Where do I begin?
So much happened so fast I got behind in my blog. I'm just now getting the chance to update everything that was missed.
Here is an update that I didn't get the chance to finish so it was never posted:
So much has happened I don't know where to begin!
Wednesday (1-27-10) I flew to Virgina. I planned to spend a week training to take care of Jared before flying him back home to Arkansas.
During my layover between flights I joined the weekly conference call. I was less than two hours from being there in person but I called anyway just to see what was going on. I never expected the first words I heard.....
Dr.G: "Your husband is walking."
Dr.G: "You husband walked today."
Me:"What do you mean he walked today?!"
Dr.G explained that Jared stood in the parallel bars and walked the full length of the bars. Jared needed a lot of help, but he was supporting his own weight and taking steps.
I knew that Jared was starting to stand, I never expected steps! I imagined some kind of harness suspending him from the ceiling, or some super sized baby walker. I couldn't imagine how in the world Jared could have walked, he can't even move the left side of his body!
I sat on my last flight thinking about everything that had happened since June. At first I found myself smiling, thinking of the recovery that Jared had made.
Moments later I found tears pouring from my eyes. We were leaving the only people that had been able to help Jared. Those people believed in us and fought with us. They listened to me when no one else would. What was I going to do without them?
I told the social worker that I wanted to be completely responsible for Jared's care while I was there. I needed to know before we went home that I could take care of Jared. I knew that I could feed Jared and medicate him, but physically could I really do this? Every single day.... could I lift him? Not just once, but every time he needed to be moved... I would have to pick him up.
The social worker had arranged for me to stay in Jared's room. The nurses were going to teach me how to take care of Jared. Friday we would be moved to an apartment in the hospital so that I could take care of Jared on my own. Tuesday we would move back to Jared's room until he was discharged on Wednesday.
When I arrived Jared was eating dinner. He seemed happy to see me as I replaced the nurse who was feeding him. Dinner was mostly uneventful. I immediately started spooning food into Jared's mouth without even allowing him the chance to feed himself. Jared has been dependent for so long I forgot that he can do some things for himself.
That night as I climbed into Jared's bed I noticed how much Jared was starting to fill out. I ran my hand across his chest and down his stomach telling him that his muscles were starting to come back and how sexy he was. I pulled the sheet down to his waist to get a better look, I couldn't believe it. I kept going on and on about how great he looked and running my hands up and down his body. Eventually I looked up only to find another surprise.
A smile. Not the forced lopsided smile I had seen so long ago, but a real one. His eyes were bright and his mouth was hardly lopsided. Both corners were pulled up into a BIG FAT SMILE! I could almost hear him laugh, I still can't promise that he didn't.
For me it was so much more than a smile, it was an emotion, a thousand words from the heart of my husband, and a memory that would last forever.
I fell asleep that night in my husband's arms. I laid there knowing that there was more to come.
Thursday I woke up to a smiling Jared. His eyes were closed but he was wearing a smile from ear to ear. I laid there in his arms as the nurse asked him if he was ready to get up, he nodded "no" as he continued to smile. The nurse came in several times, each time Jared nodded his head "no" with his eyes closed and his big smile. Eventually I had to get out of his bed so he would get up. Of course the staff thought this was absolutely hilarious, Jared normally wakes up early ready to get out of bed.
I was slightly disappointed Thursday. Nothing impressive had happened. Jared was groggy during his speech therapy. His regular physical therapist was off and I wasn't able to see him walk, I did lift training instead. After therapy Jared napped in his wheelchair. Dr.Mac let me listen to the alarms on the Baclofen pump, it sounded like Jared swallowed a cell phone.
At dinner I was exhausted. I watched as other patients trickled in to eat their dinner and leave. The dining room had cleared out completely and I could hear the nurses laughing down the hall. Jared stopped eating and asked "What are they doing?". At first I didn't know what to say, Jared had never talked to me like that. He answers questions and repeats words and sentences, but NEVER has he just talked to me. I told him I didn't know what they were doing. Then he asked "Do they want to get me a banana pudding?". I almost fell over. I explained to Jared that I didn't know if they had banana pudding but I would get what they had. Still in awe I retrieved the pudding from the refrigerator, Jared picked chocolate and said "I love chocolate pudding.". I continued to talk to Jared for the rest of his meal. It wasn't an easy conversation, I constantly had to ask him to repeat himself and speak louder. I told him that I really liked talking to him, he responded with a surprise "really?...". I told him yes and that I really missed having a husband that I could have a conversation with and that I was getting lonely. His next words were a sting of reality "I know how you feel...".
It had never occurred to me that Jared was lonely or missed talking to me. I guess because he couldn't tell me those things I assumed he didn't feel them. When I called and talked to him most of the time he didn't seem interested. I felt horrible that I had left him lonely and literally speechless. I felt so selfish.
