“How about my life back…?” I murmured as she exited through the hanging curtain that separated me from my roommate on the other side. I could hear her checking in with him and listened curiously.
“How are you today, Mr. Smith?” she said a little loudly. She got no response, but I could hear her bustling around the room regardless. “The doctor wants to run a few more tests on you, Mr. Smith, so I’m going to need to draw some blood. Don’t worry, I can take it through your IV hookup so I won’t have to stick you again.”
Still no response, but that wasn’t unusual. Since I woke up in this antiseptic, white-washed space three days ago, I haven’t heard a word come from his mouth, only people talking to him.
The nurse left a few minutes later. I wondered what was wrong with him. Did he have amnesia too? Maybe they group psych patients together.
Looking down at the simple gold wedding band resting heavily on my left hand, I contemplated my situation once again. Why couldn’t I remember who I was? How did I end up in California? Why couldn’t I recognize anyone who should be the most important people in my life? What if I never recover, never regain those precious memories again? How can I go “home” with perfect strangers?
The nurse returned to check in on me, as promised, about an hour later. She brought in a tray with what I supposed was meant to be lunch. It was a bowl of broth, low sodium and no flavor, with a small packet of crackers and a tiny cup of green jello. The jello was the only splash of color in this place.
“When can I have a normal meal?” I asked, smelling the lukewarm contents of the soup bowl. I hadn’t had any real food since I woke up.
“The doctors just want to keep things easy on your stomach after the concussion,” the nurse explained, patting my hand sympathetically. “I imagine that you will be able to eat solid foods in a day or two.”
“A day or two…?” I whined. The broth and jello routine was getting old. Really old.
“Let me see if I can slip you a few graham crackers, Honey,” she whispered conspiratorially, with a wink.
“Thanks,” I muttered, but found myself devouring them greedily when she delivered them an hour later.
After dinner, Dr. Randall came. He looked at my chart, pulled up my x-rays and scans on the computer monitor by the wall, and typed up a few more notes.
“Any changes today?”
“No, nothing yet…” Suddenly my frustration seemed to burst from me. “Doctor, why am I not remembering anything yet? It’s been three days now since I woke up, and all I know about myself is what people have told me. My name is Sarah Wheeler. I live in Bellevue, Washington, and am married to Tony Wheeler. We have three children….but they are all strangers to me! I am a stranger to me!!” My voice broke in a sob. “I just want my life back.”
“I know this is difficult for you, Sarah. It’s a lot to take in. The brain is an extremely complicated organ. Any kind of disturbance, especially trauma, can interfere with how the brain processes information. But as complicated as it is, the brain is also quite remarkable. It is able to create new pathways for synapses to fire, essentially opening the doors that are currently shut.”
He had already explained this to me before. Be patient. The brain usually will take care of itself. My memories should return. I just need time.
Something told me that patience never had been a strong point of mine.
Dr. Randall continued on. Pulling out a large manila envelope, he handed it to me tentatively.
“I have asked your husband, Tony, to collect some pictures. I am hoping that over time, they may jog your memory a little. Maybe unlock some of those doors.”
I opened the envelope and pulled out a small stack of pictures. The top picture portrayed a smiling couple, beaming at the camera. The man had his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and they looked like they were laughing at something. Since I met him yesterday, I recognized the man to be my husband, Tony. The laughing woman was me, but I only knew this because I had snuck a peek at myself in the bathroom mirror. I looked different now. My unwashed blond hair was matted around my face, I looked pale, and there were dark hollows under my eyes. I was shocked to see how fresh and…vibrant…I looked in the picture.
The next one was of three smiling teenagers. My children, who I have yet to meet. A boy, seventeen, with a purple football jersey on, had his arm cuffed playfully around the neck of the fifteen year-old girl, who was laughing, looking up at her brother. They both had dark hair and eyes, like their father. The youngest boy, thirteen, was standing a little to the side, looking quietly at his siblings. He had blond hair, curling around his ears, and glasses perched in front of his silvery grey eyes.
He looked like me.
A lump formed in my throat. How could I not know my own flesh and blood? I pushed the stack away, not wanting to look any more.
Dr. Randall quietly took the stack and set it on the counter close to the dividing curtain. He seemed to have anticipated my reaction.
“It’s a lot all at once,” he reassured me. “Give it some time, Sarah. Your pictures will be here for you when you’re ready to try again.”
I didn’t sleep well that night. I kept dreaming of dark shapes encircling me, suffocating me. I would scream but there was no one to hear my muffled cry. I was so cold, feeling a trickle of ice creep up my arm, making my heart seem to race even more. Finally I awoke, opening my eyes to the gray light of morning. My vision seemed hazy, and I tried to rub the sleep from them. Sitting up, a wave of dizziness swept over me, followed by a rush of nausea. Maybe there wouldn’t be any solid foods for me today after all.
Looking around for the call button to signal the nurse, I glanced toward the counter against the wall. The dividing curtain was hanging close to it, and in my dizzy state appeared to be moving. It was then that I noticed.
The stack of pictures which contained my life were gone.
The intrigue continues tomorrow when we find out what happens to her children!