Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We started using the phrase "mavericky" courtesy of Sarah Palin and John McCain, and I guess mostly because of Tina Fey making fun of Sarah Palin. Particulary this sketch, where she really goes after the "maverick" term, talking about, "We'll look at every problem and think 'What would a maverick do?' and do that." That's not a direct quote. Oh it was hilarious though. This is the one:

That is some funny stuff. And I guess that's the time the word maverick entered our daily vocabulary. And thank goodness, because I don't know how else to describe today.

I let Tom drive the first time today. Did you know a lot of people with TBI don't drive for SEVERAL months post-accident? Or closer to a year? Or NEVER? A lot of doctors will revoke licenses of TBI patients, but Tom's wasn't revoked, so it's really up to us when he drives. My BIL Reade (according to Tom) looked it up, and there is so much paperwork and rigamoro (there can't be a proper spelling of that word) involved with having someone's license revoked, that doctors don't do it as much as they probably should.

So, one of our big bills is the marina boat slip, which holds the boat that Tom bought during his single days so he could go fish out in the ocean. Well, since we started kayaking, we hardly use the boat, even in the ocean, and our medical bills are extra incentive to FINALLY sell the boat and lose the boat slip. I am SO excited. I hate having stuff we don't need or use.

So, Tom's friend John came today to help us trailer the boat. We are keeping it in a cheaper, non-boat-slip storage while we try to sell it. I knew Tom would be driving the boat onto the trailer.

So, I decided to get all mavericky and let Tom drive us to the marina. Not before driving us around the block first, of course. He did fine. We went to Oreillys for some mechanical thingie, hit Sonic at literally 3:59pm, barely in time for happy hour for a couple of Diet DP's (it was time for my daily headache, and I needed something to wash down the drugs), then went to the marina.

He did great!! I didn't know what to expect because there was so much taboo about brain injured patients driving (for good reason, of course!), but he did really well. And he understands that doesn't mean he can pick up the keys and go get us some ice cream. He went a little faster than I would've liked, but I would've liked him to go about 15 MPH...LOL. Luckily, at 4pm, it was school zone central in our neighborhood, so he couldn't speed off too quickly. It went well, and I'll continue to let him cruise around locally.

We are so freakin' lucky, you know? Life is hard, but it could've been so much worse. A lot of people only see the lucky side and some (even me) think we should just feel lucky and happy with our best-case-scenario, but I hope people (even me) can understand that with the "best-case-scenario", there is still grieving involved with a traumic event like this.

We were in the waiting area at outpatient rehab last week with another couple. They were close to 60, and the man in the wheelchair wore a NAVY hat, so he was probably in the service in the past. He spoke, but we couldn't understand him. His wife had to translate. It seemed to me like she really loved him, and how lucky he is to have a wife, a caretaker, someone who cared enough to learn his "language". How lucky WE are to not have to learn a "new language". It was really touching to me to listen to the man "ramble" on, not understand a word he was saying, but hear his wife respond like normal. Wow. Anyway, Zach, the rehab coordinator dude, a youngish guy who is very friendly, came by and started chatting us up about Tom's incision, which I was really worried about last time we saw him. That incision was kinda mavericky lookin' - we weren't sure if it was just going through this weird gross healing stage or if I was somehow killing him via incision infection. It was the former. Zach said it was looking good, and the NAVY guy said clearly, "Hey, I've got one too!" He pointed to a big incision scar on his head. It was totally healed up like a normal scar, and it made me wonder how long he and his wife have been on this road.

We are SO lucky.

Anyway, more mavericky. Tom hopped on the boat and drove it like a pro to the trailer that John had backed into the boat ramp. Not a single moment of "OMG you're going to run into something!" He did SO WELL. I mean, I'm not clearing him to drive cross country or anything (although he could if he wanted), but what a big step!!!

Then, after dropping it off in a new storage facility, we headed to the new Red Lobster. If cheddar bay biscuits aren't mavericky, I don't know what is. It was good. We even had dessert. And it was SO nice to have dinner with John & Kimberlee. I really enjoyed it.

