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When I woke up it was not like there was nothingness, like I was asleep and then I awoke. It was just that my awareness started when I was being air-ambulanced from Mission Viejo to Kaiser Redwood City, and I did not think about what came before that. I was lying on a stretcher and it was obvious that I was on an airplane, but the airplane was not going very fast, so I assumed it was a little plane and I was the only person on it. It sounded like the engine noise was coming from within my head, it was so loud and resonant. It lasted for hours and hours, or maybe it just felt that way — I do not know actually how long we were up there. I did not wonder what happened to me, and I was subconsciously afraid to move and see what moved and what did not. I was not in any pain, and I was comfortable so I did not want to try anything that would get me in trouble. I also did not know that I had been in a coma for three weeks – I think I finally asked that question either in Kaiser Vallejo or at home again. I had to know how to ask the question, how to verbalize it, so it could not have been at Kaiser Redwood City.

Kaiser Redwood City

Then my memory skips to the inside of Kaiser Redwood City. I was lying in a bed in a corner and I kept hearing an old man’s voice complaining about how he was ill-used and how they should just leave him to die. I could not see the old man though – whenever I would get up in the future I forgot to look for him. I think one time I heard him say he was 79. I was surprised that he was that old – I thought that he was about 60 from the sound of his voice.

People started visiting me there – I heard they visited me in Southern California, but I do not remember any of it. Only the people in the band could come and visit me, and Tom of course, but I was on restricted visitation, so that was about all. I think my brother also visited me. They say that I was not talking then. I remember having normal conversations with them, but I guess that I was wrong – I had a breathing tube in and you can’t talk with those. When you first wake up out of a coma, your thinking is a little skewed. I guess I remember the movie version. Years later I heard that when I first woke up out of the coma, I didn’t want anybody to visit me, only my family, Laurie, Kathy, Sally, Jeff & Anita, and Robin & Michelle.

Other than when I had visitors, I just lay there in the bed and vegetated. I started having paranoid fantasies about laying there like that forever, so I asked Tom to bring me some tapes and a tape player. Or maybe he just brought them – after all, I couldn’t talk to ask him to bring them. I only remember three tapes: Bill Monroe’s fiddle tunes by Kenny Baker, one by Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France, and a Cajun one by Michael Doucet, his solo record. Listening to the three tapes was a surreal experience – I would listen to them over and over and over, but I could never tell you the names of any of the songs, or what order they were played in. I think they are the only tapes I had or I would remember other ones.

So I would lay there and listen to a tape until it ended, and the minute it ended I would start in with paranoid thoughts – what would happen to me, how would it happen, stuff like that. Towards the end of my stay Tom said that I would be going to Kaiser Vallejo, and so I was afraid that he was just saying that, that I was actually going to stay at Kaiser Redwood City forever, that they would keep on forgetting to transfer me to Kaiser Vallejo, that all the other patients would eventually get transferred and leave, that eventually I would be alone, and that in a few weeks or months or years my health would fail and I would get bedsores and die. I guess I was looking forward to going to Kaiser Vallejo – it was the only thing I had to look forward to, and it was my only hope of salvation. And then I would get someone to play another tape, a nurse or a visitor, and those thoughts would instantly evaporate, and the whole phase would start all over again.

Beth Weil

Last Modified July 4, 2009 @ 10:22 am
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