In the telling of this story … it is now 2 weeks since Molly crashed her car.
Remembering those days … and all of the unusual events, experiences and emotions … I can’t imagine anything that could possibly happen, that could shock my system more than what I went through back then.
Wait … I take that back. I just thought of one thing that might have shocked me more … and that is if I had been the one lying in that hospital bed, completely paralyzed for the rest of my life. Ok, that would be a bigger shock!
While Molly was lying there hooked up to all of the machines and gadgets, drifting in and out of sleep, her body going through its natural healing process, … she never felt sorry for herself, or worried about what would happen in the future.
She told me that she had no dread inside her thoughts … no thinking about what it all meant. She didn’t feel victimized by what had happened to her, and she was clear that she had information that would serve her recovery beyond the prognosis.
Part of that prognosis, was that she would have no bladder or bowel control … ever again. This was disturbing for Molly, and I can’t even begin to tell you how devastating it was for me. I couldn’t even think about it, and I especially couldn’t think about what it might mean for me as a caregiver. It was way too soon for that. It wasn’t until Molly got home from rehab … and I really became a full time caregiver … that I had to confront my extreme discomfort about this … and many other things.
We had another six weeks to go… before all of that would begin.
As Molly was lying there now, little by little things started to make more sense as her brain cleared from the trauma, anesthesia, and pain medication. As soon as she began to get a little clarity, Molly asked the doctors to remove the indwelling catheter she had in her body … as she was already strategizing about how she was going to get her bladder control back.
Just before the end of the second week, as they were preparing to move Molly to rehab … the nurses agreed … and removed the indwelling catheter. This meant that 6 times a day, she had to be manually catheterized to have her bladder emptied.
She also continued making requests for a Halo technician to come and straighten and align the Halo. They kept telling her that it was ok and that it didn’t make any difference … but the mis-alignment was still driving her crazy. Plus, it wasn’t ok … and it did make a difference.
Here is a photo of Molly when they first put the Halo on. Notice the screws that go right into her head.
Notice it’s also lopsided!
For those first two weeks, Molly had no visitors outside our immediate family. She wasn’t able to interact with visitors anyway. I would just sit with her and hold her hand, trying my best to remain calm, hold a healing space, and not think dark gloomy thoughts.
I pretty much failed on the dark gloomy thoughts though. I had plenty.
Like most everyone … I have had periodic bouts with dark gloomy thoughts. And just like in all of those other bouts, I thought up … and made up … and imagined the most horrendous and terrible possibilities and outcomes until I had convinced myself that something bad was coming … and I was worried. I am sure my blood pressure was through the roof .
My Thoughts … a look inside my mind:
- Is this going to be my life now?
- How am I going to face this?
- What is my life going to be like?
- What does this all mean for me now?
Believe me … I didn’t like any of the answers I was coming up with at all … and I have done this so much in my life. You know … think up and dream up the worst possible outcomes to something going on… and scare myself half to death.
So NOT being in the moment!
Sometimes I marvel … that with all the complexities of life … it’s a miracle that any of us can walk and talk at the same time.
At the beginning of the third week … Molly moved to the rehab ward where she was put into a private room … right across from the nurses’ station.
It was here that Molly first began to realize just how impacted she was … that she was lying there … but couldn’t move. She started to really get … how radical her predicament was. Funny, but the moment that really brought it all home for her, was when her nose itched and she couldn’t scratch it. She realized then how immobile and disconnected she was … from her neck down.
She had a sense of her body … but not from the inside where she had no feeling. She had a sense of her body … but couldn’t feel it below her neck.
Then … when the nurses were setting Molly up in her new ‘home’, they couldn’t figure out where to put the call/help button. How do you push the help button if you can’t move anything?
Fortunately, she was right across from the nurses’ station, so when she saw someone walk by … she yelled HEY! Seriously! They kept the door open so Molly could call them whenever she needed to.
Molly still had the leg pumpers on to keep blood flowing in her legs … and she had a special mattress and bed … so they didn’t have to turn her body periodically. People who can’t move … that lie in one position in a bed without being moved around, face the possibility of getting skin breaks where the bed rubs through the skin. This is how Christopher Reeve died. He got an infection from a skin breakdown, and then suffered a heart attack, even with all of the care he was receiving.
Now that Molly was in rehab, they started addressing solid food and drink. They brought her menus so that she could choose her meals. She did this twice … and that was it. She wanted much more organic and whole foods to eat on a regular basis … so, she started to strategize again.
Now that Molly was beyond intensive care … a steady stream of visitors started to pour into the rehab ward to visit her. She had me get one of those large desk-top calendars … and put it on the wall. Her family and friends signed up on each day of that calendar … to bring breakfast, lunch and dinner … and to feed her because she couldn’t feed herself. Food was brought mostly from homes … and some from her favorite restaurants. She was in rehab for 6 weeks and only ate those first two meals provided by the hospital!
The hospital staff was now getting a real good idea of who Molly was, and they began to trust her directions about the things she needed more and more. They brought (finally) the Halo technician in to re-align her Halo. That made a HUGE difference … and you could see her body instantly soften and relax.
Here’s a picture after it was aligned properly. See the smile … and the glint? Yowza!