Lisa loves being an ER nurse. She dreamed of being a nurse since she was a little girl. She always wanted to help people. She enjoys her coworkers, they are like family, they made her feel safe. Lisa likes that they give her the security she needs, being a girl from a small town, working and living in the city, she felt out of place for a long time.
The ER is fast paced, dangerous at times, intense and challenging. There have been times that she has needed to use all the strength of her heart to help families through the worst times in their lives. Sometimes she is rewarded with the warmth of seeing a family united after a traumatic experience.
Leaving the ER for her trip home always gives Lisa anxiety. The 2 AM, fourty minute ride on the subway always included load of characters. Everything from other late night workers, to partiers, to street people and drug users. There was also the street walkers and gangs. It was nothing that Lisa was used to seeing in the ER, but in the ER she has the security of her family, out here she is alone with no protection.
The walk home during the day is quite beautiful, two storey brownstones along one side, with a cobblestone roadway, next to the cobblestone is a wrought iron fence just before a walking path, all of which is followed by a slow river.
Tonight the ride was uneventful, Lisa breaths a sigh as she exits the train onto the platform. As usual she is hit in the face with smells of the train, oil and grease, and the heat radiating from the brakes. The all too familiar smells from the platform of musty moulds and sewer gases cause her to wrinkle her nose. The lights still half burnt out, it’s been weeks already, but had she really expected them to be working? Not really, but she hoped. For once she wanted a well lit walk way before she had to start her walk down the street.
Tonight, it’s cloudy with no moon, the river has a layer of fog that has rolled across the walking path and the cobblestone. The street lights look like stars through the haze of the fog. The cobblestone is covered in puddles, they share what little reflections that are available from the street lights.
Lisa looks down the long block knowing it should only take ten minutes to walk home, but that’s when she can see everything. Tonight is different, she can’t see ahead more than a dozen feet. Lisa could feel her anxiety growing, but she couldn’t stay here, she had to get home. She started her walk slowly, sliding her feet, not stepping and listening carefully, trying to hear anything that might be a warning noise.
Lisa starts running scenarios through her head if she hears a noise that signals danger. Should she run for an alleyway? Logic tells her to stay in the open, panic tells her to hide. Her training tells to be cautious, she deals with dangerous and violent people every day in the ER, but there she always has her family to back her up. Tonight in the middle of the street in the thick fog, she is all alone.
Lisa takes a step, her shoe enters the middle of a puddle distorting the light reflection, causing the puddle to ripple and the light breaks up into rings and spreads across the puddle. Lisa stops dead, was that a noise somewhere behind her? It sounded like a scrape, she listens carefully, would there be another one? Nothing, she starts walking again, disrupting one puddle after another. Then, there was a noise, it sounded like a metal can falling over and rolling. Lisa’s heart is pounding, she can feel it banging against her ribs. She walks a little faster but it’s hard not being able to see far ahead.
Another noise, this time it’s a shuffling sound, Lisa listens but can not tell where it is coming from. It seem to be coming from everywhere. The fog is distorting the sound making it impossible to track its source. Lisa picks up the pace again, but she stumbles on the cobblestone and falls to her hands and knees. Her hands are scraped and burning, she can feel small stones in the cuts. Lisa stands and pushes forward again, tears in her eyes, she whispers “Please” to herself. She quickly scans the brownstones as she goes by, looking for some indication of a light, none.
Finally she is almost home, she can’t see the numbers on the doors but she is sure she is close. A few more and she will be there. Lisa can feel her heart beat in her ears, her breathing is louder then her footsteps now. There it is, the door, all she has to do is climb four steps and unlock the door and then she’s safe. She stumbles on the second step, but recovers quickly and reaches the door. Lisa digs for her keys in her pocket and in her panic drops them, one more moment of panic as she retrieves the keys. She unlocks the door and slides in and pulls the door closed. Facing the door, she presses her forehead against the door trying to regain her composure.
