Monday, October 26, 2009

Those Funny Guys With Sad Eyes and Glasses

Scene 1: We see the outside of a hospital and then a shot of a sign:  Brain Injury and Spinal Injury Rehabilitation. Nurses are scurrying about with usual routines, patients are being walked to and from rooms. Some patients are in sitting slumped in wheelchairs around the nurses station. We follow a sterile hallway to a community room where a group of recovering brain injury patients are relearning how to bake brownies with a therapist.

They are a small group, about 3 or 4 men.  They all have surgery haircuts and you can see several have visible stitches in their scalps. They all look a bit too skinny for their clothes. Several are not steady on their feet. One suddenly shouts, "I want my brownie". Another, "Aren't they done, I don't remember them taking this long". The first, " I want my brownie now". Another, "Shut up and sit down". "I wont shut up! I wont!" He tears off down the hall screaming "I'm hung-ryyyyy" he's followed by several certified caregivers. He runs out the front door screaming "Noooooooooooo! Noooo,  I wont!!"

He's raving mad. He's about to run out into the street, he's out of control waving his arms around. "Noooooooo!" Then, as suddenly as his screaming had started it ends and he stops at the curb looks both ways access's there are no cars and walks across the street in an ordinary fashion. Two men watch from a short distance away, one comments to the other, "They're doing a great job helping these guys get back out into the real world."

Scene 2: A loved one is visiting her spouse, sitting in his room she overhears a commotion outside the door. Nurse: "..He's climbed out his window again, they're on it though. He did it the other night too. Took all of the individual window slats off the window pane, very meticulously and climbed out. Then he went screaming around on the grass outside till security caught him. By then he'd pulled out half the staples in his head. They took him to psych, he was way too much for us. Did you see his wife and kids? They're out of their mind with worry coming in everyday to be with him and then she finds out a little something more about his motorcycle accident. He had a girlfriend on the back! She was okay But he aint gonna be okay no matter how well he heals. That man was a dentist, super smart, he'll be okay but I'd hate to see his face when he realizes his wife is filing for divorce! Mmm mmm, the things you see. "

Scene 3: Doctor:  " You see m'am the brain is like a series of roads. All of these little bits of information are moving down neural pathways. Only now that the pathway is gone or under construction the driver has to find a new route. Look at Freeway 5. You want to get to LA but you find a portion of the freeway in Orange County is closed for repairs, you'll have to drive down side streets and frontage roads. It's going to take alot longer. "

Scene 4: Doctor " Your husband has been here two weeks. Physical therapy and occupational therapy both agree that it is time for him to go home now. We will be discharging him tomorrow to your care." Spouse: "But doctor I just saw him run out of the hospital stark raving mad, like a screaming banshee two days ago. How do I know he won't do that at home? How do I take care ....." Doctor: "He's ready to go we can no longer hold him. He knows who the president is, what day it is, and who his mother is. You're really lucky, he's gonna be okay." Spouse: "Great news, but he's not okay now and I can't take him home like this. He puts his shirt on backwards and has to be walked around with me holding his 'safety belt' you guys have on him. How am I supposed to go to work? Plus last night before I left here he got out of bed and went to the other side of the room and pee'd in a trash can. How am I..."  Doctor: Patting spouse on the shoulder, "Paper work has gone through, it's a done deal. You'll work it out, somehow. "


  1. One thing a lot of people don't understand is a person with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)is not mentally retarded. They have acquired an injury to their brain that they were not born with. Family and friends have a harder time understanding because they remember the person before the injury. Many patients also remember enough of the past and struggle with the things they can no longer do. This may lead to other mental health problems such as bipolar manic depression, dementia, suicide, and drug addiction. Most loss their friends and many loss family support. Paul needs his friends and Cindy needs her friends support.

  2. Still, it's heartening to see this much humor in it -- or that Cindy sees the humor beyond the obvious heartbreak.

    Great post.

  3. I think most folks that have been through a TBI with a loved one knows about the crazy ups and downs that happen in the first 6 months. Paul was indeed fortunate he came home with a great memory and the ability to write and continue making a living. Even the dentist mentioned above eventually went back to his business of dentistry, I ran into a few years later and he was doing very well. For those that have lingering debilitating symptoms after a TBI it is very sad indeed. My heart goes out to all the families that have loved ones coming home from the wars right now with brain injuries.

    In Pauls case he had a good 8 years of writing books and working and driving a car before his dementia set in. We'd thought that could happen, or parkinsons, but thought it would be 20 or more years post accident. The dementia began happening, er showing itself (I think Paul masked it for awhile) 8 years after the accident.

    I consider ourselves lucky to have had him "back to normal" for those 8 years, some folks don't have it so good.

    Thanks for the comments, it keeps me going. clb