Saturday, August 6, 2011


As I recall now all those many memories, from the time we were playfully getting ready to go out for an hour or so  together the night of the the drive bringing Danny back home from the rehab, I realize there were so many moments in between that I may never recall often or maybe even not at all...little things... loving, angry, hopeful, hurtful or fearful things. I get flashbacks of images sometimes...of the things I know are stored forever in my brain, but that are only brought to the surface by some word or sight that I hear or see. And when I think back through all the obvious memories, tiny lost fragments flash out at me and I remember sights, sounds, or someone's words.

I remember that night we were handsome Danny looked. How he kept catching my eye and smiling at me when someone was talking to him, as though he weren't listening to a thing they were saying. I remember saying to an old friend I saw there, "Oh, I just LOVE this guy!" It really sucks thinking back, not knowing at that time that it would be the last I'd see the one I love in that present form. The next time I'd see him he would be battered and broken, clinging to life, and no one would be able to assure me he'd ever speak to me or be the same, again.

I remember all the seemingly endless time by Danny's bed...just sitting there for hours and hours...for days, just watching his face. Waiting for a flicker of his eyelids...holding and squeezing his hands, rubbing his arms, touching his sleeping face, falling asleep with my head on his arm...hearing those ICU unit sounds...the beeping, alarms, in and out rush of the ventilator...watching monitors so closely my eyes burned.

 I remember us dabbing at Danny's nose and ears as brown colored fluids seeped out, and his family and I being frightened it was spinal fluid...and the gushing thick red blood running out of his mouth almost faster than we could keep removing it.

 I recall counting ceiling tiles, floor squares, counting the times people passed by the door...getting my lunches and dinners in the cafeteria and eating them in the same seat every day, looking out at traffic and realizing how complex our brains are to control such tasks, and then walking back into his room hoping for something new to be awaiting me.

I remember the chaplains stopping in frequently to comfort me and pray over Danny with us, and the kind nurses who continually suggested I go home and sleep...but I just didn't want to...couldn't leave.

And the days he became so sick...the induced, involuntary and violent coughing when the nurses suctioned him by trailing the long tube down his throat and then withdrew the tube, sucking out copious amounts of awful colored mucus. And when he was coughing on his own later, wiping up his trach constantly because there was such a terrific amount of thick mucus being forced out and running down over and under the neck brace, and I feared it clogging his airway.

I recall his torturous shivering the days and nights they had him packed in ice blankets because his fevers were so dangerously high, and wanting to crawl in bed and just cover him with my body because I knew how he hated being cold.

And the days family was there with me and we somehow managed light-hearted conversation around his sleeping form.

Once he was awake and coming through the stages of coma, I remember feeling grateful for what was occurring, but feeling sadness hearing nurses in other rooms close to Danny's, yelling, "Open your eyes!" to patients in their comas who were at the beginnings of their journeys. There were people all the time, getting hurt this way...going through this terrible thing. Life felt more fragile than I had ever believed it was before.

Those moments at the rehab...watching Danny flail in bed, squirming and looking so frightened...banging, bruising and cutting open his arms, elbows, knees, shins, ankles...wondering what he was thinking...or if he was thinking at all? Would he remember being this way?

Feeling embarrassed for him when he had to be cleaned up...and the dry humor between the CNAs and I as we wrestled him in an effort to get him clean and comfortable each time... knowing he would be mortified that he was exposed and needed help in this way, but knowing I wanted to be there to help him through it while maintaining what dignity remained in his situation. I recall feeling fearful that he might never be able to see me in the same way again because I was seeing him in the way I was now.

Watching his blank face day by day, hoping for a smile or expression...and then that glorious moment when our eyes met and I first saw recognition in his face...when he took my hand and patted it, when he puckered his lips and returned my kiss.

I can still see in my mind's eye...
his at first floppy, then overly wiry body, and then those first marvelous steps...
That raised right eyebrow sometimes, "talking" to me long before he was able to speak...
I remember the lollipops and the vanilla spray...the hot and cold washcloths on his skin...the music I played for him...the one-sided conversations with him just looking at me...all to try to stimulate his senses.
The endless pushing him in the wheelchair, and later the walking with him, for hours each day...the sitting in his bed with him and letting him kick and push the hell out of me with his feet as I struggled to keep him upright enough for his feedings to run safely in without him aspirating.
The falling into bed exhausted and sore each night.