Lisa, being so focused on getting past the door, didn’t notice that the light in the hall was out. Lisa feels a large hand, cold and wet, slide across her mouth. Her eyes open wide as she is pulled away from the door. Lisa screams in her mind “No!”. Lisa raises her right leg and kicks off from the door, pushing her and the owner of the hand backwards. They land on the floor, the hand loosens it’s grip on Lisa and she rolls off the body. With out thinking, Lisa grips her keys between her fingers and lashes out at the controller of the hand, the keys rake across the throat causing a muffled scream. By instinct alone, Lisa crawls to the corner as she watches a dark patch form on the floor as the air fills with the aroma of iron. Lisa knew exactly what was happening and how long the bleeding would last if she didn’t help soon. Lisa sat in the corner with her knees pulled to her chest, tears running down her cheeks, her body shaking.
For many years I carried several key chains. The one for work had keys for padlocks, keys to access doors, it even had keys to access boxes that have keys in them. I had my van keys and my remote starter with security. I also had a key chain with my house keys.
February 2017 I had an accident that gave me a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My TBI brings with it symptoms similar to a concussion, memory loss, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and others. Now I find myself no longer needing all those keys for work, the keys that were for all those padlocks, doors and boxes with hidden keys. The keys that spent so many years clipped to my belt loop, that jingled when I walked, had gone silent. No longer allowed to drive, the keys to the van have been put aside.
In my pocket is a key chain with six keys, one for the house, one for the garage and four keys I can not identify. I’m sure that at one time, these four keys had some kind of importance, a usefulness, a purpose. There has to be a logical reason to be hanging on to these four keys. There may have been a sentimental connection perhaps, I just don’t remember what they are for or even when they may have been used.
At one time, these keys had a use, a function, maybe even an important purpose. Possibly a new function for the keys will be found, a new purpose for them to stay on the key chain or maybe a whole new function, something different from what they were originally designed for.
Maybe some day there will be a reason for me to need these keys again.
Don’t Stay Alone
I once worked for a group home with mentally challenged young adults. The house they lived in was in an older area of the city, where most of the houses were what would be called, character homes. This was one of those. It had high ceilings and tall windows that went to about eighteen inches from the floor to near the ceiling . There was stained glass throughout the house that added to the old character feel of the house. The mouldings were made of big, dark wood, lots of it, also hardwood floors that creeked. There were large banisters on the stairs and old plastered walls, well painted, but you could tell it’s age. This house was three stories tall with a basement. The basement, although well lit and clean, wasn’t an area many wanted to visit.
Many of my coworkers told stories of how the house was haunted and had spirits roaming around. One of the residents lived on the third floor, all alone. When you worked the over night shift, you generally worked on your own. One of the girls said she would often see the image of the resident from the third floor, sitting on the sofa in the living room in the middle of the night. She knew he was sound asleep in his room three floors up.
Another staff had noticed planters move across the living room floor and it was common to to see images out the corner of your eye, moving out of the room. The basement had a narrow staircase and people had often said, they saw the image of a child at the bottom of the stairs, when they turned on the lights.
There was a period of time in the house where stress with the residents had escalated to the point of violent aggression. This had gone on for several weeks. One night late in the evening after a particularly stress filled day, the staff was gathered in the front office to review the days events and complete reports, when an image, a brown mass really, appeared above the table for a brief moment and then slowly floated out of the office door, into the hallway and disappeared around the corner. We all looked at each other to confirm in our own minds, that we had really seen the same thing.
I’m a, ”you have to show me and I’ll believe it”, kind of guy. After working there, I’m not so sure that is the case anymore. I’m definitely not as quick to disbelieve a story now.
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
I saw a meme recently that said “ Never mind ‘walkin a mile in my shoes’…Try spending a day in my head.”. It made me think how would I describe what it’s like in mine with a traumatic brain injury.
Let’s see, you would wake up early around 5:30 to 6:00 AM every day.
You don’t connect with time like you used to, so your first thoughts are to try to figure out if today is a work day or a stay at home day.
Shortly you become aware of the ringing in your ears, one of the new symptoms you are still trying to get used to.
