In Her Shell
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Someone once explained my brain to me as a big room with filing cabinets. This person said that everything that has ever happened to me is in there somewhere. Learning is filing things away, or creating new drawers. The synapses are what tell me where to find the thing I am looking for. Memory is knowing where to keep it.

My roommate and I went to the hospital to visit our student. She has had two surgeries since her brain aneurysm two weeks ago. Part of her skull is still off, since the swelling has not gone down. Neither has her fever, and the other women in the room--all moms--joked about wanting her cooling blanket to help with their menopause.

The room is decorated with posters, cards and well wishes from her many, many friends and admirers. This was a sweet and vivacious girl; my roommate coached her as a cheerleader until she decided that she would rather pursue her talents in singing and acting. She was a student in my Advanced literature class.

She curls her arm; her leg twitches. The Internet has helpfully explained to me that her condition cannot be considered a coma, since her eyes are open. She is still too dependent upon medications to be moved to a rehabilitation facility. I realize that we were there for her mother, not for her.

Her friends have been told only very basic information, in a very encouraging way. They do not know what is happening. They are not allowed to visit her.

I hope she regains consciousness. But what if she doesn't? Which category will her friends use to describe their relationship to her? In which file does she go? And what has happened to her files? Are they all still there, inaccessible? What has happened to the person she was? Will she exist only in our files now?

What a terrible way to be reminded that anything can happen, anytime. There's something in there about saying what's important to say, and appreciating the little things. I'm struggling for the peace described in this poem, but it's on my mind.

"The Orange"
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange--
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave--
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.
Oh Honey, I'm so sorry. I take it that there is not much more to do at this point than wait and see. I always feel like people in those sorts of situations know that you are there somehow. They feel your love and concern even if they are not awake to see you.
What a struggle it is to make sense of such things but you put some order to it in a beautiful way. I was shocked by the power of the poem.
It is a good thing you did, being there for her Mom.
Phil: Thanks; I hope we were able to help and not be an added stress.

Dale: I'm glad you thought the poem was appropriate. I read through a lot of them before picking that one.

Lu: Thanks babe. You're right; I do believe that postive energy makes some impact, even if it's not one that we can easily recognize.
Okay, I'm crying now.

I'm glad you went to visit. I'm SURE she felt your presence.
I second Dale's comment re: the poem. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for your student.
Oh, Megan! I'm sorry! But thank you... I am trying to maintain my optimism about her status, and it is humbling to remember that there is probably no way I can know for sure.

CP: Thank you, and thank you. She (and her family) need all the finger-crossing they can get.
The medical team is probably keeping her sedated, too. All of her natural resources need to go into her healing. She's young. She may do well when the swelling subsides. But .....and I'm sure you know this ..... because someone is "unconscious" doesn't mean that they are not aware on some level. I know that people do talk to her as though she is really "there." And,she is; she just can't tell you that. Her prognosis, in part, depends upon the area of her brain that is damaged. Often other parts "take over" to a degree.
Her arms curling inward is a neurological reaction. It isn't a conscious movement.
Pray, and if not prayer, think loving thoughts.
I look at it this way. Our soul is our energy. Our thoughts, emotions and memories are part of that energy. Because of this there is only one answer that can be applied by a scientific law "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change from one from to another." Our bodies are the vessels that transport this energy around until such time as they cease to function. We keep our files cabinets as we travel through all that is life, known and unknown.
Aunt Lee: Thanks for the thoughts and advice. I am trying to stay positive.

Old Lady: Wow. I am subscribing to your theory!
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