Relearning how to be human

There is nothing more humbling than needing help to go to the restroom when you are 42.  I should have been out climbing Mount Everest, reshingling the roof, driving the car-pool, any number of things instead of waiting for a nurse to help me go to the bathroom.

The doctors didn’t know what to do with me.  I should not have survived the stroke at all, given that my blood pressure was 237/87.  Some had the uninformed opinion that I should be sent to convalescent care and just wait to die.  But it was decided in the end that they would try therapy.  I was transferred to a hospital better suited for such treatment.  This was on a weekend, and I was still mostly out of it.

Six o’clock Monday morning a therapist arrived and harshly got me out of bed.  I had ten minutes to eat my breakfast and then we would get started.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was not able to walk at all, barely could talk, could only clumsily hold a fork, and coming down hard from an addiction to Coca-Cola.  I had to get back to work, even though I had no clue where I worked or even what I did for a living.  Bills needed to be paid, but I had no idea what they even were.  I was frustrated that I could not remember these things.  I just had barely learned my wife and children’s names.

With no pity she helped me get out of bed and eat.  Then right away I was whisked away to begin relearning how to live.  They first tested my stacking skills (I didn’t understand this, as I knew my job was something technical).  Then came cognitive and reasoning skills, mostly through coloring books.  I knew my colors, ABCs, numbers, how to read, etc., but I had trouble seeing because I had double vision (this lasted about four months).  Then I was showed basic hygiene, like brushing my teeth and deodorant.  These are things which I should have known how to do, but didn’t.  It was so very frustrating, but I was willing to learn.

Learning to walk again was very frightening, as I did not have a sense of balance (still don’t).  I have to walk with a cane now and can fall over at any time.  Getting out of the wheelchair a first step for me, and I did good to shuffle ten feet.  Still the therapist put me on a vigorous exercise regiment and showed no mercy.  In the meantime some of my memory was restored, enough to at least function.  I still had no clue I was gay.

I had my first victory when I went to the bathroom by myself (still had to have help with showering and would continue to do so until I was released).  The therapist worked on my cognitive abilities so I could at least make myself understood and relentlessly built up my leg strength so that in three weeks I went from being bound to the wheel chair to being able to use a walker (with assistance) and shuffle down the hall.  It was exhausting work. But still though, I kept insisting that God wasn’t done with me yet.

The therapist then moved to Wyoming.  I don’t remember her name.  I wish I did.  I owe her my life.




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