Monday, November 29, 2010
When I woke up, remained in a coma, regained consciousness, kept dreaming? I was back in my hospital bed and Eric smiling done at me. “How is my little honey today?” he asked. I could not speak because like my first hospitalization I was being intubated and the ventilator made it impossible but I kept trying to show Eric my legs which were burned practically down to the bone by my first night in the acid bath. He seemed to quickly look at them and agreed they were a little thin but once we got home he and my attendants would build them back up with my range of motion exercises that I wasn’t getting there. I pleaded with him with my eyes, “Please look what they’ve done to my legs!” He kept pulling my blankets up and I kept trying to push them down. Soon I could hear one of nurses coming to give my meds which had to be pushed into nasal canula that was fed the whole way into my stomach. So this time when Eric pulled the covers up over me I let them be.
The nurse couldn’t have been sweeter as she took my vitals and chatted politely with Eric. I tried to get a good look at her name plate so I could keep a mental note of the people trying to hurt me if I got out of this place alive. But her credentials could not be read because the tag was flipped over backward. I peered more intently. It hadn’t merely flipped over it was being deliberately worn backwards to hide her identity. From that moment hence, I made a point of looking at EVERYONE who worked in the hospital who came into room to see if I could identify them by their name tag and found that everyone from the lowliest floor sweeper to highest neurological specialist wore their identification this way!
The next thing I knew Eric was gone, he didn’t even say goodbye, and I found myself in another room. The nurse’s station was just outside my door and I was eavesdropping on their conversation. They were planning my death, sacrifice to the dark forces, and ultimately my disappearance from the hospital. They were still planning to melt the flesh from body with strong acid solution starting at my feet and working upward pouring it over my head last. Their first try was not as successful as they had wanted so the leader of the coven, the small nurse with the long brown hair Vicky, solicited a new witch to change the recipe of the acid to make it ten times as strong. The solution is so strong it actually catches the skin on fire on contact. My heart was racing in terror and I stirred noticeably. One of the nurses came into my room to check to see if I was still asleep. For some reason I could not keep my eyes closed the entire way to fool them into thinking I was sleeping. They wouldn’t keep discussing the morbid details of black ritual while they thought I was listening so I was left alone to wonder when, where, why, and how these evil nurse witches were going to kill and dispose of my body.
It seemed as if I was dreaming within a dream and I was looking at myself from above. All I could see lying on the hospital bed was blackened yellowish skeleton and for some reason I just knew how they were going to rid of what was left of my corpse. The evil witch nurses and doctors who were also in on it, had chosen Vicky to make the sacrifice and then they would throw my crushed bones in the Monongahela River in PA. As I lay there I imagined what it would be like to have the flesh melted off my feet and have the acid slowly eat its way up my ankles, lower legs and knees. Burn the flesh, muscle, tendon, and blood from thighs, privates, buttocks and finally start working on my internal organs. I wondered how much agony I would have to endure before it killed me and I was afraid…very, very afraid. Why was this happening? And where was Eric? ( to be continued )
Sunday, November 28, 2010
This helicopter ride I DO remember and I began thinking as the paramedics worked methodically on me that maybe this wasn’t going to be so much fun after all. Janice was sitting up front with the pilot and bouncing from window to window like a puppy on its first ride in the car. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see out the window since I was lying on a gurney with an oxygen mask over my face and I was shivering because the IV needle solution was making my arm so cold. Everything was so much colder now…now that I was quadriplegic. The nice firm muscle I used to have has by now almost wasted away. The muscle wasting, poor circulation and a tendency toward low blood pressure was what made me feel cold all the time. The thumping noise from helicopter blades beating off the winds lulled me into a fitful sleep and when I awoken again, it was by the gentle voice of paramedic calling Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh with my E.T.A. Now I really WAS nervous. I didn’t want to be in the hospital. Why didn’t I just go home after my Doctor appointment and let Eric and Janice nurse me back to health?
