This new role with my husband following his brain injury is different. I am not just his wife any longer – I wish I could be some days, but that is not where we are right now. Instead, I wear many different hats throughout the day, and some of them have surprised me, and not necessarily in a good way.
I find myself hovering over him in public, especially at the gym. What do you need? Do you have a headache? Are you tired? I know he gets sick of it because I do too! Today, he purposefully pissed me off by going to the free weight area – that is code for lifting very heavy weight, and me being worried about him blowing a hemorrhage in his head, or dropping a weight on his head, or hitting his head. We walked in and immediately I could see him return to that lifting “cool guy” swagger. Of course he knew someone there, another very large gym guy, and they chatted for a few minutes. He went over to the bench press, and sat down.
By now, he knows I am pissed, and I told him he might as well lift and make me all the way pissed, instead of only part of the way. Frank thought that was very funny – me, not so much. Especially since we have been battling headaches for three days, and he refuses to go to the ER (ever try to rationalize with a cop that has a head injury? Very ineffective).
I am thankful that he started with the bar only so I could spot him. He worked his weight up gradually, and didn’t rush into anything. We did move back into the machine area where I feel much more comfortable (machines at least control the weight if it slips). One of the machines for chest allows you to put different weight for the right and left arm. Last week he reduced the weight for his right side since he continues to have weakness from the accident. Today, he kept the weight equal for both side. I asked him if he was going to reduce the weight for the right, and he asked why? I reminded him that the right arm was still weaker than the left. His response? Well, that is not my problem, the right arm is just going to have to keep up! Amazingly, he did the weight equal to the left, and increased both throughout the exercise.
It was another one of those moments when you think – I wish someone was tracking what he is doing more closely, the heavy weights, the cognitive rehab, the fine motor exercises, the Sodoku that he does all day long. I know I watch and push, but I wonder – does this type of rehab lead to better results? The all day, every day approach and commitment to getting better?
Why I started this entry with labels is because there are moments, like the last few days trying to get him to the ER, that I feel like a parent. It is a yucky feeling, and I don’t like to feel like I have to cajole him into doing what is right for his health. But, I also need to remember that he is an adult, that is pushing his way out of a coma, and can make decisions for himself sometimes. Is he lying on the bathroom floor in pain with this headache? No, but the medical person in me says go in and have them take a look, what can it hurt. To him, it is another day wasted at the hospital, and he says no. It took all I had today to finally let that go – he is fine, headache is gone. And he gloats over my worry – such a brat sometimes.
Each day I jump between these roles – wife, caregiver, therapist, parent – and it is a wonder that I am not more tired. I wish I could do more in the day, but a wise friend had a great analogy for me on Friday. She said your life was completely put on a bookshelf for a long time. And now, you are taking the pieces back one at a time. You can’t take everything off of the bookshelf at once. Nice huh? I loved it.
Frank pushes every moment of every day – today, even with the early day headache, he worked through more Sudoku, listened to the scanner and made comments on the events, and started a brain rehab program on the computer. He is 100% committed to this recovery, and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it as a therapist.
As his wife, I expected nothing less, and I am pleased to see that who he always has been is very much who he is now. Committed to something 100% until it is done.