One Full Year of Recovery (12 Month Update)

July 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

When an event in our life results in a drastic lifestyle change, we tend to remember the date and often mark it on our calendar.  Events such as birthdays, weddings, and even funerals are milestones whose dates we tend to remember.  On these days, our focus shifts from the everyday tasks that we confront on all of our “average” days to memories of the important event and consideration of how our life has evolved as a result.

A Wonderful Morning

On today’s date one year ago, Jessica and I woke up to a wonderful morning.  I’ll always remember our positivity and excitement that Saturday as we prepared to introduce our brand new baby to the world.  I’ll remember how relaxed we felt as we ate breakfast, made final preparations, and drove into the hospital.  The anxiety and exhilaration that we experienced while rushing to the hospital with our first two babies was reminiscent of a ride on the biggest, tallest, and fastest roller coaster in the park.  With this (third) baby being so late and Jessica being so uncomfortable for so long, it seemed that the climax of this pregnancy was the moment that the obstetrician finally told us “we can schedule the delivery for Saturday.”  This third delivery drive to the hospital could be likened more to riding the ferris wheel than to riding even the smallest of coasters.

Knowing what to expect at the hospital took all the air out of our imaginary stress balloon.  The familiarity with hospital check-in and delivery prep made it feel like having this baby would be as natural for Jess as brushing her teeth or making the morning coffee.  Things were running as smoothly as they possibly could and Jess was comfortable and conversing the entire time.  Life was going according to plan… Jess would feel better soon and once again feel comfortable enough to stay awake later than 7 pm.  She would be able to help with the laundry, cleaning, and housework once again.  A house managed by a man can be a scary sight, and Jess would feel well enough to retake the reins of household management just in time to ensure things didn’t get really bad around here.  Even with a new baby, the two of us would have been able to restore the house to the lived-in but generally clean feel that it had enjoyed before the pregnancy.

Our Lives in Freefall

Before we even got to the exciting part of delivery, all of that changed.  A sudden loss of consciousness and corresponding crashes of all vitals on the monitor was all the evidence needed to convict this day as the scariest we had ever faced.  Every minute seemed like an hour of torture as the slowdown of life magnified the stress ball in my chest and clarified forever the mental pictures of it all.  I would never again be free from the exact visual memories that I now wish weren’t quite so clear.  Hoping for the best but knowing its impossibility is a most humbling experience.  The world had never felt so big and I so small.  The only positive there was to dwell on was that we had such great interactions that morning and at least there were no worries about our final communications being something we might regret.

If this story were on TV, it would fit into an hour show and have writers who would ensure that all would be right with the world at the end of the episode.  We had seen many episodes of ER and House, but even the most dramatic episodes paled in comparison to this.  We had no writers to ensure a meaningful ending to the story and no time limit for our own personal episode.  The starting point for our life moving forward was that none of her organs or systems was functioning properly.  Not even one.  This was the one time in my life where it made sense to purposefully remove myself from some of the available information and potential realities of the situation to allow for a strand of hope that was thick enough to reach out for and hold onto.

It is folly to wish your life away, but if there was a fast-forward button available a year ago I would have strongly considered using it even if it meant sacrificing the entire year of my family’s life.  One year is a huge landmark in brain injury recovery, and we wondered often what life might be like as Jessica passed the one year milepost.  Never has our family put in so much time and effort in the hope of results that were so difficult to notice on a day-to-day basis.  The updates I have sent out showed progress, but only because they required me to step back and take a look at the big picture.  What was not included in those updates were all the details of the daily grind that made life so much slower and more frustrating than it had been prior to July 10, 2010.  The side effects from pills, lack of sleep, nausea, incontinence, doubt, frustration, household noise, and loss of appetite have all been formidable enemies in Jessica’s fight for independence.  The discomfort and inconvenience caused by these issues is only the tip of the iceberg, as under the water existed the more damaging possibility that any one of these issues might result in a long-lasting detriment to her physical recovery or psyche.

Fleeting Hope Transforms Into New Life

Last year at this time, I had no idea what would happen or what the future might hold for our family.  Weeks went by and her condition stabilized, organs woke up, and Jess was able to come out of the coma and reintroduce herself to the world.  Months later she relearned how to eat, think, and walk.  A casual observer might see her out in public and note the need for a cane and the deliberate nature of her walking as clues that her personal recovery journey might just be beginning.  This is because the story of her recovery is masked by the fact that her movements and interactions now look quite natural.  Observant strangers who notice the tiny tracheostomy scar on her neck and understand what the scar represents know that this woman is a survivor who has worked hard and conquered much.  Many doctors refer to DIC by its street name “death is coming.”  Those familiar with the condition understand how amazing it is that she not only survived DIC, but now has recovered to the point where she appears healthy and vibrant.

Whatever challenges Jess has faced in the past, nothing has compared to the past twelve months.  One saying that has helped us get through it is “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  Actually, I’m not certain that this saying is true without the assistance of others.  If our family had to face this challenge alone it would have been more than we could handle.

Throughout the past year, the help of family, friends, and even strangers has helped our recovery ship navigate along its course.  Through days of smooth waters and days of pounding waves, we never felt alone or forgotten.  How could we feel alone when it seemed that God had a hand in introducing us to the very people and ideas that served to help us through each and every storm.

The amount of targeted assistance that was secured as a result of strangers overhearing a conversation or happenstance small talk at the gas pump has been unexpected and uplifting.  The prayers and faith of so many have made this difficult journey something that we knew we could complete.  As Jessica enters the second year of her recovery we hope that your faith in her will remain strong and your thoughts and prayers would continue.  During the past year, they have helped us defeat long odds and lead a life of steady recovery.  As we move forward they will help us reach even greater heights.

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