An email appeared in my inbox this morning that I’m going to try to take to heart. It was sent by someone I don’t know well but trustworthy and at the bottom it said this, “It’s a new day. Be encouraged.” I’m going to go with it and for those of you out there that are tired of the same old shit I offer these words to you too.
I’m jumping around with the story today. Today we’re getting out of the hospital. I’m taking you to GF Strong, a rehabilitation center in Vancouver where I began to learn to live independently so I could return to the real world.
I wheeled my way to room 301. I had just been registered at GF Strong Rehabilitation center and I was told they had space for me on the brain injury floor. That’s how they put it. The brain injury floor. I was thinking they need to come up with better themes. Something cheerier. Like this way to the yellow brick road or anything that conjured up brighter images. Upon registration to reality way I learned that testing was required when you are accepted to the brain injury floor. I told the receptionist I didn’t have a brain injury. My injuries were everywhere else but my head, although proving my case was difficult with my bald head and a rather disgusting healing donor site on the right side of my head. My explanation fell on deaf ears. It didn’t matter. Anyone staying on the third floor had to have their mental capacity tested.
A nurse appeared at the door and pushed my wheelchair towards the elevators in the main lobby. The elevators looked like freight elevators. They were wide, large enough to carry a boat load of people, their chairs and a small car. We made our way silently to the third floor and I was pushed into a room I immediately wanted to get out of. If I could run I would have. There were tables set up with plates of food on some of them, toys on others. A few people were sitting at each table and as I looked around the room it became clear that I was on the brain injury floor. I was wheeled to one of the tables and another nurse walked over to me asking me very slowly enunciating each word if I could eat the food placed in front of me. She put a spoon on the table gently as though I would have trouble with it and asked if I could pick it up. Fighting back tears I forced words out of my mouth, “This is a mistake. I’m fine. They’ve put me here because of the lack of space. They didn’t know where to put me.” She nodded at me. She glanced at the spoon and said, “Try to eat.” I swallowed hard and said, “I can eat. With a fork.” She waited patiently as I easily picked up the spoon, scooped up food and lifted it to my mouth. She watched me carefully and wrote something on a sheet of paper.
I didn’t know what to do. I understood they needed to do this. There were people here that needed special attention given to them because of their injuries. The attention I needed wasn’t this kind. They weren’t hearing me. I felt defeated and this was day one. After a few more questions yet another nurse came over. She must have seen the exchange because, much to my relief, she said, “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have been brought to this room. Let’s get you on your way.”
I found room 301. It was towards the end of the hall. I opened the door and after a few tries I bumped me and my chair into my room. The tires of my wheelchair squeaked on the shiny floor beneath me. There was a countertop with a mirror above it to my left, a bed to my right, and a large window dead ahead. I wheeled over to it and sat there for a while checking out the view. My window overlooked a parking lot filled with people entering a new, uninvited world. They were in wheelchairs, on crutches, wearing halos shell-shocked, resigned, vacant. They were in unknown territory. We all were. We were here linked by tragedy and accident and our differences. I sat in my own wheelchair and I felt it – the enormity of my difference sinking settling in the pit of my stomach. My parents came into the room loving and ill equipped. My mom was patting my shoulder murmuring don’t cry as my dad handed me a teddy bear. We looked like the people in the parking lot. Shell shocked and lost. So lost. I needed for them to go. I needed to be alone, so I smiled through my tears and said I would be okay. It’s a long drive back home. There’ll be traffic. Just go, go. I’ll see you soon.
When they left I stayed at the window and stared at my future for a long time.
God, if you can hear me. If you see me please make my life count for something. I’m here. I don’t know this body that I’m in, but make me count.
Please. See me.