. But the thing is that I immediately flashed back to Vibra (2nd Hospital) – it was during The Valley, and JPAS and JLSS left their two boys in Maryland (baby E wasn’t here yet), and flew out to Oregon to help my parents and visit with me. I wasn’t awake yet, but when I was told later that they had come to see me I remembered that JPAS had been in my dreams (as VPOTUS), and I had heard JLSS’s voice and smelled her soap. She had been saying, C’mon, Ning, You can do it! I think they had been taxed with helping me move my arm (this was after my PT had noticed that my left shoulder was hanging off my body inappropriately even though I was obviously lying down), and I remember the sensation of feeling the room spinning at warp speed even though I was lying down with my eyes closed.
I’ve been surprised at how I’ve retained and processed non-visual cues since vision is a problem for me. I always kept my eyes down (or as close to shut as possible) and recognized my therapists at RIO (3rd Hospital) by their shoes and their scent. Now that I can use my eyes more, though, I don’t pick up on these things. But I can tell who’s coming down the aisle at church without turning around by the sound of the footsteps.
When I met G, the Pretty Nurse who woke me up, I cried bc I recognized her face and, perhaps more significantly, her voice. She had said the kindest things to me when she was trying to wake me up in the ICU, calling me back to the land of the living. It was amazing to see her again and be awake this time, and chat about “normal” things.
It’s these moments of emotional surprise – when you suddenly get jolted back into a moment that was significant for you but that lies buried deep within your psyche – that are one of the hardest things about RecoveryLand. I can prepare for most contingencies, but these moments catch me off guard.
I maintain that I am “cognitively intact” but my docs and neuro-psychs have noted some things in fancy language I can’t remember, and probably didn’t understand in the first place. Something I do remember from my first outpatient neuro-psych evaluation was that my ability to make executive decisions was deemed impaired. After that Mommy said I should check with her before I did anything like buy a house. 🙂 One day on the way to The Place I tried to convince her to let me send money ahead to Burundi so the Js could set up my house for me. After all, I was planning to 1) Learn to walk, 2) Learn French, and 3) Move to Africa. The progression was very simple in my mind – I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for others to grasp.
But that dream, like the one where I desperately wished to be a curly-haired blonde as a child, died quickly. Mommy and my Rehab doctor said there would be no moving to Africa for me. Sigh. As I sorted through the life-decisions I wasn’t supposed to be making now that the plan I had lived and breathed with such joy for the prior year lay crushed beneath the wheels of my chair I worried about how I was supposed to get a grip on anything if my executive reasoning function is messed up.
Side note: Nobody’s ever really talked to me about the executive decision/reasoning thing, so I largely ignore the issue. I decided a long time ago after learning that oxygen deprivation = death of brain cells that I don’t really care about the depth or nature of my brain damage bc I can’t tell anyway. I told my first outpatient neuro-psych that I felt like I was functioning at my baseline. True, I often have floppy brain moments, but I am also the girl who, in my first psychological evaluation (with a doc with 20+ years of experience – the nurses told me I was blessed to have him), took a naughty delight in watching him fish book after book from the shelf, looking for new questions (about vocabulary, word relationships, international relations – everything) and thought, “Try again, Buddy. Heh heh. Try again.” He pronounced me mentally stable, but what he didn’t know was that I didn’t think he was real 🙂.
One day as I was brushing my teeth or something (this was one of the only times I was allowed to be alone), I had a revelation: Even though everything changed when my brain bled, He didn’t. How I use my voice changed when I got sick – I’ve done several rounds of Speech Therapy and have seen way too many ENTs in the Portland and DC Metro areas. But His voice is the same.
When I was praying about going to Burundi Mrs. N shared this verse with me:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me… John 10.27
The sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice, recognition is implied, and there is immediate action. Even though I’ve had hearing loss, I can still recognize the Shepherd’s voice. You don’t hear it with your ears – good thing, or else I might miss it. I take care to attend closely, and I can hear it with my heart.
…And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
I Kings 19.11-12