I tried to keep him talking, I was afraid if he stopped talking I wouldn't get him started again. At some point I asked him if he missed Tyson. I was trying to see if he remembered Tyson considering he was the newest addition to the family. Jared told me "Yes, I took him to the big house across the street." for a moment I was confused. I was thinking of home before the accident and I didn't know what he was talking about. Then I realized he was talking about our visit at Christmas, he remembered that we came to see him! Jared had gone with us to the Fisher House and he had in fact taken the kids to the big house across the street! He had a new memory!
Oh so many new possibilities for Jared's recovery...
Jared chose to play bingo that night. We nibbled on junk food as we played, I chose the big bingo card so Jared could see. Jared cheated by sticking extra chips onto the card. Even in the crowded room I was able to hear Jared talking. When I asked him if he wanted more of his sandwich he said "I've had enough.". At the end of the game Jared called my name to get my attention..."I have to pee.". We raced upstairs not making it in time.
Normally Jared wouldn't care if he was wet but this time he was trying to pull his clothes off. Something about Jared had changed at dinner, the staff had worked so hard to get Jared to do these things for the past few months with no success.
I decided to go ahead and do Jared's bowel management since he needed to be cleaned up anyway. This involves giving Jared a suppository and sitting him on a bed side toilet. The night before Jared protested by pushing us away and refusing to lay on his side, it was going to be much more interesting now that he was talking.
Jared: I don't want a suppository.
Me: Jared you have to have this to make you poop.
Jared: I don't have to shit.
Me: Jared, because you don't tell them when you have to go to the bathroom they give you this to make you go when they want you to.
Jared: I'll tell them when I have to shit.
Me: Honey you have to have this tonight, tomorrow you can talk to Dr.Mac about it.
The argument continued, finally I gave it to him anyway. Jared sat there for a bit and then said "I suck.". I asked him what he sucked at and he said "talking.". I explained that he had a head injury that messed up a lot of things. I told him that if he kept working at it he would get better. I told him that he had been in a coma for two months and that he had been in the hospital for seven months now. The look on his face was total shock. I told him about the accident and that it had nearly killed him, I told him that he was alive by the grace of God and that at least he was getting better. He responded with "This is so fucked up.". He said it a few times and I asked what was so fucked up....."That you can't hear me.".
My mind reeled as I laid in bed that night. Jared was talking, he did in fact have opinion, he also was capable of remembering new information. Until now it had been easy to tell myself that Jared was unaware. I told myself that he didn't miss me, home, or our children. I convinced myself that Jared wasn't lonely, but how many people had just sat and had a simple conversation with Jared in my absence? Jared didn't show any emotion in the past so I only assumed he didn't have them.
That was as far as I got with the update. This is the rest of the story as I remember it...
I took care of Jared for the four days in the apartment. Some days he would talk to me and other days he didn't talk at all. Jared's family was excited that he was finally talking, they called to talk to him almost every night.
I was happy to hear Jared talking, not just talking but finally knowing what was going on inside his head. It also scared the hell out of me.
Now that Jared was talking I was finally beginning to see how his brain was working, the things that he thought about... and a lot of it didn't make sense.
One night as I rolled him into the apartment he waved his hand towards me. It was as if he was signaling for me to stop or get down. He was looking at something in the hallway that wasn't there. When I asked him what he was looking at he shushed me. When he finally spoke he told me that he was looking for Brandon, his Army buddy from his first deployment.
This crushed me. I was convinced that he was hallucinating or having some kind of flash back.
This was my fear. All the months I had waited for him to speak his own words, I was secretly afraid he might not be "all there".
I pushed all those thoughts away and simply told his family that we were unsure if he was making sense or not because he couldn't talk very well. I told them as time went on, when we could understand each other better, that we could better access his mental status.
The first night alone with Jared in the apartment I fell apart. I was so tired from moving everything we needed, training, collecting, and figuring out medications. I had to cook our dinner and do all the things that taking care of someone like Jared requires.
I began to believe I had bitten off more than I could chew.
At the end of the night I was so happy to finally be alone with Jared. I had waited so long to lay with my husband skin to skin. I wanted to feel him next to me, warm, loving, and alive.
Jared watched me strip my clothes and climb into bed. He reached out and pulled me to him, I buried my face in his neck.
Oh it was wonderful. I felt the stubble of his beard and smelled his hair. He wrapped his arm around me and rubbed up and down my bare back. I felt as if I could have laid in that moment forever.
The phone rang.
I talked to Jared's father for a few minutes only to look up and see Jared peeing off the side of the bed. He tried not to pee in the bed by aiming over the side, still he failed and I had to change the sheets.
"I had to change the sheets" seems like a task simple enough....yeah, no. Dead tired I began the process. I found the clean sheets, removed the old ones by rolling Jared from side to side, poking the clean sheet under him. Stretching, pulling and using my foot for leverage I finally wiggled the corners of the sheet on the bed. I cleaned Jared and the puddle in the floor, remade the top layers of the bed, and finally crawled in.
I cried out loud and my body shook with each sob. I thought to myself "How will I do this everyday?". Will everyday be a struggle for the smallest things?
I felt a hand rubbing me on the back...Jared. He could hear me crying and he was trying to comfort me.