Your brain injury brings new symptoms as time goes by and nerves fail and deteriorate.
The pain in your hands and feet is a throbbing tingling sensation this morning , another new symptom that is annoying right now, which is better then the pain from last night.
When you get out of bed to start your day you find your balance is a little unstable, easily corrected with the support of the bed and the wall.
You brush your teeth with the lights out because it’s easier on your light sensitive eyes.
Brushing your teeth can be a challenge, sometimes you have trouble figuring out what items you need to accomplish this simple task.
Often you have trouble with your balance in the shower. Getting rescued from the shower because you fall is probably not on your bucket list.
Putting on your deodorant can be a challenge too, you may find yourself standing at the bathroom counter knowing there is something you should be doing next, but you can not find the memory anywhere.
Memory loss is a symptom you will have to deal with daily. Short term is the worst, most every thing from the last three years is gone. Anything you experienced recently won’t stay unless you find a way to repeat it some how. Anything you do retain, will feel like a distant disconnected memory.
When you try to recall memories from the distant past, it brings on headaches.
There is a tingling sensation inside your head, it’s almost like you can feel every connection in your brain activating.
You’ll try to avoid bright light and loud noises because they both make you uncomfortable.
Your vision is one of your oldest symptoms. You’ve lost some of your right peripheral vision and everything is generally blurred. As the day progresses, a tension headache will start from your temples, then across your eye brows and forehead.
Fatigue will start to hit by 10:30-11:00 AM. You’ll need a nap by early evening or maybe some time in a low light room to rest your eyes and head.
Your migraines are finally under control, now that you are on the right medication, as long as you remember to take it.
You’re going to experience a disconnection from your surroundings. It’s a feeling like you are watching what is going on around you but you are not really taking part in it.
Confusion and distraction come over you, you can’t understand why simple tasks are so challenging.
Repetitive tasks set well and allow you to be productive.
New tasks challenge you, strain your thought processes and generate headaches.
You spend a lot of time in your own head but find that you don’t really spend much time thinking about anything.
You’re ready for bed by 10:00 PM but you know you won’t sleep more then five hours so you have to stay up till midnight or 1:00 AM.
You realize you’ve made it to the end of another day.
It’s ten O’Clock and you are sitting in the back yard with your dog and you hear a noise. It’s the shed door caught in the breeze banging against the side of the shed. You run in the house to tell me about the door. I asked if you closed it? You said no you didn’t, you are scared, you want me to help and you need me to protect you. You tell me it’s not your fault I raised a princess. I give you a smile and we head out back to take care of that scary door.
Protecting you is a job I gladly accept.
Eight years your mom and I tried to start our family. Then we received the gift of your brother. We thought our family was complete, until the morning your mother came to me to tell me she knew she was pregnant.
The first doctor she went to said she was wrong, but she knew something just felt different and she was right, it was confirmed by the next doctor she saw.
You were on your way to us, our second gift, four years after our first one.
Your pregnancy with your mother wasn’t without drama. You were going in for weekly checkups and ultrasounds and two weeks before your due date, your doctor said go straight to the hospital.
I was at work and received a call from your mom to let me know what was happening and ran home to get all our stuff for the hospital stay.
I couldn’t have felt more helpless then standing by your mothers side in the hospital waiting for your arrival.
Holding her hand, helping her sit up and handing her a cup of ice chips and trying my best not to be in the way of the nurses and doctors.
As is your way, you were going to do this delivery your way and on your time.
Three code blues brought doctors and nurses rushing into the delivery room. We kept losing your heart beat. They had to attach probes to your scalp to monitor your heart rate. I watched as a doctor instructed the resident on the procedure. All I could do was stand to the side and stay out of the way.
You had months to plan your arrival and you were going to make it a grand entrance.
After hours of waiting and no baby, the doctors decided it was time for a c-section. They wheeled you and your mom off and handed me scrubs to change into. Then you two changed the plan again and it became an emergency c-section and I wasn’t allowed in with you. I was left alone in the hall, once again, unable to be of help.
