Cold. Where am I?
, I wonder silently. I hear a beeping from somewhere in my room that seems to match up with the pounding in my ears. Oh right, I remember now.
I’m not sure how long ago it happened, but I have flashbacks of getting into my car, driving through the rain, headlights coming towards me too fast to avoid, then glimpses of white walls as they carried me into the hospital. After that my memory is just a blur filled with lights and random noises that I’m guessing were the doctors and nurses rushing to help me, but I don’t know for sure.
I try to turn my head to find a clock or perhaps someone to tell me what day it is, but I can’t seem to move my head. Why can’t I move my head? Oh, crap.. Am I in a full-body cast? Not quite; I can still move my right arm a bit.
I feel around with my right hand until I find what I think are the controls for the bed. I try to figure out how to lift the bed so I can see my room just by figuring out the shapes of the different buttons. Wait, I don’t even know which buttons have what function. I might as well just wait for a nurse. Or maybe I could try yelling for someone…
I open my mouth as if to shout, but my words won’t come out. It hurts to try to talk or breathe too heavily through my mouth. I ponder on it for a few minutes and, after taking a few deep breaths through both my mouth and nose, realize there’s a tube down my throat and air tubes in each nostril. Great. Now I’m stuck here in silence until a nurse or someone checks on me
, I reason. I hear something quiet in the distance. As the sound grows louder, I realize the sound is footsteps coming from down the hall. Finally, the footsteps reach my door and stop. I hear the doorknob turn and catch a glimpse of the silhouette of a person’s upper body as they walk in the door. The person walks closer and I can see by her scrubs that she’s one of the nurses here. She doesn’t look at my face right away and I have the chance to see that she’s got olive-toned skin; sleek, curly black hair; and dark brown eyes. It looks like she would be shorter and more stout than I am, but I can’t tell from my position.
“Oh, you’re awake!” the nurse exclaims. She goes and turns some dimmed lights on to increase visibility without hurting my eyes. She leaves the room and comes back a few minutes later and I wonder to myself if she left to tell the doctor that I’m awake. Well, if she did, the doctor didn’t come back with her.
She comes over and checks the IV bag attached to my right arm through another set of tubes and I feel a slight tug from the needles under my skin. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it before, but I assume it’s because I didn’t have to move around much to find the panel of buttons on the side of my bed. She seems satisfied and goes about checking on the rest of me.
I wait patiently as she finishes up, wondering how I’m supposed to communicate with her. She turns to me and asks me if I need anything. I curl my right hand into a sign language ‘t’ and shake it the way my mom taught me to do if I needed to use the bathroom. My mom? Where is she? Why can’t I remember what she looks or sounds like?
I don’t get the chance to finish my thoughts as the nurse nods to show that she understands me and pulls out a bed pan.
At first I’m grossed out by the idea of using the bed pan, but I decide that the bladder relief it’ll bring is much great than the dignity I’d be losing. Besides, it’s not like I have a choice here, right?
When I’m done, the nurse takes it away and an older, taller, pale-haired woman walks in wearing a long, white coat and holding a clipboard in the crook of her arm. She looks at me and I can see wrinkles around her eyes and lips that show years of smiling, but right now her face is overcome by a tight-lipped, wary expression. I think about it and decide that she’s got the look of someone who believes that something unpredictable could happen, and I’m the one who’d be doing it. Great, the doctor thinks I’m a psycho
, I say to myself with a silent, painful laugh. I decide that laughing isn’t a good idea right now.
I look closer and see the doctor’s name tag pinned to one of her large, white pockets. Dr. Thompson? Where have I heard that name before?
And then it hits me.
A whirlwind of memories flash through my head and I see my dad, lying in a hospital room. There's a woman standing off to the side talking to my mom as I watch my dad's chest rise and fall while he slumbers. I catch tidbits of the conversation the two women are having; “Will he make it?” “...how much longer does he have, Dr. Thompson?” All of the images in my head are blurry, but the words came out loud and clear to me.
Dr. Thompson was the doctor that looked after my dad when he was hospitalized a few years ago. But how do I remember that, when I can't even bring up a mental image of my dad? Or my mom, for that matter.
