Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things I Didn’t Remember

For the last few weeks since I was extubated and more particularly since I've been home, people have been telling me stories of what I did while I was intubated and drugged, and I think we've all been a little surprised at how much I don't remember. Now, most people don't remember much from their time being intubated, because evidently most people are in a coma. This is generally preferred, because usually people who are intubated because of a massive illness like pneumonia are very sick, and being intubated—having a big tube stuck in your mouth, down your throat, and into your lungs to make you breathe, and necessarily also then having a feeding tube up your nose and down past your lungs into your stomach—is uncomfortable. To say the least. I understand Dr. Jason told Ian that lots of visitors were good for comatose patients, because even if we're not responding we are probably aware of the love and camaraderie, so Ian put out a call to everyone we knew to come and watch me sleep.

Well, surprise to everyone, my nurses perhaps most of all, I wasn't comatose. I was, in fact, often very alert and eerily like my normal self, except I couldn't talk. I made up for this by writing requests, observations, jokes, etc. on mini pads of paper, and evidently getting frustrated and annoyed when people couldn't read what I wrote. The reason people couldn't read what I wrote sometimes was that my hand would stop moving across the paper. I've looked at several of these notes—all were saved—and I have no idea what I was writing on lots of them.

In college I took a psychology class at 8:00am one quarter (freshman year—I didn't know any better), and I frequently fell asleep in the middle of note taking. My sentences would go along as usual for several words, then they'd just kind of peter out and dribble off near the edge of the paper. I hadn't realized before then that one could fall asleep if one were actively moving. One of my friends, who had the class at 9:00am (also a bit too early, it turned out) would occasionally ask to borrow my notes. She never actually found them to be very helpful.

Anyway, that's how several of my intubated scribbles look.

So the things I didn't remember:

Writing a note to Aunt C and Cousin T that said "Can you get my (unreadable)". They each looked at it, tried their best to decipher it, discussed, and I finally waved my hand to get the pad back. "NURSE" I wrote, in large letters, under my previous statement. "Oh my goodness, her nurse!" my dear aunt and cousin said. "Only the most important thing she could need, and we couldn't even tell!" Aunt C and Cousin T, no worries. I wrote it, and I couldn't tell.

Being given a notepad and pen to write notes with, complete with several general questions/answers already written out for me (thanks, Deane!), and requesting instead a half-size clipboard and small pads to fit on it (thanks Karissa!).

Having a guest book suggested, and requesting (ordering) that it be a particular handmade book from Port Townsend, purchased at the Elliot Bay Bookstore, and the pen that should be used was my new pink fountain pen with green ink which could be found in the left-hand upper drawer of the roll-top desk in my office. Fortunately, Ian found a rainbow collection of other pens (in addition to the pink pen which, I believe, Nat found, thanks Nat!), because one thing I wouldn't have suggested were I not drugged was having lots and lots of people use a new fountain pen. One or two here or there would be okay, but the nibs, the nibs!

Pen marks all over my hands, and finding at least four different colored pens in my bed when it was changed.

The hot water heater being replaced in our house. For months, we'd had a weird fungus growing in the frame by the door to the garage in the basement, but since we've had a history of wetness, we assumed it was coming from outside the house and somehow seeping in. We knew it had to be addressed at some point, but that point kept being shifted. Thanks Marsh and Nat for figuring out what the problem really was!

And the biggest one—my friends, S&C, both women, getting married in California! I attended their first wedding in Phoenix in 2000, which was gorgeous, and I really couldn't believe I'd forgotten the news (I'd read it in an email while intubated) when, weeks later, I was refreshing myself on emails from that time. Congratulations, Ladies!

I do remember some things from this time—namely, I have memory snapshots of, I'm pretty sure, everyone who came to see me. They have the quality of dreams, these memories, but they exist nevertheless. My Uncle K, the other day, did ask if my memory was spotty enough that I might remember him coming to visit and I said no, it wasn't that spotty—I knew he hadn't come.

I am slightly embarrassed by how bossy I evidently was, made all the more obvious by the fact that I was supposed to be unconscious. Two of my cousins now, S and T, have given me kitch with the same saying: "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas." Sigh.


Ian said...

But the thing really do have better ideas! Besides, I think it was a lot easier to respond to clearly defined requests than it would have been to help out if you were wishy-washy while intubated and couldn't described what your needs were.

CMT said...

too sweet, as always :)

Shelley said...

looking back at this time...IMHO your 'alertness' was a way to communicate to all of us who were concerned for you and thinking of you, that you were healing and getting better.


Erik said...

Hmmmm... new ring tone for Calin..

Anonymous said...

Ian don't encourage her.

Anna K. said...

You not only seemed completely alert, you were sharp. And FUNNY. You had me and Chiara in stitches.