Cheryl’s road to recovery has been a long and slow experience. There have a great number of successes and failures along the way as she fights to relearn to do the simplest of tasks. The funny part is what you end up celebrating!
“Oh my God! Did you see? She pushed that thing with her foot!”
“She grabbed the cone! Did you see? She grabbed the cone!” (FYI: occupational therapy is all about the cones. The fucking cones were the bane of my existence for MONTHS.)
Anyway, it’s all… You know… “normal” things that people do all day, everyday without another thought about it.
It’s hysterical. Especially after the road it took to get there. The time and effort that went into getting back such mundane things.
All it takes is a whole lotta patience.
The Recovery Back Story…
The first year after her hemorrhage, Cheryl was completely incapable of participating in her therapy. After 167 days in 3 different facilities, she was essentially kicked out by the insurance company. I fought as hard as I could, but the bottomline was she wasn’t making any significant gains.
Therapy at home didn’t go any better. Cheryl wasn’t able to follow any of the directions her therapists gave her. There would be little moments where she showed a significant gain, but they we’re consistent and it’s not like we could tell when they’d occur.
By the time Cheryl came out of her “walking coma,” therapy was pretty much over. Even in the last weeks of outpatient, she was pretty useless because…
Depression set in.
She could now fully realize the seriousness of her condition. She couldn’t use her left hand and barely move her left arm. She couldn’t hear or see.
(The latter ended up being half true…literally. Cheryl can’t see out of the left side of each pupil. So she’s half blind. As for her hearing, well that’s a whole different saga best saved for another time, but for now, let’s keep it at she’s deaf.)
To say Cheryl didn’t want to go to therapy would be an understatement. She tried everything possible to not go. At one point she even sunk to offering a blowjob to avoid physical therapy.
It was this attitude that a) prevented her from continuing speech therapy and b) failed to get her therapy extended past the initial allotted 4 weeks. It was obvious that Cheryl was on Cheryl time.
It’s been almost a year and a half after her therapy ended. Cheryl has FINALLY started to want to put the effort in. This has obviously been great, but not without its shortcomings.
While Cheryl’s left hand hasn’t shown signs of coming back, the mobility in her arm has been amazing. She can now raise it to apply deodorant and, a couple of weeks ago, she successfully crossed her body to reach her right arm pit.
Because of this, Cheryl has become more daring with its use, often using it for simple tasks, such as carrying her dish towel. I should explain… She always has a towel or tissue because she’s paranoid that she’s drooling or making a mess.
The other day, she got bold and tried to use it to balance a small plate. She wanted to clean up a little bit (bonus points for trying to help out around the house best she can), but only made it a foot or two before the plate fell.
Luckily, it landed on carpet and didn’t break. I was in the kitchen and didn’t see this take place. Had I been there, I would have shut the plate shit down quick. When I heard the “crash,” I walked in to find Cheryl trying to pick up the plate.
Bending over ain’t easy…
Cheryl has been trying for a few weeks now, to pick things up off the floor. There are a few things working against her.
First, mobility… her legs just don’t want to bend.
Second, depth perception… she’s not really aware of how far things are.
Third, you know…brain injury… bending over makes her a little dizzy.
Lastly, fear… she’s afraid she’s going to fall. Now, she has never fallen and she knows that I would never let her fall, but that doesn’t change anything. Fear’s a bitch and she’s got lots.
“It’s right there!”
In the past Cheryl has been quick to give up trying to do something, but on this day she was determined to pick up that fucking plate.
She tried for 45 minutes.
FORTY FIVE MINUTES! To do something that we do in what? Seconds? I stood by her the entire time, equally determined for her to pull this off. I used everything in my bag of tricks to motivate her.
I tried cheerleading: “Come on! You can do it!”
I tried mirroring: “Watch and bend with me!”
I tried retreat and attacking: “Walk away, take a sip of water and then just march up and do it.”
I tried physically helping her: “Come on, follow me down, I got you!”
I tried reassurance: “You’re not going to fall. I’m not going to let you fall.”
I tried tough love: “Well, I’m not picking it up. You dropped it. You pick it up.”
I tried just being silent and letting her work through it on her own.
I tried cutting the thought process out: “You’re thinking too much. Just pick it up!”
I tried letting her off the hook: “It’s okay if you want to give up.”
Luckily she finally gave up. I say luckily because when I went to hug her and tell her it was okay, I saw she was coated in sweat and pale as a ghost. Thankfully, I had seen this three times before and knew what was coming next.
Cheryl never hit the floor. I scooped her up and got her on the bed too quick. Poor thing tried to pick up a plate to the point of almost passing out. After a few sips of cold water, the color returned to her face and she snapped out of it.
The first thing she did was apologize.
ME: For what?
CHERYL: That I couldn’t pick up the plate! It was right there!
I assured her that she was going to be able to do it, she just needed to be patient. That she was going to get better.
The fire returned in her belly. She was more determined to do it than ever. I assured her that she would, it was just that today wasn’t the day.
If you’d like to watch the struggle, I filmed the last 30 minutes of that 45 minute attempt. You can watch it below.
UPDATE: Failure turns to success!
I am, at this very moment, sitting in Starbucks, writing this story… when Cheryl’s daughter, Ally, texted me this:
In the video you can see her try to incorporate that left arm.
Apparently this happened while I was working out tonight. Ally just sent me the video and I thought I would add it. Enjoy!
The ultimate goal is for Cheryl to have as much independence as she possibly can. As of right now she can’t go to the bathroom or take a shower by herself. She can’t cook. She can barely get into bed.
She’s that broken. (her word, not mine.) So any time she can suddenly do something for herself, it’s a HUGE check in the win column.
The other day she tried to put her socks on herself. This is something she’s attempted before and failed. I wanted to record her trying because you never know when she’s gonna nail it.
I told her to wait and ran to the bathroom to find my phone. I was out of the room maybe 5 seconds. By the time I came back she already had her right sock on and was working on the left.
The left side is her biggest challenge, so it wasn’t that easy. You can see how she did in the video below (Spoiler alert: she rocked it.):
PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE
It’s not a great feeling to watch someone try something and fail. It’s even worse when they’re trying and do something that we take for granted doing.
It’s downright heartbreaking. On the other hand, the successes are so big that they make you forget about those failures. The time she spent in her walking coma doesn’t even feel like a thing any more.
It’s been 944 days since Cheryl’s brain popped.
Can you imagine? It took her 944 days to learn how to put her socks back on! That’s patience.And there’s still a long way to go and still a lot more to get back. All we have to do is wait.
After all, Cheryl is on Cheryl time.