It was not a long wait and a nurse came out with you in her arms. She walked you across the hall to a little room full of monitors. This was the first time I saw you. I stood behind you and started to talk to you, you turned your head and looked right at me.
After a long night mom and baby were going to be ok.
You were home in only a few days and you wanted to put some excitement into our lives, because the hospital delivery wasn’t enough I guess. While your Granny was feeding you, the milk foamed up in your mouth and you stopped drinking and breathing. I scooped you up in my arms and told your mom to call 911. We walked into the bathroom as I watched your tiny body turn purple, your little arms and legs tight and your back arch. You looked up at me, eyes wide with a desperation, “help me Daddy!”
I rubbed your back as we walked trying to keep you calm, maybe that was for me. I knew I had to clear the bubbles from your mouth, so I used my little finger to clear out some of the foam. You took care of the rest. While I was removing the bubbles you started to suckle on my finger. Your body relaxed and your colour returned. The fire department and paramedics were there in minutes. They gave you a good check over and said you looked perfect.
Just for fun you did this again a couple of days later. I was ready for you that time.
Soon we were walking you to the school bus. Talking to you about street safety and stranger safety. We walked with you when you went to visit friends and when it started to get dark, even when they were a few doors away.
Over protective maybe, maybe not, we waited over eight years for your brother to arrive and four more for you. We were going to do what we could to keep you two safe.
We taught you the evils of boys, and you still wanted to date them.
The first guy to catch your interest turned out to be an abuser in training. You knew the best place to meet was in public and with friends. When he tried to separate you from your friends you stayed with your friends.
We share with you our experiences and open our hearts to you. Our conversations are open and honest.
After standing by helpless in the hospital, I wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to stand by you to support you. Whether it was to walk with you on the streets on Halloween night, or wait for you at basketball practice, and maybe, if it’s one day down the aisle on your wedding day, I am always going to be there for you.
Protecting and teaching you is a job I proudly accept.
Imagine you are four years old and you are told that you were adopted.
You have autism and no one knows yet.
You have above average problem solving capabilities.
You know who your birth mother is and you have met many of your birth family.
This is how our son rationalized his situation:
He told us that he came here from Jupiter with his silly uncle.
He will be returning soon to live with his birth family on Jupiter.
First he and his silly uncle will have to fix their space ship.
But, they need to find spare parts.
Then they can repair the ship and leave.
He says he’ll miss you, but he needs to return to his birth family.
Now imagine having your four year old holding your face with both his little hands, looking you straight in the eyes trying to tell you his story.
You can not laugh because you know he is very serious and he will get upset.
“How are you doing?”
We ask and respond to this question, what, maybe a couple dozen times a week? Maybe more.
I have never really given the question much thought, it’s just a greeting you throw out.
What I have noticed is that, if I take the time to respond to the question, that people generally are not that interested.
When I start to explain how things are going with my injury or about a new symptom, they turn it into a joke or a personal story.
Is this a natural reaction to an uncomfortable situation, and our way of deflecting?
Is this a way of controlling the conversation?
Have we forgotten how to listen, or is this a case of poor manners?
Why did we ask if we weren’t interested in an answer?
When this happened to me again today, I felt disappointment and hurt, and that prompted me to share these thoughts.
This just felt so personal, but as I sat looking at the words I was writing, I realized they were more personal then I originally realized.
How many times had I asked that very same question? How many times had I taken the time to actually listen to the response?
Most times my response these days is “I’m ok”, “l’m fine”. But, I’m not ok, I have shit going on that I can’t fix. I have shit that others are controlling that I
don’t know if I’ll ever be able to change.
How many others have answered the question to me the same way, and have had their own shit to deal with but found that it was easier to say “l’m fine”, rather then be disappointed in a disinterested response.
This is my disappointment, that I didn’t give you the time you deserved, that you felt I wouldn’t be there to hear you.
When did our lives become so busy that we can’t give someone a few minutes to find out “ How are you doing?”.