May 18, 2013
This week we moved you into the rehab hospital. I’m having a rough time with it.In the ICU, you were monitored so closely. Every breath, every movement was documented and celebrated. Here, things are different. I’m not sure why, but it feels lonely here. It feels real.
You are on the ground level floor, for patients with brain injuries. When they first admitted you I am told that they decided to switch your room assignment, closer to the nurse’s station. Somewhat unsettling news. I don't like to be reminded of how hurt you are. I would rather view this place as some expensive resort, a step-up from where you were before; however the reminders are everywhere I turn. You aren't the same. None of us are.
There are beautiful plants everywhere, and the nurses all look happy. It’s difficult for me to focus on these things. Instead I notice the patients. Most of them are wheeled around, some of them on walkers, being spotted by nurses or family members, blank stares on their faces. Some are crying. Some have cages around their beds. Everyone is wearing a helmet. I catch myself wondering about these people before their injuries. Weeks ago? Months ago? I can see them happily riding their motorcylces and eating ice cream, playing soccer and attending birthday parties, their families oblivious to what awaits them. The danger lurking in the distance.
I note the varying colors of the socks on their feet. Yours are gray. I am told that yellow is code for “fall risk”. I am not sure what gray means.Your room is nice. There are not nearly as many monitors surrounding you here. You have a window along the side wall, your own TV and bathroom. But I can’t escape it. This feeling that you are somewhere you don’t deserve to be. No one deserves to be here. I try to be friendly towards the family members I pass in the hall, lost. I can’t help it. Instead of “Nice to meet you,” I want to say, “excuse me but are you crazy?” I don’t feel nice about meeting any of them. They shouldn’t be here, their daughters, their mothers. In a perfect world, our paths would never cross.
Today several of your friends came to visit. We were all eating in the cafeteria when Frankie decided to get some hand sanitizer from the wall. I saw it coming, as he stood on his toes to push the lever, head pointed upwards. I let out the warning a second too late, soap falling directly into his left eye. My little guy began to cry then, blindly staggering over to me.
I carried him out into the lobby in search of a bathroom. When I didn’t see one, I slipped into an empty patient room and found the sink directly inside the door. Some cold water did the trick, and soon he was all smiles again. As we began to walk back towards the cafeteria, I picked up my son as if he were flying. “You’re Superman!” I said.
Frankie wanted down. “No mommy,” he said. “This Superman doesn’t fly.”Right then I catch a glimpse of you through the cafeteria window, and I realize that this is the best view I’ve had all day. In the silence I curse myself for all of the things I’ve been missing at your bedside, all of the progress I’ve dismissed in my resentment, from the seat right next to yours. Your accident has forced a new perspective on me. My view on life has changed, maybe it's time my outlook did too.
Surrounded by your friends, I watch you pick up the fork and place it to your mouth. I see you shift your weight from the pain. I watch you smile, following their conversations. Your eyes are open, ever-present for these moments you fought so hard to return to. You muster a laugh as you scratch your forehead. When your gaze eventually meets mine you wave.