Hospital Recovery (5)

A top view of me. The hair growing back on my previously shaved head. You’ll understand in the next segment why this is important.

The burn unit is intense.

Things move quickly. During the first week after awakening I was just allowed to recover and acclimate to my surroundings

My catheters were removed. I’m not sure that’s what you call the one that handled #2. Yes, your bodily functions continue during your coma. When you first awaken you’re told to “just go” if you feel the urge. I definitely didn’t understand what was happening, but it was honestly better than having to call a nurse and get a bedpan later.

I couldn’t walk or eat or drink and my right eye, that was already weak, had completely turned outward staring at the wall and I didn’t have the strength to straighten it as I had for 45 years

The physical therapists started coming daily in a troop of 4 to 5 to create custom casts to help straighten my arms (that couldn’t reach my head at the time) and to assess my ability to sit on the edge of the bed and stand. I couldn’t do anything without assistance. Not even shift myself in bed for comfort to avoid my bedsores.

The speech therapist came and determined that I couldn’t swallow or eat (I was given liquids and applesauce tainted with blue dye) without everything going into my lungs via my tracheotomy, instead of down my throat. That was the worst. Try not having a drink of water for two months. I begged until I was allowed to have ice chips which was generally unheard of. I went on to continuously get pneumonia, likely from that. I would sometimes cheat and have popsicle chips. Sugar. The last thing you want in your lungs. I didn’t know any better at the time.

I was optimistic about everything except that tracheostomy. Look, I hated it. It felt like I was suffocating when laid flat. I had lots of thick mucous in my lungs that would shift and block the trach when I laid flat. I couldn’t get myself to just breathe through my nose instead! I would just fight and insist on my head being elevated! The respiratory therapists would come 4 times a day to suction that mucous from my lungs through the trach and to clean components of the trach itself. Having your lungs suctioned feels like having your soul sucked from your body. When it’s over, you can breathe freely for a few hours and it feels like a gift. Yes, I definitely hated the tracheostomy.

I needed to learn to walk again and I thought those daily physical therapists were coming to teach me, but they were really just determining my ability to start intensive therapy at another location that handles such things.

One afternoon I was told that I was being moved to a place that teaches people with traumatic brain injuries how to walk again and I was leaving that evening. It was about 1 1/2 hours away and I was terrified to leave what I knew.

I was transported there and my husband followed only to be told he couldn’t spend nights in the room with me as he did at Grady Hospital. We were far from home, so he got a $1,000/week hotel even though money was getting tight. He wouldn’t leave me. He would stay 9:00 am to 9:30 pm daily and then go to the hotel and call me until he fell asleep. I was terrified and didn’t sleep much myself. I always sat upright because of the tracheostomy. I also had ICU psychosis and believed the devil himself, horns and all, was waiting in a corner to steal my soul. I could see him. Thankfully, Donald was always nearby.

And boy am I glad he didn’t leave. The adventures were just beginning. I had 30 days there and I had to learn to walk again. To use the actual bathroom again. To shower again. To swallow again.

It was the worst 30 days of my life. Truly…

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