moreover lessons untaught
shoved down our throats...
A friend of mine is in the hospital with hemorrhaging in his brain. With a lack of sensation below the waist. Unresponsive. On a respirator. In a medically-induced coma. Extremely agitated, screaming, and freaking out when the doctors tried to slowly bring him out of it. With lacerations on his face. With a bolt in his skull. With intracranial pressure slowly climbing. With glass embedded in his skin. With no memory of the incident. With doctors telling us that now is the time to pray...
And this is what happens, my friends, when you forget to put your seatbelt on. When you decide to go to another bar after the first one gets ready to close, so you ride with someone who's been drinking. This is something we are all guilty of, at one point in time in our lives or another. This is something we have all done. And this is something that should teach us a lesson...not something to be forgotten, or written off as a bad stroke of luck. This is something we need to take away with us after all is said and done.
A friend of mine is in the hospital, and thanks to him, we are all re-evaluating our decision-making process. Why does it have to come down to something like this before we look at our behaviors and realize that they're destructive? That we put ourselves at risk because we crave a bit of relaxation, or a night of boozing? We risk our lives for our pride and we don't look back until we're forced to count the number of drinks it took for an acquaintance to crash into the median...
And this is what happens, my friends, when our lives are flashing like beacons in front of our faces. Flashing like the glowing red and blue of the ambulance lights, carrying off our friend into an unknown future...a future of wheelchairs, ventilators, monitored brain activity, an IC Bolt measuring intracranial pressure, and scars from a tracheotomy. The discomfort of not knowing how to be who you used to be because you can't remember who you were five minutes ago. The frustration of knowing...just knowing...that you're supposed to be somewhere...and not knowing how to get the words out when you want to ask for the directions. Not knowing how to ask for help, or just simply not being able to. We've welcomed into the fold of brain injury another beautiful person...who like a butterfly will be forced to emerge from a cocoon of pain, discomfort, and fear. Someone who will be squeezed back into society from a birth canal of tightly wrapped bandages, stitches in facial lacerations, intravenous lines dripping morphine into veins unwilling or unable to reach the deepest of aches.
A friend of mine is in the hospital, and I'm afraid for him. Deeply, disturbingly afraid for not only him, but for the rest of us. We won't walk from this unscathed. We, too, will experience each step of this path with him, if we are to be the best friends available. We need to remain open-minded and hopeful. We need to remain realistic and solid. We need to remain supportive and flexible. We need to remain understanding and mindful of his pain, which will not only be physical, but will be mental and emotional. It will be the white elephant in the room, standing on our toes, reminding us of our own fragility. The question remains of whether or not we can withstand the pain that is looming on the horizon like the dustcloud after a stampede. Although it was our friend struck down by this event, we are the ones who must stand tall for him throughout the coming months. We are the embodiment of survivor guilt, layered with the lack of understanding necessary to know that what comes, comes with a lesson and a prize in the bottom of the cracker jack box. We might not be getting something expensive, but whatever we are left with, be it crumbs or a decoder ring, will be priceless in it's meaning.
And this is what happens, my friends, when you are the caregivers, the family, the friends, the brothers, the sisters, the husbands, wives, significant others....the adopted cousin or the brothers in blood...You suffer with them, in ways that seem different, but remain the same. You hurt for them, you hurt with them, they hurt you and you hurt them. No matter the outcome, no matter the positive or negative effects...if the lesson teaches you nothing, then the lesson was in vain.
My friend is in the hospital, the victim of an acquired brain injury. My brother, father, sister, mother, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, neighbor, enemy, acquaintance, drinking buddy, fellow employee...is in the hospital...the victim of an acquired brain injury. He will never be who he could have been, but what he will become is something I can have a hand in molding, by offering my support, my patience, my understanding, and my shoulder to lean upon should the going get tough. I'm up to the challenge....I hope you are, too.