And now we're sitting at home, Tom' watching Deadliest Catch, and I'm wrapping up this blog so I can go to bed. Bed at 10pm, THAT is mavericky.

When real life attacks

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Did you know that billions of people were out living their lives while Tom was in the hospital? Believe it or not, even time passed. It feels like we should've reentered the real world on the date of March 30, the day after the accident. Heck, when Greg and I took him to the ER, we thought they'd give him a couple of stitches and send him home with me on a concussion watch, waking him up every couple of hours or so. And life would've resumed fairly normally the following week.

But today I found myself writing May 13, 2009 on my final exams, and it hit me. I now have less than TWO months before my trip to Spain. Right? This isn't one of my "brain injury by proxy" moments, is it? June is after May, July is after June, and I leave July 8th. :-)

And there are plenty of things to do in the meantime, including figuring out what Tom will do while I'm gone and one conference presentation in June. Oh, and my boss finally started emailing me work to do. It feels really good. A lot of being a research assistant is self-directed getting stuff done, but I am so lost, and it's good to have an inbox full of things to do so I can get back in the groove.

I have one more final Friday morning, then I'm finally done with finals.

Tom is doing pretty good. My parents lent us an exercise bike and a Total Gym that we picked up on Sunday, and Tom is all over that bike. Total Gym is still hard for him. But he's done 30 minutes on the bike everyday since we've had it. He is really motivated to get stronger so he can walk normally again...I'd even say he's more motivated physically than cognitively right now. Oh well, he's not off the hook on retraining his brain, too. :-) I made him a schedule because my big worry has been that he wouldn't accomplish much when I start working more because I guide him through a lot right now. But the schedule includes everything he is supposed to be doing everyday, and it's not at all overwhelming, so I'm optimistic.

TOO normal sometimes

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Every now and then it's apparent that we aren't quite back to normal. I need someone to screen Grey's Anatomy for trauma/ER content. I can deal with cancer, freakish rare medical problems, most surgeries, and all the associated drama, but trauma is too close to home. I watched Thursday's episode online last night, and it was VERY hard to watch. Times like that, I feel like I can never be the same as I was because of what we've been through.

These moments are even harder to deal with is because Tom's quick recovery has made it pretty easy to pretend that nothing has happened. Even though things are going great, our lives can never be the same again. It can be alarming to remember that we've been through something terrible, and to have to confront the accompanying emotions again. Then to have to feel guilty because I'm upset even though things are going great, and the constant questioning, even now that he's awake and coherent, of the decisions I've made along the way. The absolute worst is realizing that it may be far more important to me that he's alive than it is to him. On the flip side, I guess it's a lot easier for me to selfishly ask him to go through stuff that sucks just because I don't want to deal with life without him than it is for him to think about fighting for life.

I think maybe it's like that for most couples, though. Would you rather die than lose your spouse? Is it harder to watch your spouse go through something than it is for your spouse to go through it? I do NOT know the answers to those questions. I guess it all depends on personalities and relationships, and the nature of the injury. I know when we talk about life support, etc, I have made it clear that I WANT TO LIVE. Hook me up and keep me going if there is a halfway decent chance that I'll live. Talking about living wills, Tom is a bit more hesitant to want to be kept alive. (Hearing that can be real hard to swallow when 6 weeks' worth of your emotional energy has been devoted to hoping he'll live, being happy he's alive, and being sad to think about how close he was to dying.) I think I may be in the minority though - it seems to me a lot of people say they don't want to be resusitated or kept alive artificially. I want every chance I can get...our tax payer dollars haven't been funding medical research for so many years just so I can be cavalier and say, "Do not resucitate! Let me die naturally!" But I am sure my opinion will change the older I get. And yes, Tom is 9 years older than me, but I think when I'm 33, I'll still want to be kept alive. I don't think it will change for me until I'm nearing the natural end of my life.

Oh, the things I never wanted to have deep thoughts about...I highly recommend getting your death paperwork in order, if you haven't, even if you're newly married and have no kids. Living wills, regular wills, and details about funerals. We'll need to do this once Tom's recovered a bit more.

