Wednesday passed with Amy and I pausing to remember the date: Dec 5. — the day I woke up.
On the days and nights between Nov. 9 and that Dec. 5 are a permanent loss to me, a period of days and nights when I lay mostly in a coma, gaining consciousness briefly but not knowing who I was, where I was and not when it was.
My brain, seriously injured in a motorcycle accident on Nov. 9, struggled to grasp what had happened as my body struggled to live and begin recovery from broken bones, a shattered face and other life-threatening injuries.
Amy’s long vigil at my bedside remembers my bout of consciousness as a guessing game of what century I might be struggling to remembering. Doctors said my brain was “rebooting” and trying to rebuild those memories.
When I awoke on Dec. 5, I knew who I was. I knew my wife. I didn’t remember the accident that put me down. I still don’t.
That Dec. 5 began 19 days of intensive in-hospital therapy at Carilion Community Rehab Hospital in Roanoke. From my room, I could see the corner of Jefferson Street where the former Jefferson Apartments stood, my home for part of my time in the late 1960s when I worked as a reporter for The Roanoke Times.
The doctor appeared delighted when I told him of that memory. To him, that was a positive sign that my brain was not as damaged as they originally suspected.
Friends from Floyd County, Roanoke and surrounding areas came by to visit. Some had come when I was unconscious and unable to know or recognize them. Cards from friends locally and around the country helped cheer me up and aided that recovery.
Before Amy and a nurse helped me into the passenger seat of our Jeep Liberty on Christmas Eve, several of the doctors who saved my life stopped by to congratulate me for what some called a miraculous recovery. Once doctor had told Amy that I would be in the hospital until at least March of April of 2013. Another thought I would die from my injuries.
The weeks and months that followed included intensive rehab and therapy to restore my ability to walk, attempt recovery of gaps of my memory and restore our life here in Floyd.
I still suffer memory lapses. My gait is unsteady and I take medications for the physical pain that will be part of the rest of my life.
I’ve tried to reach out to everyone who helped us during that difficult time. Hopefully, I did not miss anyone. My brain too often struggles. I sometimes cannot remember the proper word to describe an action or memory. I fail to remember names.
My physical and mental faculties seem to work, for the most part, but I have limitations. My strength if not what it once was. When I asked Dr. Joseph Baum, my personal physician — and who retired this week after more than a half-decade of service as a doctor — if my physical and mental limitations were a result of my injuries or age, he laughed and said “both.”
Yes, the person who awoke from a coma on Dec. 5 six years ago, was a changed man. Amy says I’m more mellow, less judgemental and more willing to admit and apologize for mistakes.
But I’m also more capable of making mistakes or letting my shortcomings create problems. I tire too easily and fatigue intensifies my shortcomings.
When I do something stupid, I try to face the consequences and learn from such mistakes.
We are fortunate to have many good friends. That is the gift that we cherish in this Christmas season.