The hospital stay itself was a just one nightmarish image after another. My first memory of the six week stay in that place I had been dreaming that I was in some sort of cult where all the women had to comb their hair several times a day and I was very distraught because my hair getting was so thin from all the combing. Also, in the dream Eric had another woman and I was sobbing in despair and broken-heartedness. Meanwhile, out in the real world, Eric’s mother was sitting beside the head of my hospital bed patiently trying to comb the neurologist’s techs’ glue out of my long red hair. I’m told I was in a coma having massive brain seizures for 9 days due to overdosing error by a nurse complicated by an intern’s bright idea to DX (discontinue) ALL my meds while in the coma which probably caused the seizures because of withdrawal! I drifted between dreaming, hallucination, reality, delusion and back again. I have huge holes in memory, long and short term memory loss to this very day.
The nurses had put me on a gurney and moved me to very end of the ward back into the private break room area which was adjacent to the cleaning closet. Three of nurses stayed in the back and donned black robes over their scrubs. Past and behind rows of lockers there was a small black staging area. One of the nurses took off my dirty hospital pajamas, gave me sponge bath and then redressed me in fresh hospital garb. The other two were mixing a strong solution of acid from the cleaning supplies. All three wore strange and unique crystals around their necks and I listened intently as talked about how they were going to kill me since I was the most problematic patient they’d ever encountered. Of course, they didn’t use such gentle language. Finally they transferred me from the gurney and placed me on a large pillow of yellow foam which was sat on the stage. Before they all left for the shift a small nurse whose name was Vicky poured the acid solution over my chest, stomach, and legs. I could feel it burning my skin and as the night wore on pieces of foam melted out from under me. Gratefully, after praying for Christ to save my soul, I lost consciousness. (to be continued)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I didn't think I’d ever be the same Lori Ann I was before the experience with Eric’s Canadian vacation. No matter my many faults and character defects, I had always been a trusting soul who wore her heart on her sleeve and opened up easily to just about anyone. Something inside me died those nine days and the cracks in my fragile ego were growing like those in a windshield of a car driven hastily over a road full of pot holes. My health suffered by my overuse and misuse of my medication to try and cope with my feelings of inadequacy. And since Eric constantly blamed me for pushing him away by my “constant questions “and “incessant neediness”, I was never more alone in my life. I spent half the time trying to find ways to make a connection with the man who once was my best friend, my confidant, my silly buddy, my lover, my soul mate and the other half asking for extra pain pills by exaggerating my discomfort or more Klonopin because my anxiety was so severe.
I started seeing the same neurologist I had been seeing before my injury for the horrible migraines which mysteriously disappeared after my neck was broken. Of course I suffered a different type of pain these days. The rehab and pain specialist doctors called it central pain which is a severe type of nerve pain that can happen anywhere below the level of the SCI (spinal cord injury, ed, ect.). The symptoms vary, but I had it worst in my legs. There’s almost no way to describe it to someone who has never had the pleasure of experiencing it firsthand. However, I will TRY. It felt as if my legs and feet were on fire from the INSIDE of bones out through the veins, arteries, tendons, nerves, muscles, and skin. It was excruciating. I would awaken screaming in pain which did NOT please Eric who was running on empty from lack of sleep and working too hard remodeling my bedroom. But the neurologist was giving me very strong narcotics again.
I also had other pain that almost drove me crazy. It was my butt. It hurt ALL the time. It hurt from sitting ALL the time and lying on my back most of the time while sleeping. I didn’t get much of chance of getting off of it except when Eric and my younger sister Mary who worked for me for about a year helped me roll over on my belly. If I could relax enough to get past the anxiety, I might even doze for an hour or so. Oh ,what sweet relief! I was going to outpatient physical and occupational therapy, seeking the magic combination of treatments, shots, or pain medications for my constant pain, and I began using a service the state offered called “peer support”. That’s when I met my good friend Don. He has cerebral palsy and his function as my peer counselor was to take me out into the public once again as a disabled individual. It was around this time that Mary left, citing personal conflicts as her reason. We had a few other attendants but eventually hired Janice who I became fast friends with.
As the spring rain was just letting up and looked like summer was just around the corner I felt what I thought was a chest cold coming on. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist and since his office was in the hospital; I decided to stop in the emergency room on my way back home and get checked out. My attendant went with me on all trips so Janice was there too. By this time, I loved her like a big sister and she seemed every bit as loyal, honest and committed to the friendship as I was.