Day to Day

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yesterday, I went to school, came home at noon, then went back at 1 for a massage. It was great. Then I worked out at home and made myself sore, so I guess that was kinda stupid. I hated leaving Tom alone, though. It was the first time. I'm not concerned for his safety, just his mood. Sitting around alone bored isn't what I think he needs right now. I may skip class tomorrow. I haven't decided...since Clint got his new job, he's off weekends, and Amanda moved to Forney this week, so she isn't so closeby. Otherwise, I'd just ask her to come up tomorrow...

Today, I slept til about 8:30, had yogurt and coffee, and got to work. I had a lot of grading to do for work. It took all day, and it is the first time I have worked an entire day since the accident. It feels like a big milestone to me, because it's hard to concentrate right now.

Tom spent a lot of time doing homework today. He went to visit with our neighbor for about 2 hours who had a TBI about 20 years ago. He enjoyed getting out of the house. We did some physical therapy when he got home. While he was gone, I started a load of laundry, dishes, and mopped the kitchen floor. I also started cooking this chicken. It smells pretty good. Gonna have mashed potatoes and a chopped salad with it.

Tom used the internet thesaurus for some of his homework today, then he started surfing the web for a bit on his favorite websites. He said, "I just don't have any use for the internet anymore!" Wow! Wonder when/if the addiction will come back.

Now we're watching a little TV getting ready for the Biggest Loser to start at 7. :-) Not a bad day for sure.

How it's going

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Well Tammy, there isn't much new. Tom is getting better all the time. We are trying to do our "homework" everyday, which includes a mixture of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Something people don't understand is that speech therapy isn't so much about the act of speaking, it's about cognition. An example of speech homework is he'll have a list of words, and he has to write antonyms. It's much more difficult to write synonyms. So, for synonyms, he'll two words he has to unscramble that are synonyms, and the first letter of each word is underlined. For example imeslp and ayes (why can't I underline? oh well, it's bold instead). So if you can figure out one word, it's easier to figure out the second scrambled synonym. The answer there is simple and easy. If he can't figure out synonyms, he is supposed to use the internet for the thesaurus.

Another "speech therapy" thing is drawing the next item in a pattern (like one big square, one little square, one big circle, then you'd draw a little circle, except the detail is actually more complex than that), and drawing mirror images of stuff. He is pretty good at this stuff. The left side of the brain (which you probably know) is more about "verbal functions, language, thought, and memory involving words" (according to the Mayo clinic handout I have), and the right hemisphere is for "nonverbal functions, inculding recognizing differences in visual patterns and designs, reading maps and enjoying music, expression and understanding of emotions." So it makes sense that he is good at that drawing stuff. I don't know about y'all, but I am pretty happy it was a left injury instead of a right. I'd much rather be working on word finding than emotional recognition. Yes sir.

We also work in Brain Age on the Nintendo DS. Video games are good for him, especially those that make him work fast. Like, when we play Monopoly on xbox, that's probably not a big brain workout because there isn't any timing involved. But there are "mini games" in Monopoly that are races, and he is steadily getting better at that. He tried to play Left4Dead today (a zombie shoot-em-up game), and it was a little too intense. Now he knows how I feel about those shooter games. :-)

Tom saw the CT of his injury Friday. Whew. Even with everything we've told him, he was still surprised how bad it was. I was surprised, too. I had seen it, but I thought maybe over time I had imagined it worse than it really was. Nope, it was a big ol' brain-smashed-over-to-the-side bleed. Ugh.

We went to Sams today and stocked up on meat, trash bags, laundry detergent, and paper plates. It was a successful venture. Tom pushed the cart. We ran into my boss, so she got to see the progress first hand. She came to visit me while he was still in ICU, so I'm sure she was pretty surprised to see him pushing a cart even though I've told her how good he's doing! She did my conference presentation in Nashville for me Friday morning, and apparently has a t-shirt for me. She was joking that she'd be bringing us all Dolly Parton t-shirts, so I wonder if that's really what I got. LOL :-)

And that is how it's going.

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