I begin to feel confused and slightly dizzy from all of the thoughts rushing through my head.
The flood of images that passed through my head vanishes as quickly as it appeared and I blink away the visual residue clouding my vision. The beeping sound the heart monitor makes speeds up just a little, but not enough to concern the doctor; I've begun to panic, realizing there are more holes in my memory than in a block of Swiss cheese.
I lie there as the doctor goes through procedure, double-checking all of the things the nurse had just finished and then making notes on the clipboard all of her charts are on for my medical care. I start to fade in and out as I wait for the doctor to finish. Finally, the nurse walks back in and they start to talk about me as if I'm not even there.
I cut them short by waving my right arm around a bit, capturing their attention. The doctor asks me if I need anything and I curl my hand into a fist, moving it up and down in a nodding motion; it's the sign for 'yes' that I used to use whenever my throat hurt or I was too distracted to even consider nodding my head in response to my mom. The doctor asks a few basic questions in an attempt to figure out what's wrong: “Do you need to use the bathroom again? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you comfortable? Are you in any pain?”
I hold my hand up where she can see it and sign my responses to her. “No,” I sign to her after each question. I start to get a little fed up with the doctor as she continues to try and figure out what I need. Finally, she asks the question I've been waiting for.
“Do you think you can write it down for us?” Dr. Thompson asks doubtfully. She gives me a concerned look as I hesitate to answer, not quite sure I'm up for it.
I think about it for a few more seconds and decide that I can handle writing with my right hand. I know it'll feel awkward because I'm mostly left-handed and only partially ambidextrous, but I have to communicate my needs to the doctor. I curl my hand once more as I sign my answer to the doctor's last question. “Yes,” I reply. I know it's the only way I'll be able to get anywhere in my search for answers.
Dr. Thompson sends the nurse off to get me a writing board and a marker. I lie on my bed, glancing occasionally at the doctor who seems somewhat in shock at my decision to try and write when I haven't written with my right hand in years. I look at my available hand and realize just how cold and numb it still feels.
I stretch the fingers of my right hand while I wait, knowing I haven't used them in awhile and that writing isn't exactly an easy task when using my weaker hand. Just as I begin to feel like I have enough strength in my fingers to write, the nurse comes back and hands me the writing board. She quickly moves to the side of my bed and raises the back of it so that I can write comfortably. I think about what I want to say for a moment and then begin to write:
What happened to me?
Who am I?
How long was I out for?
Has my family come to visit?
I need answers.
The nurse and doctor look at each other for a second before the doctor turns to me and says, “One moment please.” They go out into the hall to talk for a few minutes in private, but I can still hear their voices as the drift in faintly through the walls.
“Should I go get her mother?” I heard the nurse asking the doctor. I heard footsteps suddenly and then they fade off into the distance. I take it Dr. Thompson said yes
, I decide.
The door opens again to reveal Dr. Thompson standing alone in the hallway. She briskly walks over to the side of my bed and begins to tell me how I came to be in this bed.
“You were brought into our care just over a month ago after a being in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Both you and the other driver survived the crash, but both of you were put into the ICU. The other driver was moved out of the ICU about 10 days ago.” The doctor stops to take a breath. “You, on the other hand, cracked four of your ribs, almost punctured your left lung, fractured your left arm in three different places, broke your left hand, are suffering from internal bleeding and blood clots in your arm, and may or may not recover from paralysis in your legs after being put through rehabilitation and physical therapy. We're doing everything we can to help you get better, but you'll have stay here for some time,” she finally concludes. She looks at me with an air of expectancy, awaiting my reaction.
I stare blankly at the plain white wall ahead of me. I've been in a coma for over a month. What month does that make it?
I can't seem to think clearly anymore. I pull the writing board back and erase the questions she's already answered. I scrawl upon the board messily again until it reads:
So I'll be 'okay', but I might never go fully back to normal?
Who am I?
Is the nurse bringing in a visitor?
What day is it now?
I need answers.
The doctor reads through my questions and I can see in her eyes the way she is weighing her options, trying to figure out how to answer which questions and in what order. She makes eye contact with me and finally proceeds in responding to my questions. “It's July 7th, 2011,” she informs me. “Like I said, we're not entirely sure how your recovery will pan out but we are doing our best to ensure an optimal recovery.”
