Stepping Down

What’s your name? Katharine. How old are you? 36. Where are you? Riverside Methodist Hospital. Ok, here’s your Ativan and your Keppra.

Actually, I’m not going to take the Ativan anymore.”

And that was it. I parted ways with Ativan. The nurse nodded and moved along after I took the ginormous horrible Keppra pill. I still take these. I may always take these. Some days they still seem horrible and ginormous. Some days they’re fine. And typing this sent me dashing to my pill box to see if I’d taken today’s. I have. Phew. Tomorrow’s looks horrible and ginormous.

It was happening. I’d made the cut. I’d passed the audition. I was going to Rehab, but there wasn’t a bed yet. They release people from Rehab on Fridays. My second surgery was  Tuesday, May 22nd. I think my audition was on Wednesday. They also transferred me to a Step-Down Unit either late Wednesday or early Thursday. I was there until Friday evening when they moved me to Rehab.

The Step-Down was just that, a step down from the ICU. The move brought new nurses. I don’t really remember any of them since I was only there a day or two. I do, however, remember one of the techs. His name was Zack. And if you are Gen X and this is who you think of when you think of Zack,

then you are not far off. And really, I wasn’t hallucinating this time. Matt met this one and would agree on the Saved By the Bell assessment.

I know I was still on an IV at this point. They didn’t remove that until a few minutes before I transferred to Rehab on the evening of the 25th, but at some point in the Step-Down, they removed the cathether. I will wait and discuss the unforseen consequences of a stroke and two weeks with a catheter in a few days, buying myself a brief delay in revealing this particular tidbit. Rehab, while rebuilding my broken body and fragmented mind, would also be an excercise in humility and, at times, humiliation.

I remember this room faced a completely different direction. I remember the sun in my eyes. Mainly though, I remember visiting with my Aunt Loura. Loura is my dad’s older sister and I hadn’t seen her since my grandfather’s funeral in 2009. Since my dad’s passing in 2001, Loura is my closest blood relative on that side. She had planned this brief sojourn to Columbus well before I ended up in the hospital and, to be honest, I’m not sure how much she had been briefed on my surgeries and my current condition. The last time she had seen me, I was several months pregnant with my youngest son and delivering my grandfather’s eulogy, so I’m sure seeing me bald, stapled, wraith-thin, with a curled up arm and speaking in a strange monotone must have come as a shock. If it did, she did an amazing job at holding her reaction in check or it’s possible I just couldn’t read her, a common side effect of brain trauma.

I remember Aunt Loura there with Matt and the boys, the boys poking around this new room. I remember Matt leaving Loura and I to visit. I remember she brought some things to show me. Loura and I are the keepers of the family history. I have a suitcase of pictures and documents in my basement taken from my grandfather’s house. She has one at her house in California. She had brought some of her things with her, letters and pictures.  Loura sat with me going through each piece and reading old letters out loud.

Another visit (I believe she was there two days), she brought in the first batch of scarves, hats and other head coverings that I had received. We tried to make heads or tails of how to tie and arrange them. For the most part, I couldn’t make them work. In Rehab, there were a couple of nurses and therapists who could tie a mean scarf, but in general, I found them to be more trouble than they were worth.

The strangest thing about these transitional days between the Neuro-ICU and Rehab is that I remember feeling calm.  Even though my memory is still fuzzy, I was no longer hallucinating. I wasn’t seeing darkness in every corner nor was I particularly anxious about the upcoming transition. I do seem to remember making an offhand joke to either Zack or one of the nurses about whether they would be “racing us” in Rehab and looking for some sort of giveaway reaction that would tell me if that was true. I remember someone telling me that they would be working me hard and that I had better rest while I could. So is that a “yes” to the racing question?  I think I did rest for these couple of days. This was probably the best rest I’d had since being admitted and would be the best rest I’d have for another three and half weeks.

A few days ago in 2014 my now 4-year-old son brought me a book to read at bedtime. I didn’t recognize it. He looked at me and asked “What’s May 2012?” Well, that’s a loaded question, kid. Have you been on social media lately following links to my blog? “May 2012 is when my mommy was in the hospital. Do you remember that?” I asked.

He nodded. “Mmhm. That’s when you had no hair.”So does he really remember that or has he just heard me talking? Then, I opened the book and saw that my Aunt Loura had inscribed it to Justin with the date “May 2012.” He can’t read yet, so he must remember Matt or someone reading him that inscription to him. Thank you, Aunt Loura.


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