Archive for April, 2008

The other shoe drops.

A couple of days ago, while reading Maya and Asher our book at bedtime, my brother called. He lives far away and we don’t talk a lot, so I had the chutzpah to ignore the children for about 10 minutes and talk to him instead. And then it was their bed time. I had betrayed them, cheated them of their god-given right to that last 10 minutes of story time. They were outraged. Each one then told me that they wished I was back in the coma so that our friend G, who is a stay-at-home dad and who came and looked after them for the first two weeks I was sick, would come back and look after them. G was more fun. G made the best smoothies ever.

I suggested that I could move to Montreal and look after G’s kid and he could come here and be their new mommy. They both thought that was a swell idea. I’m thinking their days of feeling sorry for their ill mom are over and it is back to their old, rotten selves.


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Miracle: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause; such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.

That is so not me.

I’m starting to get out and about more. The first day I went to pick up the kids from school Maya, who was home ‘sick’ was mortified. “But, everyone will want to talk to you!” This is her idea of hell – being the center of attention. When I was first sick, basically no one bothered to take the kids to school for the first week, and when it was time to return, Maya got two good friends to form what they called the ‘hug patrol.’ The friends’ job was to watch for approaching teachers who may want to show her some sympathy and distract them at all costs.

The truth is, I don’t love being the center of attention either, but I was looking forward to seeing all the people I hadn’t seen in a while and I accepted that people would be pleased to see me up and about. I got enough of that reaction from hospital visitors to understand that.

Yesterday, I went a step further and went into the Jewish community center where J works. I couldn’t go two steps without someone new coming up to marvel at my continued existance. I understand that this is going to keep happening for a while and even appreciate it. We live in a fairly small and, we found out, incredibly supportive community and that means lots and lots of people who worried about me and are delighted to see me back in my old routine.

I am very gracious, I swear, but at times it is difficult to squash down my real self, the cynical and bitingly-sarcastic self who threatens to rise up when people call me a walking miracle. That’s the phrase that keeps popping up: walking miracle. I have a really hard time with this, I have to admit. I didn’t do anything miraculous. If my car had slid off the road into the woods and I’d manage to survive, hanging from my seat belt for two weeks until rescuers found me, that would be a mirace. All I did was not die. I didn’t even have to work at it personally. The doctors just stuck me on every kind of life support imaginable and my body was strong enough to heal rather than succumb. It’s a very good thing, but not a very miraculous thing.

I aso don’t think I am particularly strong or tough. I did work hard at getting better once I was conscious but really, who wouldn’t? And it wasn’t like I had a choice. The fact that I am now walking around when one and half months ago I I woke up without the use of my legs is great. It is amazing even, the way the human body can heal. But it isn’t a miracle. No one ever said I couldn’t or wouldn’t walk. It was always inevitable. The only issue was how long it would take.

I don’t say any of this to the people who come up to me with eyes shining in amazement at seeing me, but it is becoming more of an effort to keep up my gracious and sunny response to all this, more of an act. But keep it up I will, as I have an image to maintain: walking miracle.

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Here’s the thing: the painkillers I took mostly didn’t do a thing for the pain I was in. Sometimes, if I took a dose then lay down in a quiet room and closed my eyes and didn’t move and the children actually left me alone, it would kick in and at that moment, all the pain would fade away. I’d lie there, half-asleep, revelling in the feeling of no pain. But then my choices were to fall asleep completely or get up and get back to my day and since falling asleep was pointless, I’d rouse myself and sit up, and the pain would come rushing back in.

Those brief moments were not worth the hassles of being dependent on narcotics, and the moment I realized that this was as good as it got, I began the process of weaning myself off of them, a process finally completely last week. I had an appointment with my doctor last Friday, and I proudly went in and handed her the unused portion of my prescriptions. She was impressed and delighted, having been working with me all this time.

I also found some of the pills in a pill container in my backpack, and when I put my hand in my jeans pocket yesterday, found a dose worth there too. As I discover them, I throw them out. But if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to admit that when I discovered the dose in my pocket, I hesitated for a moment. For a moment, I thought to myself, ‘maybe I should keep these, just in case.’ Then the sane part of my brain said, “Just in case of what, dumbass? Pain? There’s always pain, and this shit doesn’t help.” And I tossed the pills.

And being completely honest, I’d also have to admit that today I miss the pills. I ache and have ached incessently for days, and I’d love the chance for just a few moments of no pain. And without the pills, there isn’t even the chance of that, however slim it was.

So I’m very glad I got rid of those pills. And I have an even greater sympathy for people who are really addicted to drugs, for whom those drugs gave a good feeling all the time. Because if I want the stupid things just for that smallest chance and shortest feeling of no pain, it must be hell to give them up when they make you feel really good.

