In a previous posting I gave a short rundown of a few of the silly ideas that our society has regarding those of us with limited personal mobility. What I didn’t talk about was how you make the transition from acute brain injury to brain injury survivor. This transition was, in large part, facilitated by a group of practitioners of the medical subspecialty known as physical medicine and rehabilitation. These practitioners are known as physiatrists.
My introduction to this field of medicine came almost two months, to the day, after my brain went on vacation without bothering to take my body along with it, and began about an hour after my arrival at the local unit of a national chain of rehabilitation hospitals. For those not familiar with the philosophy and purpose of such institutions, allow me to present a brief explanation.
The philosophy of rehabilitation is to restore, as much as is reasonably possible, the patient’s quality of life as it existed before their illness or injury. The purpose of rehabilitation hospitals is to concentrate, under one roof, the many resources required to implement that philosophy. From personal experiences I can assure you that, should you find yourself in such a facility, the job titles of the people who will be working with you do not come close to describing their job functions.
My daily routine began at 8:30 AM with the first of two visits to the Physical Therapy (also known as PT, as in Pain and Torture) Unit. The therapists in this department spent an hour each morning working to stretch muscles in my arms and legs that had contracted from lack of use during my previous two months inside either the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU; pronounced, quite appropriately, “sick you”) or the Sub-Intensive Care Unit of the hospital where all this began.
After an hour or so of PT I would be delivered to the Speech and Hearing Department where, despite the misleading name, I eventually relearned to speak and even how to swallow without inhaling whatever I happened to be eating or drinking at the moment. Just as importantly, they also started to reteach my brain how to distinguish between “background noise” and what I was supposed to be concentrating on.
My afternoons were divided between another round of PT and a visit with the Occupational Therapy (OT) crowd. Although OT may suggest that it’s involved in getting you back to work so you can start paying off your hospital and doctor bills, this is where you begin to learn how to at least take care of yourself until you can safely live on your own. You will have to trust me on this one, but you have no idea how many activities that you will have to relearn, or adapt to your remaining abilities, after a brain injury.
You might rightfully infer that above schedule could be quite tiring, and you would be right. Now, multiply that schedule by seven days a week to include weekends and any holidays. You don’t get many days off, if any, in rehab. After two months of that I was more than willing to go back home; four months and 10 days after I crashed during surgery.
It’s been almost five years since I woke up and was shocked (although that word isn’t even close to being a strong-enough definition) to find that my “old” life was gone and that my “new” one wasn’t going to be something that anyone in their right mind would envy. All I want to say ,to the many people that helped me get this far, goes something like this:
“Thank you all and may God, or whoever/whatever you believe in, send a lot of good things your way.”