After seeing my shrink and picking up my script for my regular meds, we took the short walk outside around the hospital to have a smoke before going to see the ER Doctor. However, I just couldn’t smoke my cigarette without coughing so hurried along and made our way into the sliding glass doors. It seemed as if we waited awhile and I had to go over my “story” again and again. When I finally saw the Doctor he told me my blood oxygen level was dangerously low and that his hospital was not equipped to take care of me. He said I should be life flighted to Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh PA where they could monitor me better and so forth. I really wasn’t worried I don’t know what was going on in my head. I just looked at Janice and almost jokingly said, “Ya wanna go on a helicopter ride?” and she told me she never was on one. So I said, nonchalantly, almost eagerly, “Let’s go then!” I had no idea what nightmare lay before me.
Monday, November 22, 2010
While Eric was in Canada with a woman he claimed to be in love with, I was left in the care of my attendant Elaine who certainly didn’t have the patience it required to care for me twenty-four seven. She also didn’t possess the skills of a therapist, an open ear or at the very least a shoulder to cry on. Her friend Dale, a nice man but with severe psychological problems of his own, was a gentle soul and took an immediate liking to me.
So here I was…my life in the hands of two people I barely knew, my heart ripped asunder just as neatly as my cat Bilbo gutted a mouse, and betrayed…by my fiancée’ of 12 years, my once close and loving family, my friends, my God and worst of all my body. I spent the days submerged in my laptop. I found a website for and by disabled people called the carecure community. http://sci.rutgers.edu This site got me through some dark times in last 5 ½ years.
But then the night would come. I don’t know if I looked forward to Eric’s call or dreaded in advance the time it would be over. Why was he calling me anyway? He said he wanted to make sure I was alright. Alright? Compared to what? I just wanted him to come home and told him so every call. He always told me he loved me but spoke in subdued tones as if afraid of being over heard. I couldn’t take the mixed signals and usually went to bed in state of panic and sadness that would well up inside me until I wept out loud in rage and angst sometimes for hours. Until Elaine would come charging into my room like a wild bleached-blonde boar screaming louder than a banshee for me stop my God awful, motherfUcking whining and son-of-a-bitching sniveling RIGHT THE FUCK NOW!!! If poor Dale tried to come to my rescue, she would freak out on him actually picking up the nearest item that would suffice as a weapon and crack it over his head. I told Eric about this … he did not believe me.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
We were under the impression that all our help and services had been taken care of while I was still in rehab and upon arriving home everything would already be put in place. But since my stay at the rehab center was in Allegheny County, PA and we lived in Westmoreland County, PA, this was not the case. Eric and I found ourselves alone and without help and money to assist with my care. It was time to start asking for help.
Eric is the type of man who would rather starve than ask for someone’s help. But after watching me almost losing my mind AGAIN he finally broke down and took my advice to call my priest. We were stunned at the number of people who let us down. My family, let’s face it, had no time for me, our friends seemed to disappear like ghosts, and not one member in my church congregation came forward with a little money or a moment of their time. I remember my 78 year old mother driving 25 minutes from Greensburg where she lived to sit with me until Eric was done DJing for the night. That’s what we did before I got hurt. We had a DJ business called “D Flawless”. My part of the couple team effort was to design and print flyers, travel around the local scene to speak to club/bar owners/operators trying to fill our month with regular bookings. I was also in charge of the audience and club managers, taking care of requests, dedications and parties. Eric kept a few of our regular bookings after I got hurt because other than my disability check it’s all the income we had at the time. I also remember lying in my bed taking cat naps while Eric poured the sidewalk one slab at a time 100 feet down around from back door the entire length of the house and driveway so I could get my wheelchair in and out of the house in case of an emergency. Our neighbor Bill, who Eric had gone on regular fishing with, looked on and never once offered to help.
It took 6 months to set up all the help we needed and by that time Eric so physically and mentally worn out from taking care me and the house on his own he had fallen into a deep depression. Unfortunately, I was still in so much shock and depression of my own I unable to be there for man I loved more than sunshine itself. I didn’t know it at the time but he had turned to another woman. Someone he began chatting with on the internet. I’d heard these kinds of stories before but I never thought it would happen to me. While I was struggling with whether or not there really was a God and if so why was he punishing me so severely? Why didn’t he just let me die? I couldn’t sleep at night after 11 years of having him spooning with me or making mad, passionate, and bed rattling love. Now almost a year has gone by and the few attempts we did try when I first came home were pretty disappointing for both of us. I hadn’t regained much sensation anywhere below my injury yet and I was taking as many pain pills as I was allowed so at least once I fell asleep. (yikes!)
