What are you usually doing at 6 in the morning? A week ago, I was at the hospital putting on scrubs for an MRI of my head.
Nearly 3 weeks ago I got in a bad ski accident while I was in Utah and now, though all doctors (and I) expect a full recovery, I’m still not quite 100% — which is why my neurologist wanted an MRI. So even though I might look normal, it’s a bit deceiving and hides some of the struggles I’ve been having with balance, coordination and vision.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Waking up in a hospital in Utah not remembering anything that had happened (because I was unconscious) was one.
Having an MRI was another: that was a unique, intense, and claustrophobic experience. One in which I was wrapped in blankets with a crate-like box placed directly over my face and then slid into a tight tunnel in the middle of the small room. Then what sounded like a cacophony of jackhammers started. The noise-blocking ear plugs they gave me weren’t sufficient to block it out.
Before they put me in the tunnel, they asked me at least 3 times if I was claustrophobic. Mm, claustrophobia. I’d had a previous experience dealing with those waves of fear.
It was my senior year of college. I was the title role in a play called The Insanity of Mary Girard and it included me sitting with a snug wooden box over my head while my arms and legs were secured by taut, leather buckles for 30 minutes (from when the theater “house” opened until the show started).
I did it, night after night of performances.
I learned mind over matter like you wouldn’t believe. As you can imagine, that did wonders for my claustrophobia.
But the MRI was a wholly different experience. There was about 40 minutes of the intensity I briefly described above–quickly interrupted by an injection in my arm (to give me “contrast”)–then I was scooted back in the tunnel, and the banging continued for another 15 minutes or so.
While I was laying in the tunnel for nearly an hour, I thought about things. The MRI happened right around the same time I finally felt like ME again, after my accident. I had my brain back. I was back, despite any hurdles I still had to overcome. So in typical Katie fashion, I had a lot to think about.
I thought about my accident. I have an insatiable curiosity about how this accident will affect me going forward. It’s already made an impact on me and my mindset, in an overall positive way. How will it ripple throughout my life, in unexpected ways?
Connor snapped a shot when he and my parents were walking me around the yard of my home shortly after we’d gotten to Ohio from Utah. He called it “exercising the patient.”
Another question I contemplate: How should I refer to my accident? It was a freak accident on the ski slope. It gave me a traumatic brain injury and left me unconscious for approximatly 5 to 8 minutes. But that all seems misleading to say. I lucked out, and now I’m cognitively totally here, with a full recovery just around the corner.
But it’s tricky because by now I don’t LOOK very different, so I’m dealing with the contradiction of my appearance, which disguises some of the challenges I’m dealing with.
Considering I could be a quadriplegic (or dead) from this accident, these things I’m pondering are small beans. I’ll take ‘em any day.
Dad snapped this shot of mom and Connor helping me with exercises that are focused on the vestibular balancing system, which I’d been told to practice by my physical therapist.
I don’t have any answers for the questions that popped in my head while I was frozen in position during the MRI…but thinking through them, just like typing them out, somehow helps.
I got home from the procedure and, with snow languidly falling outside, I cuddled up on the couch next to the fireplace and felt an immense feeling of gratitude.
That’s a common theme I’ve felt since I came to: gratitude. I’ve been shown so much love by people who mean so much to me. I feel outstandingly lucky (for the people on this earth…and for getting to be here, too).
Getting this time with my parents (and brother, who came in to spend time with me from Chicago) has been a real silver living. The accident brought me closer to my boyfriend Connor, who’s been a rock throughout this whole journey.
Fine, I’m a glasses-wearer because the accident gave me blurry vision. (That’s supposed to be temporary. Plus, I love my new glasses). And, okay, I’m still struggling with balance a bit. But I’m ME. And I’ve grown so much in this experience. Just how the play in college got rid of my claustrophobia and prepared me to handle the MRI with relative ease, I believe this unexpected life turn is priming me to handle something else down the pipeline all the better. At the very least, it’s given me empathy for anyone who has gone through a similar experience.
My body tells me two things quite clearly: sleep as much as possible (think: 3 naps in a day), and eat a lot, frequently. Sounds like a dream come true. Yup — copy that, body. Will do. Here’s me doing both things like a champ:
In the hospital in Utah, asleep and cuddling with a stuffed koala bear my friend in Utah, Sam, gave me.
Connor and I stuff our faces with delicious cookies (given by a dear friend).
Speaking of sleeping, that sounds pretty nice right about now. Over and out.