We do the standard rounds in Sunday School, and this morning the leader asked if anyone had seen Ronnie. Ronnie is an older member of the group – older than most of us – who is diving deep into Alzheimer’s, still aware but left almost without short term memory.
One of the group said they went out to dinner with him and his family. Ronnie was the same as he always is, going ’round and ’round about the two or three things that fascinate him. “But,” he added, “you don’t want to question anything he tells you – we al know that – or else the entire roof blows off the house.
I remembered that my wife was warned , when I lay comatose for a month, that doctors couldn’t guarantee I would have the same personality when I woke as I had before my accident. I could be violent, accusatory, mean or just the opposite, which is probably more true for me. It seems that who we are hangs by the thinnest of threads and is easily broken with a strong tug.
I know a man in the hospital right now, as I write this, with TBI. He’s a cowboy and his cowboy is even more cowboy in the hospital. He’s belligerent, demands his way, and, dang it, is ready to fight for what is right. I was different. I knew people where helping me and I acquiesced. I gave in – and still do – to my wife in almost everything. It’s odd in retrospect, but doctors and therapists repeated that that I injured my brain and couldn’t trust my own thoughts anymore. I still struggle with this then truth.
Forgetting and defending
The story about Ronnie was interesting to me mostly because of the emphasis on agreeing with him. The guy who had dinner with him said he just nodded his head yes whenever Ronnie talked. The whole family did, then rolled their eyes at each other. Contradicting Ronnie brought something out of him that he had to defend. It’s a common thread. When I first woke from my comma, my wife was told to agree with me for the good of all of us. I remember asking her once why my mom and dad never visited me in the hospital. I forgot that they divorced forty years ago, or that my dad died fifteen years ago, or that my mom died the summer before. Heck, I forgot my wife and I were married. When I asked he about mom and dad, she just nodded, smiling, saying she would call them and be sure to let them know. That was enough to satisfy me and I’m not sure how I would have reacted if she tried to explain that, no, they divorced and died, and what are you talking about? I remembered the truth of it a couple days later, laying in my hospital bed, the whole thing coming back to my in one chunk. Very weird.
All this to say…give anyone with TBI, concussion, Alzheimer’s, or any kind of brain injury some space until you learn their personality. In all likelihood, you’ll both be happier.
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