Now when I brought up sex he quickly turned the conversation to something else or he would he give some excuse why we haven’t and that we would really soon. I suppose he eventually got tired of my constant nagging about the subject because he finally got angry and told me the REAL reasons. He was so tired and depressed that he prayed to God to take him because he wanted to see his Gram again and thought suicide was a sin. He tells me now that he begged me to lighten up on him. He says I would wait until he went to sleep and THEN call him for something. He tells me he had a gun in his mouth ready to blow his own brains out. I had terrible anxiety, before this accident ever took place, feeling so trapped in own my body was almost too much to bear. I swear I don’t remember Eric crawling on his hands and knees to get me drink of water. But he says it’s happened and who am I to argue? I’ve been very sick since being hurt with high fevers, brain seizures, and a coma.So when Eric informed me that he had met who he thought was his soul mate over the internet, she lived in B.C. Canada, her name is Devie and he was planning on taking a trip to go and see her; my reaction was mix of hurt, fear, anger, disbelief, regret, and a pain that cut through my soul with razor sharpness. I wept, wailed, and begged him not to go. My younger and closest sister had been working for me for about almost a year but she said she couldn’t handle her mixed emotions and just wanted to go back to her young son, Shane to be there for him as he started school. I couldn’t really mourn the loss of Mary as my personal attendant. My emotions were a jumble. I felt as if I would lose my mind at any given moment. He told me he had to know for sure what he wanted; a life with a woman who could take care of him if he wanted (she owned her own restaurant) able to pick up his hobbies again that he loved and missed like playing his guitar, fishing, and gardening or this life being a paid caretaker(the state was finally paying for caregivers for me) getting up in the middle of night to turn me on my side, trying to keep on remodeling our 100 year old house, and taking care of all the things he didn’t trust my other caretaker to do. I was allotted 76hours attendant hours per week counting his 40 hours. Eventually he left me with my attendant Elaine and her friend Dale,
me holdig a gladiola from our garden
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Even though I spent six weeks in the hospital healing a broken neck and recovering from double pneumonia plus a second 6 weeks in grueling rehabilitation, I didn’t see much of what was always my close knit family. Oddly, even my own mother never came to the ICU. After my accident it seemed as though my family were drifting away. If memory serves me correctly I may have been graced with the presence of my grown son once. Of course I had no idea at the time that the needle had taken him and he was chasing the dragon for some time now. I have two sisters, Linda and Mary, who I rarely caught a glimpse of although they did bring mom to visit a couple of times. However, my mom changed her phone number while was in rehab and no one told me until the staff couldn't reach her. Also, my niece Kim, who is only 4 years younger than me and used to be like another sister and didn’t even come to visit ONE time. She also has two boys who are my great nephews I haven’t seen her or them since my accident 5 ½ years ago.
Eric was there almost daily and the sight of him was like an angel appearing since I couldn’t summon a nurse because of the tracheotomy which left me mute and my paralyzed hands. I was a smoker for 25 years before becoming ill with the pneumonia and the spinal cord injury (SCI) left me without a cough reflex so the nurses and respiratory therapists had to use a machine to suction the phlegm from my lungs so I could breathe more easily. Many hours were spent with me desperately trying to get ANY passing person’s attention by weakly lifting a fist a few inches off the bed and urgently waving it with all my might while drowning in my own mucous.
After leaving the hospital, I did my 6 more weeks in a rehabilitation center where the daily routine kept me fairly sane. However, a few terrifying experiences set me back a bit. One nurses’ aide dropped me out of my wheelchair one morning and my head hit the sink. No permanent damage was done but it was another blow to my fragile neck. The other incident happened while I practicing driving my wheelchair. My hand got stuck on the throttle while I was leaning to get something from my table and I fell forward hand still pressed firmly on throttle and struck the wall with the top of my head so hard it cracked the paint. My upper body in my lap and head still pressing ever tighter against the wall and yelping as loud as my compromised lungs would allow me I eventually got the attention of the nurses outside of my room. I was finally rescued and the doctor said no harm could be done to my neck with all the pins and screws in it but I often wonder if some vital early healing was not negated by the experience.