The sun shining in my room, announcing the new day, would be welcoming to wake up to—if I felt like welcoming a new day. The humming and buzzing are no surprise, and I’m used to my bare surroundings now. No voices or smiling faces are present. Just me and the dark cloud of dread floating heavy above my bed.
Poor Lance. He would have never left that party if I hadn’t been the one who had panicked and needed to flee. He’d still be here. What have I done? How is it even possible to feel’ grief, remorse, anger and unbearably lost all at the same time? I’m not sure, but that’s exactly how I feel. How do I pick up from here? And truthfully … do I want to? My days are dark, do I want tomorrow to really come? Is it hope that brings tomorrow?
“Good morning Mrs. Cooper.” A nice looking gentleman, I’d have to guess in his mid-forties, greets me. I wipe away the stray tears and give him my attention. “You probably don’t remember me, but I’m Dr. Mitchell.”
“Nice to meet you officially, I guess then.” He’s right. I have no clue who he is, nor any recollection of ever meeting him before.
“I probably shouldn’t confuse you any more than you already are, but I am just one of the many that helped … put you together again, after your accident. I’m sure you will be seeing quite a few new faces in the next couple of days.” I nod in understanding. “You gave a lot of people a good scare.” Again I nod, still in shock from this situation. “I’m a neurosurgeon. I was the guy messing with your brain.”
His sense of humor makes my lips curl up into a small smile. “She does smile.” He jokes. “Listen, I know all of this has got to be more like something from a bad movie than real life, but in reality—it did happen. Now we need to get you fixed back up. You took a pretty good beating and some of these things are going to take some time to heal.”
“So, my arm and leg?”
He puts his tablet down to assess my situation better, “Let’s take a look, okay?” Taking my right arm in his hand, he gently squeezes, “are you able to feel this?”
“Yes, it seems like I can feel mostly everything,” I tell him.
“That’s a very good sign, how about this?” He takes his stylus pen and runs it down the length of my arm. I excitedly say yes. “Perfect, now I want you to squeeze my fingers.” I try to the point of my head bulging, but nothing—they won’t budge. He must see the frustration on my face. “Don’t worry just yet, okay? He lays my arm back down gently and moves to the foot of my bed. His confidence in my recovery is reassuring, but there is still doubt lurking in the back of my mind. What if I will never walk again? How would I be able to continue to be a chef? He runs his pen over the top of my foot and I’m able to feel the motion. “Can you try to press against my hand?” I can feel the light pressure at the bottom of my foot and I try to push my foot into him. Not even a twitch of movement.
“The brain is an amazing thing,” he starts, as he walks to the head of the bed. “It’s like a giant roadway with Interstates and Highways streaming with information. Let’s say a piece of information is a bright shiny BMW, and you need your car to get to point B to make your arm reach for a glass of water. Well, if the road you usually travel is damaged and getting worked on, detour signs direct you in another direction. Now you have to drive all around to get to the point you were headed for.
“So I’m brain damaged?”
“I wouldn’t phrase it like that, but your brain did sustain a significant amount of injury. There was some damage to the area near your occipital lobe that controls your ability for motor skills. Now your brain needs to create more pathways for communication.”
“Will it heal itself?”
“We are extremely hopeful that with some time—yes. Nikki, you had a lot of brain swelling, and that can take some time to completely go down. Once, all the inflammation is gone we will be able to get a better assessment. In the meantime, we will be doing some vigorous training to kick start those communications. You are a great candidate for physical therapy, and once we’re done with you, you’ll be up and running marathons and playing tennis in no time. I smile weakly at his hopefulness. I wish I could feel his optimism.
“How long do you think I will be in here?”
“Depending on how well your progression comes along, but I would think maybe a week. It seems to me that you’ll have a pretty good support team to help—your kids were here every day.”
“Yes we were.” The doctor and I both look up to see my oldest son—his arms overflowing with flowers. “We rather enjoyed it too … you weren’t able to bicker at us for a couple of months.”
“I guess I will have to do some double time then.” My son always was the class clown, but his light comic relief is just what I needed to calm my nerves. “Hi Ben.”
“Hi, Mom. I’m so sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up. I was in Texas checking out a graduate school. The second I found out, I was on the next plane out of there.”
“Oh honey, don’t worry about it. Besides, you didn’t miss out on much, tears—a little panic.”
“I still wish I could have been here. I got in about two this morning and I didn’t think I should disturb you at that time.”
“Baby you can disturb me anytime — night or day.”
The doctor clears his throat, “I’ll let you visit with your family, but I wanted to let you know I will be getting you started on exercises, soon. It’s going to be a very long uphill battle for a while, but we will get you through this, okay?”
I nod in acknowledgment, “thank you, Dr. Mitchell.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Ben winks at me and gives me a toothy grin. “Now that you’ve had a nice long nap, you should have the energy of a twelve-year-old hyped up on an energy drink.”
“I wish. I feel like I got hit by a freight train, and for some reason … I am exhausted.”
“You kind of did get hit by a freight train … guess that part fits.” I haphazardly smile at him. I know he’s trying to make light of the situation.
“Did you go to his funeral?”
Ben nods, indicating yes. “It was a nice service. The pastor who did his eulogy made a point of remembering the good—not the bad.” He stops talking and scratches his head. “I’m going to miss fishing with him.” I know exactly how he feels. We had so many good memories with Lance. He was always there for all our family events and so much more. I lost a brother that day.
“Dad has moved some girl named Sarah in.” I don’t think Ben is real comfortable sharing this news with me. “What the hell is he thinking? You guys were so happy and …” my poor son looks up angry. Sean has not only ripped my heart out, leaving it to bleed out, but he is hurting his children as well. The evidence of heartache is written all over Ben’s face.
“I’m sorry Mom. I shouldn’t be talking to you about this, yet.”
I push the button on my remote bed to raise the back, so that I am sitting all the way up. “It’s ok, Ben. Your dad is the one making these choices. All we can do now … is, move on and see what happens tomorrow.”
“I just want to punch him in the face.” He snaps.
I struggle to twist. I want to touch him—to console him.
“Do you need help?”
“No! I need to be doing some of this on my own. I can’t expect everyone to do everything for me.”
“Nonsense, don’t be so stubborn.”
I chuckle, “Who’s the parent?” He gives me a deadpan look, but I don’t care what he thinks … I don’t want to be doted on. Right now, Ben’s the one in need of consoling.