In that moment I realized no matter how tough things were, I would never be alone, or unloved, as long as Jared was alive.
I rolled over and snuggled into Jared and fell asleep.
Jared's feeding tube had been removed in the beginning of January. The Baclofen pump and helped so much with his swallowing he was finally able to eat and drink a normal diet. He could eat and drink enough to sustain life.
The last of the life support had been removed and he was living just fine all on his own.
Absolutely no one in the medical community thought this would be possible.
I was able to see Jared walk, only once, he hasn't walked since.
I requested for Jared and I to fly home on a commercial airline. The doctors in Arkansas thought we were insane. Dr. Mac sided with me and the social worker booked us a flight home.
February 3rd we flew home to Arkansas. The day before the flight we trained at the airport so we would know what to expect. The airline was incredible. I didn't have to do a thing, they took great care of us.
During our layover I went to Wendy's to grab some lunch. I waited in line for what seemed like forever. As I waited a flight attendant came over to let me know they were ready to put us on the plane as soon as our food was ready. They took pictures for us and we walked the terminal with the pilots. The flight attendant even kept an eye on Jared so I could go to the bathroom on the plane.
We did run into a small problem in flight. Jared stole a purse. He was sitting in the aisle seat and the seat across the aisle was empty. The lady sitting in that row sat her purse in the vacant seat and Jared snatched it up. I apologized and gave it back, she smiled sensing Jared wasn't the standard purse snatcher. I cracked up laughing a few minutes later, the woman knew what I was laughing about and she laughed with me.
When we landed in Arkansas and man from the hospital came on the plane. I suppose they were worried about how Jared held up during the flight. As we left the secured area we walked into a mob of people. Jared's family and a handful of people from the hospital were waiting for us. The hospital staff told me they had an ambulance waiting if we needed it. I told them we were fine and that we would meet them at the hospital.
Chaos, AKA Jared's family ensued. We chased babies around the airport as we searched for lost car keys. Luggage was put into the wrong cars as well as family members. We assembled the family parade and headed to the hospital.
When we stormed the hospital, all fifteen or so of us, the other family members were asked to wait in the lobby. We checked Jared in and met his new doctor.
As the family members left Jared began to speak. I guess all the people were a little much for him. Right before I left another expected heart break ripped through me... he didn't know who I was.
I asked him if he knew where we were, he replied "Cancun". I knew as soon as he said it he was reliving his senior trip. When I asked if he knew who I was he identified me as his cousin. I explained that I was his wife and I asked if he knew my name, he nodded yes and mumbled "Kesha".
Ahhh...yes the high school sweet heart, his first love, Kesha. It was fitting considering we were in "Cancun" Mexico. I laughed it off the best I could and explained his thought process (to the family members) on the drive home.
Jared's brain is like a brand new deck of cards that have been dropped. All of the cards are there, just out of order. I assured them that eventually he would get things back in order, silently worrying that he never would.
From February 3rd to May 3rd Jared stayed at the VA hospital in Little Rock. After his first week there he was allowed to come home on weekend passes.
Every Friday I drove 2.5 hours to the hospital to pick him up then 2.5 hours back home. On Sunday I made the trip 2.5 hours to take him back to to the hospital and then drove 2.5 hours home again only to do it again the following weekend.
This is the point when things got really crazy.
I was doing all of this alone. I tried to make it to the important appointments that he had. Jared was diagnosed with seizures, sometimes I had the kids, sometimes I didn't.
My body hurt after taking care of Jared all weekend. I was so tired and sore I spent all week resting for the next crazy weekend.
When Jared was home I had to figure out how to manage daily life, with him and the kids. I had to figure out how to do things like buying groceries and loading the whole family in the car. Everyone needed dinner and baths at the same time. It seemed like everyone pooped simultaneously...especially when I was the most tired.
I had to face some harsh realities about what my life would be like. I doubted myself more than ever, I was scared. I was drained in every way possible and nearly broken.
I would like to say that I was strong, that I could carry the world on my shoulders if I had to. I wish I could say I was happy, positive, and focused.
I was not.
I broke free while I had the chance. I hung out with friends and tossed my worries out. I did the things I wanted to do, when I could. I sent the baby to Jared's mother and took a trip.
I went camping and white water kayaking. I drank screwdrivers with raccoons and floated 5 miles of cold river.
As I drug my kayak up the hill at the end of the float I realized this was exactly what I needed. I needed to complete something. I needed to accomplish something, not because I had to, because I wanted to.
I felt strong with the new muscles gained from caring for Jared. I was young and alive. I was saying goodbye.
I never wanted this for me. I've abandoned life as I know it, it will never be the same. I will never be the Jennifer I was a year ago no matter how much Jared recovers. I realized a lot of my pain was for me. Living a life I never wanted. All I needed was to say goodbye and a promise to myself.
"I will be happy. We will be happy. Do whatever it takes."
I returned home to wait for Jared to be discharged from the hospital with a new outlook on life.
Finally May 3rd, 313 days after Jared's accident, Jared came home to me.