”Nothing whatever, in man, is of so frail a nature as the memory; for it is affected by disease, by injuries, and even by fright; being sometimes partially lost, and at other times entirely so.” – Pliny the Elder
It will soon be two months since Honey suffered a concussion, wound up in the CCU for several days, and lost large portions of his memory. In a matter of minutes, life went from being perfectly average and uneventful to scary and out of control. I have been hesitant to share the details of those dark days here, but because I often use this blog to jog my own memories, noting such an important life event seems prudent.
September 15th started out pretty much like any other Wednesday. Honey had been teaching for a little over a month, so we were still trying to get into a routine. Because he had to drive an hour and a half each way for work, we both had been getting up much earlier than normal. This morning was no different; we got up, Honey got dressed, and we kissed goodbye. He called me almost two hours later to say that he didn’t feel like going in, so he was going to go to his mother’s house for a while. This didn’t surprise me, as I knew that he had been struggling with his new job at a school that defined dysfunctional. I didn’t give our conversation much more thought until later in the afternoon when I got a call from his mother telling me that he had been hit by a car while getting gas, bumped his head, and wasn’t himself. She said he was unable to think clearly or drive and I needed to come pick him up.
I rushed to get him, but quickly realized upon arriving that he needed to be hospitalized. He could barely remember my last name, cried incessantly while asking where he was, and had little-to-no eye contact. Scared to death, I told his mother and step-dad that he needed to be taken to the emergency room. They said he had already been to the doctor and had a CT scan that showed no brain injury, so they felt like he would be fine after getting some rest. Because I was uncomfortable with caring for him alone, I asked if they would follow us back to our house and stay until he went to sleep.
Honey repeated questions over and over on the way home. Why were we in a truck? Where were we going? Was Mrs. Johns sick? It was clear that something was very wrong with his thinking. As we pulled into our driveway, he began insisting that I take him home. I told him this was home, and he said it wasn’t. Things began to look more grim as the afternoon wore on. He couldn’t remember how to get to the bathroom, he brushed our pets aside as if they were strangers, and he couldn’t pick his sister out of a photograph.
After a restless night, we convinced him to get in the car for his follow-up at the doctor’s office. We made the mistake of stopping by Mrs. John’s house on the way – mainly because he had been asking about her incessantly since the day before. Just as I had feared, he thought the house we moved from a few months ago was “home” and started trying to go over there. When his mother and I explained that we no longer live there, he began sobbing uncontrollably and asking why we wouldn’t let him go home. As we all bawled along with him, he collapsed into the arms of Mrs. Johns and her son. Mrs. Johns sat with him for several minutes, holding his hand and comforting him as he told her that he didn’t know why we wouldn’t let him go home.
After finally getting him back into the car, we headed to the doctor’s office. We spent all day struggling to keep him there while they did an MRI, x-rays, and he was examined by two different doctors. Because there was no visible damage inside his brain or on the outside of his head, no one could explain to us why he was a completely different person. He kept complaining of back pain and headache, so they sent us home with a prescription for Xanax and ibuprofen.
Around 5 o’clock the next morning, I noticed that he was covering his entire head with the sheet and comforter. Knowing that he is normally hot-natured, I thought it was odd, felt of his head, and discovered that he felt feverish. I woke him to take his temperature and it was 100.6. An hour later, it as 101.2. His mother and I decided to call his doctor, who insisted that he be brought in to the ER.
We spent the entire day on Friday in the ER as they ran every kind of test you can imagine. Blood work, x-rays, a spinal tap (that took two attempts from the regular doctor and two from a surgeon to get any fluid). He was miserable, and kept asking if he could go home. He couldn’t recognize some of our closest friends, including our pastor.
The tests revealed that he had strep throat and a bladder infection, but they revealed nothing that could explain his confusion and amnesia. He was admitted to the critical care unit of the hospital so that he could receive antibiotics and close observation.
After three nights in the CCU, Honey’s doctor explained that all of the symptoms pointed to a concussion. Apparently, the brain can suffer an amnesia-causing injury without any visible outward or internal evidence. Doctor felt the infections were coincidental and not at all related to the concussion. Expecting continuing improvement, he allowed us to bring Honey home.
Over the next few weeks, his day-to-day abilities steadily improved. As the essence of his personality slowly returned, so did various parts of his memory. What he couldn’t remember seemed widely scattered, but the most difficult areas were people and places. Most of our close friends were now complete strangers to him, and he had no concept of how far we had to drive to get to church or the grocery.
Two months on, he remembers virtually nothing about the day of the accident or the days that followed in the hospital. He does remember the spinal tap, probably because it was so painful. He is barred from driving until the end of the year, and the doctor warned us that it could be several more months before the lost memories are recovered. Even so, he continues to improve.
In the meantime, I am trying to see the silver lining in this experience. I am thankful that circumstances forced his family and I to grow closer. And I can relish in the fact that although he didn’t know our friends or even where we lived, he never once forgot that he loved me.
“The heart that truly loves never forgets.” – Proverb