I nod in understanding and wait patiently for her to continue. She looks back towards the door and I realize that there are three sets of footsteps coming toward my room. I watch as the door opens and the nurse walks in with an older woman and girl more my age in tow. I look at the older woman first and see that though she is older, she could be no more than 50-years-old unless she aged well. I notice that both she and the younger girl would have naturally dark brown hair, except that the older of the two is beginning to grey. They have similar features; both are more heavily built, have athletic builds, have dimpled cheeks, and have skin hinting at a natural tan. The only major differences I can find other than the age gap are that the older woman has blue-grey eyes and is taller while the younger is more slight and has eyes like melted chocolate.
I look more closely at their faces and see a mutual look of pain in their eyes as they look at me. Who are these people?
, I ask myself, not sure why the nurse was bringing strangers in to see me. I close my eyes for a moment to think things through. Could they... No, they couldn't be...
I grab my writing board and turn it to the other side where there's another board because I don't want to erase my questions yet. I struggle for a second or two to grip the marker I was using, then begin to write:
I don't know what's wrong with my memory.
I feel like someone has deleted files from my memory bank.
I don't know who we are anymore.
I feel so lost.
They read the board in silence and I can see the despair in their eyes as they begin to understand that I don't know them. The younger woman begins to cry, convulsing silently until the nurse leads her out into the hall to wait. The other woman stays behind and looks at me, then back at my writing board. She looks up again and finally begins to speak. “Yes, honey. It's mommy and your sister, Lilianne, here to visit you,” she begins. Her voice is weak and begins to break and I can see that it pains her to go on as she says, “Dr. Thompson warned us that you might suffer from some sort of brain damage and most likely some form of amnesia. She said you might not recognize us, but... But I had hoped that all our years of living together as a family might overcome...”
With each word she says, I feel more and more a sense of recognition of this woman who claims to be my mother. I'm having trouble recognizing my own mother. But I guess that's better than having brain damage. Still, the name Lilianne and this woman's voice are only vaguely familiar to me.
There is a part of me that knows that these people are my family, but I still feel so unsure of myself.
I sit in silence for another minute or two before grabbing my writing board. I erase what's written on it and jot down another message for my mom:
I want you and Lilianne to know that I love you both.
Even if I can't remember everything from before.
Where's dad? And Nicolas?
Why didn't they come with you?
Have any of my friends tried to visit?
I don't know where the name Nicolas came from, but I suddenly know that it is the name of my younger brother. I have a flashback of when my brother was born about 12 years ago. I remember my parents debating over names for the baby before they knew what gender it was. I remember them trying to find a name that started with N to follow they pattern they had started with Leane and I. I remember them deciding that, depending on the baby's gender, it's name would be either Nicole, Natalie, Nicolas, or Nathaniel. I had always hated the name Nicolas for him, but I was just glad to have a brother so that Dad wouldn't feel completely surrounded by women.
These memories all seem disconnected from my being.
I snap back to the present just in time to catch my mom finally beginning to respond to my second set of questions. “It's okay if you don't remember, darling. We want you to know that we both love you very much. Nicolas couldn't make it because he has soccer practice today, but Nana should be bringing him by soon,” she stated, only a hint of the tears yet to come hiding in her voice. I can see the tears forming in her eyes as she stutters and continues to answer my questions. “Have you forgotten that much, darling? Your father passed away during one of the operations they were doing to try and save his life; he was shot twice in the chest and one of the bullets was going to puncture his lung if it wasn't removed asap.” She begins to weep silently and she can't seem to keep talking or answering my questions.
I point to the last question on the board and Dr. Thompson decides to answer so that my mom can step outside to recuperate. She stands a little straighter and makes a face that tells me she wishes she had better news. Then she begins by saying, “You're only allowed family visitors in the ICU.” What's so bad about that?
, I ask myself. I completely understand them not wanting too many visitors and that family is always supposed to come first. I try my best to put on a look of askance as the doctor hesitates.
