Returning to my neurologist for one last crack, it felt so crap. This was once a place that filled me with hope, now it was just dread. What wild goose chase was I about to embark on now? What was it going to cost me, what danger might I encounter? Our past history hadn’t been the best either, like last time I saw him all he could offer was a cocktail of hard drugs but I still had to let this run its course. Oh man I had so, so much apprehension going back to this office.
The neurologist versus me. Science versus stubbornness. I was either going to find myself or lose myself. Bah… bah… ba-na-na. The old me versus the new me. The external journey versus the inner one. Western versus eastern. Megatron versus Optimus. Damn, what sort of dumb-ass unnecessary drama am I trying to create here? Dunno, but it sure isn’t working! Haha.
Still, with gritted teeth the neurologist appointment went okay, and the result, well I was encouraged to go to a neuro rehab centre to see if physical therapy would help. My arms were pretty much fucked by this stage, especially the left one, it would hang like a ball bag in the breeze. So, with this new desperate measure again I’d be an inpatient, and when in rehab I was to be assigned an intensive exercise program, yet I could actually see how this might work. You know, all that forcefully opening up new neural pathways stuff.
Within the week I’d bunkered down in another hospital room, this time in some flasho private hospital in an inner Melbourne suburb. This is just where the neuro rehab happened to be. And there was kinda two parts to this: one was that I’d be staying and sleeping in the main part of the hospital (which was absolutely huge, and kinda fun to explore), then the rehab part was in this old mansion across the road and this is where I’d be spending most of my time.
Also, now I found this a bit odd, I was staying on a ward that specifically catered for knee and hip replacement patients, so everyone was walking around in frames and on crutches and learning to walk again. I met some really nice people here but geez I also felt so out of place. Like, I kept thinking what sort of bloody idiot has their arms just magically stop working?
Yeah, I was the sheep with black fleece, you know running my own race and all that. I’m just thankful that my girlfriend Ebony was still popping in regularly to give me at least some sense of belonging. And hope. Plus, my parents were starting to get way more involved and in the picture from this point forward. They’d stepped up massively, and I was so thankful as I was really starting to need the emotional support.
Oh yeah, rehab. So, here I was spending about six hours per day in this old mansion doing exercises. It was quite a funny building actually, big staircase, big windows, a real regal charm to it, yet it was filled chok-a-blok with gym equipment. Mainly benches so that people could lay down while a therapist worked with them, several sets of monkey bars, then rowing machines, exercise bikes, stuff like that. But when thinking about this joint, I would definitely not use the words purpose-built.
I was here for two or three weeks, and oddly after the first few days I felt pretty comfortable in this space. Maybe it was that I loved bouncing my bum on those giant exercise balls, maybe it was because I’d been assigned an absolutely lovely physiotherapist, who by luck was also damn hot? Maybe it was even all the exercise? But whatever it was, I was actually glad that the neurologist had sent me here. It was opening my eyes to a lot of things.
In particular, as I was encouraged to become involved in numerous group activities (which as I had nothing better to do I did attend a few things), but it was really helpful and insightful meeting other young folks on a recovery journey. Initially it was quite confronting but being on a similar path myself, strangely it was very easy to relate. Only with a couple of the guys, they’d been in motorbike accidents so has those halo frames screwed into their skulls, and gotta say I didn’t quite know where to look. Gees wearing one of those things must suck.
I’d never seen anything like this place, ever. Brain trauma, severe stroke survivors, and then misfits like me. It was like a half-way house for people who needed that extra care. Quite a few people were wearing the physical scars or the protective aids, myself, I was just a wobbly body with dangly arms. This place, it was the who’s who of hard luck stories. Yet, I have to say the sense of community was beyond amazing, the cooking classes and woodwork classes were a blast.
Actually, I became pretty good mates with one of these road trauma guys (he’d been in a car accident though), and he’d been here in this hospital for eight months. He’d even once had one of those halo things on his head but know just wore a stack-hat full time. I felt rude asking him the specifics of his injuries (or prognosis) so I never did. Nevertheless, he was still very open in sharing what he was going through, I even went and hung out with him a few times in his room. As he was explaining it to me, I had no idea of the complexity involved with living on a trauma ward. The separation, the sacrifice.
For the rest of my stay here, I felt really lucky and priviledged. Here I was doing all these simple arm exercises, on most days even having fun while doing it, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I mean, I was on easy street when compared to half of the other patients here. It made my problems seem so insignificant.
You see, while here I met two truly amazing (and unfortunate) individuals, a boy and a girl no more than eighteen years old who’d both become paralysed from head to toe through road trauma. Yet, here they were both working their way toward a solid recovery. I would see them struggle every day, just to take one or two steps with three therapists holding them up. Apparently, they’d both already come a long way too. Oh man this was struggle town like I’d never seen before. Still, they’d both show up every single day, and they’d both do their assisted exercise routines religiously. And beyond the Connect Four game they’d both always play, I’d still see them manage a half smile from time to time. In a way, with my heart breaking for them, I almost could not believe what I was seeing. This wasn’t another country, this was another universe.
Furthermore, it showed me how this sort of stuff can happen to absolutely anybody, and how my heart yearned in empathy.
Now during my stay [as far as results went] I gained strength in my muscles that were still working; not in those that were already failing. More trials. However, this place helped me to understand many things.
One was that my path and my answers lay in how I was going to respond to it all, and at first I can’t tell you how much this annoyed me. Then I was beginning to understand how my hand had been pushed in so many ways, how I was starting to lose control over my life, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hated this. Plus, I was an encyclopaedia of contradictions. I knew it. No I didn’t.
It was a taste of many things to come.