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Brain Wreck

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Barbara Stahura

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Brain Wreck

Barbara and Ken in Santa Fe.


There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

— David Whyte, “The Truelove”

The nurse left Ken’s room. I watched her out in the ICU’s central area for a few minutes, hoping she wouldn’t be back for a while. I didn’t want her to see what I was about to do.

 My husband was finally asleep, his delirious thrashing temporarily eased, thanks to morphine and exhaustion. Someone had neatly stitched the Y-shaped cut above his left eyebrow. His blackened eyes were mostly swollen shut, and the bridge of his nose was broken. A heavy plastic cervical collar pushed his chin up and immobilized his neck. Now that aspiration pneumonia threatened his breathing, small tubes in his nose, or sometimes an oxygen mask, whooshed air into his lungs. The respirator’s unwavering cadence meshed with the longer rhythm of the plastic cuffs around his calves, inflating and deflating to keep the blood circulating through his supine body and prevent clots. A horrendous bruise ran from the inside of his left elbow, down that arm and ribs and hip, all the way to his knee, where a wound the size of a quarter on his left knee dug almost to the bone. Brilliant blue tape secured a temporary cast around his right hand and lower arm, an eye-catching spot in the flat light of the pale room.

Then there was the biggest shock of all: His doctor had mentioned a brain injury, possibly a serious one, although we wouldn’t know for sure until Ken was more alert.

I turned away from Ken to pull the camera from my satchel on the floor beneath one of the room’s windows. As I stood up, the wide-open Arizona sky, blue as the tape on Ken’s arm, filled my vision and helped me feel a little less claustrophobic in the tiny space. Here it was, the first day of 2004, and instead of welcoming the new year at home, we were in this room filled with beeping monitors, a few small chairs, and the bed with side rails, where my husband lay, covered by nothing more than a hospital gown draped over him and a light blanket, which he frequently kicked off.

He was quiet now, but yesterday he had become hysterical several times, once screaming, “Can’t do! Can’t do!” and thrashing in terror.

"Brain Wreck" from What I Thought I Knew by Barbara Stahura, Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc., Deadwood, Oregon, 2008. Used with permission from Barbara Stahura.

Barbara Stahura is the editor of Brain Injury Journey — Hope, Help, Healing, a new magazine for the brain injury community, produced by Lash and Associates Publishing/Training.

Click here to go to Barbara's website, and here to read her blog.

Comments [1]

Such an emotional story, I wanted to cry at the end! Great writing though and your story was excellent! This story kind of hits home for me; while I didn't know my boyfriend before his accident, he has a TBI and is also a lover of motorcycles. Your story makes me wonder what it would have been like had I known him when it happened; and just as you did everything for your hubby, I know I would have done anything and everything for mine. Even 15 years after his accident, he is still in a sort of recovery. I just do everything I can to make his life better for him, to make living with a brain injury a little more tolerable every day. You are a wonderful and strong woman to be able to take care of Ken like you did; all TBI sufferers should have someone like you close by to help them through.

Aug 18th, 2014 11:43am

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