I felt alot of fear many, many times because of Danny's memory loss and it frightened me when he didn't know his mom and I apart, or just didn't know who I, or any of us were. Sometimes he still continues confusing me with old girlfriends...but thankfully I learned and know how very normal and expected that is in brain injury recovery. The confusion could continue for a long time...but it gets better.

The daily phone calls...telling and retelling of updates to everyone and the trading of thoughts, questions, ideas and occasionally complaints with his family. Collecting my thoughts to record on my Facebook, knowing there were friends, family and acquaintances keeping us in their prayers...knowing my Facebook pages would be my chronicle to reflect upon later.  And my wonderful friends on Daily Strength's brain injury forum, who guided and comforted me when I so desperately needed it. The hours spent on the internet and reading various books, trying to soak up any bit of information I could find to educate myself about what was transpiring.

The daily short twenty minute drives back and forth from Barb's to the hospital, and the hour long ones to and from  home...carried out in either a trance when things weren't well, or in nervous exhilaration when they were. The roads I followed became so like a habit that I swore I could navigate them with my eyes closed.

The occasional nights we did spend at home in Tamaqua with my fruitless attempts at catching up on work in the confusing masses of forms and paperwork all kept as organized as I could manage in my big notebook. The endless phone calls for appointment planning, outpatient therapies, doctors, state and federal brain injury programs, insurance issues, and other personal issues of mine or Danny's.

The awful constant strain of worry about work, bills and money. The gratitude for my employer's understanding, easing up with my scheduling during the hospitalization, and their gifts of monetary help around the holidays...the kindnesses others in our lives showed us as well.

The attempts to balance my life and Nick's with some semblance of normalcy, when all that was going on with Danny was so dominating of my time and attention. I recall the feelings of inadequacy and guilt I had as a mother, knowing Nick was somehow put on a "back burner" through it all..knowing what Danny would say about that before his accident...but not knowing how else to handle anything at that time except for the way that I was doing.

The cold, empty feeling of our bed at night... missing Danny's touch, his comfort, the sound of his breathing. And the missing him so very much in so many different ways in the things that we did  daily...missing his voice and even his most annoying habits.

It had been a journey of shock and anger, sadness and well as hope and blind faith. I recall telling people at times as we progressed through it and things began to look up more and more, that although it was an event I wished had never happened, it was a rare and amazing journey that I wouldn't trade for the world. I had learned lessons in humility, love, faith, family and friendship.  I was forewarned that the coming parts of the journey wouldn't be easy, and recovery would be measured not in months only, but even in years. And so I was as ready as could be humanly possible...

FOR DANNY.... "Yesterday"...

Aug. 6, 2011

As I've been working on this blog over the past few days, Danny has expressed concern that people reading don't know what he looked like before his accident...before the coma and relearning of everything. He wants people to see the "real him," and what he looked like, he says. I'm not QUITE sure why this concerns him, except that he has always had some social anxiety, and I definitely do understand his feelings in that he may not want to be only "thought of" as the frail and injured guy in the hospital and recovery pictures. He is holding on to his self-image from who he was, and memories he has retained...and so... for you Danny, I am posting a big bunch of pictures of you before all this of the handsome and yes, sexy guy you were and still are ...the great "dad" figure you've been with Nick...and a few pictures of us...

Spring 2010

Nick took this of Danny n I about 2yrs ago. I had a friend "photo shop" it, and it sat framed at Danny's bedside all through the hospital and rehab stay, and is above our bed now...

late summer 2009

summer 2010...teaching Nick to target-shoot

summer 2010

very early spring 2010

fall 2010...Danny with his mom Susie, and two sisters Tara and Kimmy

winter 2009 at the arcade

dying eggs with Nick and my granddaughter Sarah spring 2010

My most favorite shot of Danny fall 2009

late summer 2009

spring 2010...Danny's OCD would normally prevent him from tearing worms apart...but he was able to do it for Nick

spring 2010

summer 2010

fall 2009

G-dghtr Sarah and Danny winter 2009

early spring 2010

spring 2010 perfecting his colored egg

spring 2010...a big catch...of "seaweed" lol

fall 2009 Nick and Danny working on my car

fall 2010 Danny with sister Kimmy's children, Zakk and Zoee

spring 2010

winter 2009

winter 2010

These are Danny before we were together (altho I've known him for years)
He was in his early to mid-twenties. This and the last one are I believe when he was in Germany with the service for Operation Enduring Freedom. The middle two are I believe somewhere between 2006-2008...not sure...