The irony is that I lost my interest in chocolate while I Was Out, so I can’t even temporarily drown my sorrows in a chocolate bar. I suppose I’ll go have a hot bath and read a good book.

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More coma yammering

Now along with the sore throat, I have an achy chest and cough. Blech.

In hospital, I was completely paranoid about getting ill. I didn’t want anything to slow down my escape. If someone emailed and said something like, “I’m pretty much over my cold now and thought I’d pop by for a visit,” I’d bluntly reply that I’d love to see them, once they were completely over that cold. It worked, but now I’m thinking I held off those viruses by sheer force of will and once I got home and let my guard down, they pounced.


I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it is like to wake up from a coma and if I remember anything from that time. The answer is pretty boring, I’m afraid. I remember nothing. I had a few weird, menacing dreams, which doesn’t much account for 18 days of being out of it. The reason for this is that they gave me some drug that caused me to forget – the same one they give you when they yank a tooth.

A small part of me is a bit irritated by that, since I too am curious about what was going on in my head during that time. Did I hear my friends and family telling me to love me and to hang on? A bigger part is relieved, because there were several times when I did rouse myself and all I did was try to rip the tubes attached to me out, deeply aggitated. They had to sedate me. Near the time I woke up for good, I did have a few smaller wakings and attempted to communicate with J, before giving up in apparent frustration and falling back asleep. So it doesn’t sound as if the whole experience was too pleasant, and I’m happy to be relieved of the burden of any such memories.

Th effects lingered, though, and much of my first couple of days awake is also gone, although I do remember bits and pieces. One thing I don’t really remember but is damn funny is that at one point a nurse came into the room and said something about end my condition. J responded. I then got angry at him and told him not to answer for me and he doesn’t know more about my illness that I do. Of course, he did. At that point he hadn’t even told me I’d been in a coma. He just walked over and pointed to the bank of blinking machines behind me and said, “I just need to press one of these buttons and I’ll send you right back where you came from.”

It is weird that other people know more about me than I do. Nurses were always coming into my room so emotional to see me sitting up and talking and I had no idea who they were. Once, after about two weeks, when I thought I knew all about what had happened to me, a nurse came in and started gushing about how happy she was that my eyelashes hadn’t fallen out, because that was some wicked eye infection I’d had. Huh? It is very disconcerting to hear something like that from a total stranger. J later comfirmed that in the first week my eyes had gotten infected and crusty. He’s never mentioned it because he forgot it, admid all the more significant things that had happened.

And just a couple of days ago, when I was showing J my now healed and no longer bandaged incision scar, I pointed to another scar about the size of a dime, round and deep, about an inch from the incision and said, “I have no idea where this thing came from.” He said, “Oh that. It was from a tube they put in to drain an abcess under your incision. There’s one on the other side too.” So I looked closely and sure enough, lower down between my scar and colostomy, there is another round scar I’d missed before.

So I’d have to say that my experience of being in a coma is one of having my intimate knowledge of my own body taken away from me. It is now a map of trauma – with many other scars from other tubes – that I had to learn about from others.

And since they lived through it and I slept through it, it is really more their experience than mine. In fact, I’d say another experience of being in a coma is waking up to find one’s friends and family all kind of shell-shocked. Visitor after visitor would walk in an just marvel that I was talking to them. I’ve had friends burst into tears just hearing my voice on the phone. That’s all just completely weird to me.

So I’d have to say that while recovering from being in a coma sucks, it’s less traumatic to be the one in the coma than the ones watching a loved one in the coma. And I’d highly recommend avoiding both experiences.

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I have a cold. My throat is really sore and goopy and I am wiped and achy. The sore throat started Monday evening. I only arrived home Friday evening. I swear, the moment I saw my chidren they must have infected me.

Both Maya and Asher were home Monday for supposed illness, but they got awfully perky and annoying and I regretted letting them stay home. The next day, Maya was fine and Asher was much worse. He stayed home again and acted as a sick child should, lying around like a blob and sleeping a lot. The two of us crawled into my bed an snoozed away a good part of the day. Now he’s back to his old self and I still feel like crap.

Part of the crappy feeling might be that I am officially painkiller-free. I’d like to say I am drug-free, but they have me on a great pile of other things, so I can’t. Anyway, I kept forgetting to take the painkiller on time the last few days and didn’t notice much of a difference, so my last dose wore off at around 1 am and I haven’t taken any since. It might not sound like a lot of time to you, but to me it is huge. I haven’t gone this long without taking those stupid narcotics since the doctor put me on them, several years ago.