“Also, it seems... Well, it seems that the only people who have come to visit you are your mother, siblings, and grandparents,” she concludes hastily. I can tell she didn't want to be the one to tell me that my friends don't care enough to visit me. The doctor averts her eyes as tears finally begin to form in my eyes and slowly, but surely, begin to spill down my cheeks.
It takes me a few minutes to calm down enough to function properly. I sluggishly reach for the writing board and erase all the questions I had asked my mom. I've started to grow weary from all the excitement, so I take my time writing out this message:
I feel extremely tired.
Can I rest soon?
I'd like to speak to my sister a bit before I sleep some more.
Please tell me if anyone else comes to visit.
You never answered my last question from before...?
I begin to grow impatient as the doctor reads over my list of requests, then turns the board over to figure out which question she skipped. “Ah, well, I'll get to your previous question in a little bit. It is understandable for you to feel exhausted more often than not; your energy is being used up constantly as your body makes an effort to heal your wounds,” she states with indifference. “The nurse should bring your sister back in here shortly, but you'll need to be quick with your words so that you can rest. I'll do my best to have you informed of any visitors who come by, but we'll need to keep to our family-only policy until you've gotten a bit better. You will be allowed to make a few phone calls if you'd like to after you've slept.
“And now to answer your question: I don't really know all that much about you except what is in your medical records. Your name is Marina Rayne Bailey and your date of birth is November 12th, 1993. If you'd like to know more, all of the things you had with you in the car on the night of the crash are being held onto by my staff. Other than that, you may talk to your family some more; they might have more answers for you when you're ready,” she finally concludes. My mind is buzzing with all of this new information and I almost can't contain myself anymore. I'm not sure what I want to do, exactly, but my immediate choice is made for me as the nurse walks my sister back into my room.
She looks me in the eyes for a brief moment, inching closer to my bed, then stutters as she says, “I-I'm sorry I broke down like th-that. It's just seeing you like this and... And knowing you don't remember who I am... It's hard to contain it all. I'm sorry.” She cuts off her words as she bursts into tears again.
By now, she's close enough for me to reach her if I stretch out my arm. I take her hand in mine to comfort her for a second before I grab the writing board again. I quickly clear my board, scrawl a note on it telling her that I love her, then I hold it up in front of her. She calms down a bit and looks at the board and sees what I wrote, then suddenly tears spring from her eyes once again.
I give Lilianne a concerned look and she laughs a bit. “Oh, don't worry about me. Thank you for the message, kiddo,” she says with a chuckle. I glare at her for calling me 'kiddo', the way I used to when she flaunted the fact that she's older than me by just over a year. She looks abashed for a moment before I grin at her to let her know I'm not really angry. Just like the good old days
, I muse, giggling inside. The giggles set off a flaring pain in my sides and I remember what the doctor said about my ribs. My eyes start burning with tears as I notice that the sedatives and painkillers they're pumping through my system aren't strong enough to cover up any renewed pains in my body.
Lilianne notices the tears in my eyes and I can see her thoughts processing, a shadow of worry suddenly cast over her face. She takes my hand again as she opens her mouth to speak. “Hey, I should probably let you get some rest, kay Rina?” She asks that in an almost command-like tone, a hint of affection in her voice when she calls me by my old nickname. She turns and begins to walk away before she looks back and whispers, “I love you too, kiddo,” then walks out of my room.
I stare at the empty doorway, tears filling my eyes from both my physical and emotional pain. She hasn't called me Rina since I was 8 years old
, I remember as more memories flash through my mind. The memories are blurry again, but less so than before. I remember that she stopped calling me Rina because we stopped getting along; Rina had been her name for me when we were too young to say either of our names. I remember I had called her Lily before our fallout. I remember this, but I can't recall the reason for our fallout.
I stop reminiscing in my head as all of my pain begins to subside, except a stinging feeling in my right arm. I look over to see Dr. Thompson giving me some kind of painkiller via syringe, concentrating on making it as painless as possible. She glances up at me and smiles, showing that she really is going to do her best to take care of me. The last thing I see before my eyes shut and I lose consciousness is her hand moving toward the controls for my bed and I feel myself being slowly lowered into a more comfortable position.