I suspect that there are many of you out there wondering, as I would be if I were in your shoes, just how much I have changed…if any. Simply because I had something the size of a peach removed from my brain in Feb.’09, followed by a blood infection and fever of 106 which set me back another week, which was then followed by emergency open heart surgery due to a massive blood clot in my heart, with 23 others in my lungs….which set me back another few weeks, would leave me wondering (if I were you) just how well I am functioning. If I were you, and I cared about me, then I would want to know.
Well, unless you see me and talk to me you will never know just how well I am progressing. When I say slow and steady wins this race I mean it. The slow part is the progress, but the progress is steady. My normal response when people ask how I’m doing is to say “Each day I can see some progress.” I officially ended all therapies (physical, occupational, and speech) a couple of months ago…even though I have been approved for speech therapy through next April. I was simply making too much progress in these areas to justify continuing in them.
When people look at me they often say things like “Well, you look just the same as you did prior to the surgeries! The old Mike is back!” I appreciate the encouragement intended by these words. But the fact remains that I know I am not exactly the same as before having had these two surgeries. Therapists warned me of this. People who have suffered brain traumas, while perhaps looking normal on the outside, know full well that they are not the same on the inside. Only those who have suffered brain traumas can possibly understand what I mean by saying this. Swelling of the brain following surgery can last up to one year or more. And so, even though I may look the same and think the same I am not the same.
The delays between hearing and responding are decreasing incrementally every day. I liken it to a newscaster doing an interview with a correspondent overseas via sattelite phone. The interviewer asks the question and the person on the other end of the line looks stupid as if they haven’t even heard the question…which of course they have not. There is a two second delay. That’s the way I have felt at times during this process of recovery. In my mind I know exactly what I mean to say. However, I have learned that I must stop and consider my words more carefully than before. I don’t know if it has to do with the surgeries or not but I also find myself being more blunt than before the surgeries. Perhaps this is surgically related or perhaps it’s just a reflection on the brevity of life…and therefore getting to the point more quickly than I would have before.
Perhaps the single most exciting bit of news in my life is that recently I have begun to drive again. After inconveniencing others for the better part of 10 months it is very good to have this freedom back. If you can drive thank the Lord. Earlham, Iowa is located about 20 miles west of the western suburbs of Des Moines so it is very freeing to have my driving privileges back once again. Now I suppose I will have to stop shooting people who are talking or texting on their cell phones with my invisible air gun…from the passenger seat and just take an occasional shot when I’m stopped at a red light.
I continue to workout at the health club 6 hours /week (3 days 2 hours a workout). I am working diligently at putting back on some of the 35-40 pounds of largely muscle weight that I lost while flat on my back for so many days. I’m currently up to my pre-surgery weight. The muscle tone is slowly coming back in my right arm and leg along with the accompanying neurological connections. I no longer need nor do I use any special equipment to get in or out or up or down anything.
For the past couple of months I have been preaching every other week, but this week I will begin preaching all but one Sunday a month. I’ll try this for a couple of months and then step back and evaluate how things are going. We are heading up to Mayo for some follow-up visits on September 22nd-23rd. Perhaps they can remove the IVC filter that is positioned somewhere near my belly button where the blood from the lower extremities flows into the heart. They will remove this filter by doing an angiogram procedure. Several months ago when we were back at Mayo this filter was still holding back some smaller clots. Hopefully they will have disappeared….just like my fear of wasps, bees, cicada killers, and hornets has disappeared since the surgeries. After looking death squarely in the eye what can a mere wasp do to me? In order to appreciate this now dissipated fear you have to know my history of fear of these creatures. But that’s a story for another day.