My goal in getting off the heavy stuff was to avoid withdrawal as much as possible. I have experienced it several times (when I would forget to take my pills on time for some reason and a couple times in the hospital when they messed up my dosing) and it sucks in a very big way. I had a big argument in the hospital with J over this, as he wanted me to go cold turkey and get it over with. I kept saying, “I’m not going through withdrawal. I’m weaning slowly,” like a broken record, or possibly a stubborn child. The pharmacist came up to talk about it and said both our arguments had merit and I told her, “But I’m the patient and he isn’t and I’m not going through withdrawal.” I already have enough shit to deal with.

I think he secretly thought I would drag my feet at the end, that the closer I got, the slower I’d go. He underestimated my will to be free of this stuff.

So I am happy to report no withdrawal symptoms so far, just crappy FMS ones. I love spring (who doesn’t?) but it is hell on my body. I think I’ll take a nice little nap.  

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Ah spring. The snow is melting and it no longer over my head everywhere on the lawn. Plus, as I walked around the block with Jasper, we discovered many interesting things have been uncovered by the receding snow. His favourite: an old piece of bread, yum. My favourite: a dirty diaper. It’s my favourite because when I said, “Leave it!” he actually did.

I missed my dog. The children could come to the hospital and visit me, but not the dog. And when I came home for visits, the kids got that I’d come back again soon, but not the dog. He sat at the back door and cried when I left.

He’s definitely worse for wear after two months without me. Since J could not leave him at home alone all day, friends of ours took him and kept him for the entire time, except some weekends. They love him dearly and I felt guilty taking him back. The guilt is lessened by the fact that in a month they will be getting their own puppy, a red male mini-doodle which, as far as I can tell, will look like Jasper Jr. But even though they love him, they did not know how to brush him. His grooming brush has a special technique that I never bothered to show anyone else. As a result, he is filled with mats in his long, long hair. J wants to take him to a groomer and have him shaved, but I refuse. I’m fixing him, damn it.

Here Asher and my brother demonstrate what happens to people who sit on the couch Jasper considers to be his:

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I’m back home again, and this time for good. They let me go 5 days earlier than originally planned because I’m such an over-achiever.

J was out of town at a leadership seminar all week, or I would have agitated to leave even earlier. A family friend who used to babysit the kids when she was in school agreed to move into the house and look after the kids. She’s 27. She did this once before, when J and I went to Israel for my 40th birthday and that time she swore she was never having children. This time, probably because Boo is older, she wasn’t quite so shell-shocked. I still figured that it was best for me to just hang out at the hospital.

Rehab isn’t like the rest of the hospital. The nurses check your blood pressure in the morning and bring you your pills when scheduled and otherwise, unless you call, they leave you in peace. We had large, spacious rooms built with those with limited mobility in mind, so as soon as I moved up there I was more capable than before. And at night it is quiet, so you can actually get a decent night’s sleep. So it really isn’t so awful to stay there. It helps that I had my laptop, a pile of DVDs, my cellphone and an old Blackberry of J’s, which he set up so I could get my email. And people kept bringing me trashy magazines, so I was totally set to be endless amused.

The nurses were all nice, too. Some of my nurses in the ICU were kind of scary and in fact, caused me to be somewhat terrified of going to rehab. They would try to force me to do things I wasn’t yet capable of, telling me I’d have to be able to do these thing once I reached rehab, and they don’t coddle you in rehab, etc. These ones would also inevitably start their shift with a little lecture, which I am sure you are all familiar with from any movie you’ve seen about someone coming back from a traumatic injury. It goes, “I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to help you get better. And you may hate me for it, but I’m doing it for your own good, blah blah blah.” I was so sick of this bullshit that by the time the last nurse tried it, I lectured back: “I have a great deal of motivation to get well. I have three young children at home who need me. And in fact, I’m progressing faster than anyone has expected. So I don’t need you to push me, because I’ll be pushing myself. If you try to push me beyond my capabilities, you will only end up making me feel bad about my progress, and that isn’t helpful at all.”

She apologized.

Turns out that in rehab, they don’t practice such silly ‘tough love.’ The physiotherapists would ask, “Do you want to try stairs?” And after every exercise, they’d say, “Do you feel up to doing more, or are you too tired? After all, you know your body best.” It was the best environment in which to get better.

I think I’m rambling around here. Stream-of-conscious blogging. Anyway, I’m still much happier here than there. For one, I don’t have a nurse coming into my room randomly and asking loudly, “Did you have a bowel movement yet?” For another, I was the youngest patient in the place by about 30 years. I was very lucky that my room-mate, Rita, who was about 75, was a very quiet, nice woman. We got along very well.

Okay, it is a beautiful day and I’ve had my rest, so I’m going to join my family outside in the sunshine.

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