The crickets have been chirping over here at A Few Beads Short, which probably has many of you wondering how Ray is doing following his heart attack and brain injury (injuries, actually).
So here goes… Ray’s doing well. Like, really, miraculously, incredibly well. I have to remind myself of that every day, and look back at where he was on December 8th, when he first went to the rehab hospital and couldn’t even hold a tooth brush, or on his first day home when he didn’t know how to use his walker in the small confines of our home and preferred to navigate by literally bouncing off of the walls and furniture to keep himself from falling. Or, the days when he’d start confabulating (yes, that’s a word) long, drawn out stories that you knew were absolute B.S. from the moment they started but it was nearly impossible to stop him until he’d gone on and on and on for five minutes or more… without pause.
His balance is still a bit off which means his gait’s a little wide, but all in all he’s walking beautifully. The video below was taken when we were walking into some very fierce wind at the beach during spring break (yes, thank you God – and one sweet, generous friend – we got to go on spring break!).
He brushes his own teeth – without me even reminding him! – and takes his own shower without a shower seat, and without me needing to stand nearby constantly at the ready lest he lose his balance and fall. In fact, he’s quite self-sufficient in all personal care tasks. He just takes a lot longer to do them than he used to. He still confabulates occasionally, but the stories are becoming increasingly fewer and farther between, and – thank God – they’re getting shorter, or maybe I’m just becoming better at politely redirecting the conversation.
Ray’s generally been pretty upbeat and seemingly unbothered by his brain injury. Claudia L. Osborn shares her story of recovering from a brain injury in the book Over My Head, and describes herself as having a “goofy contentment.” I’d say that’s a very accurate summary. However, I think Ray’s beginning to evolve beyond contentment, and reality is setting in. As you can probably imagine, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, “goofy contentment” is clearly not normal or healthy. On the other hand, it’s made for a pretty happy-go-lucky Ray when it came to therapy, homework, and dealing with his new lifestyle. The absence of contentment may usher in a whole host of new challenges.
Weird things have changed. His sense of smell has been severely impacted, which is a huge blessing when I’m gassy but very sad when there are flowers to smell. Along with that, his sense of taste has changed entirely. We used to love to eat sushi together, and now he could take it or leave it. In fact, he’d probably rather leave it since chop sticks pose a serious challenge. He used to hate almond milk but now prefers it to cow’s milk. He used to be a stickler for praying before family meals but these days sits down and starts eating the moment the plate hits the table. He’s forgotten some basic table manners and social niceties. One moment, I can almost forget that anything’s changed. The next, he double dips his breadstick and I’m reminded how very different he’s become.
All in all, we’re still early stages, and his recovery is nothing short of miraculous. But, we have a very long way to go. Years and years, in fact. We’ve been told that he won’t work in 2016, and possibly not in 2017, either. He can’t drive, has periodic tunnel vision, appears to have forgotten our lives together, and really has little to no voluntary recall of memories beyond the very recent past.
I hope to write within the next few days about how I’m doing, but bear with me. To say that life is crazy right now doesn’t quite do it justice. For now, I’ll summarize it by saying that I try to remind myself constantly that his recovery is a miracle, and a gift from God. I know that God can and will use all things for his glory, and when I look back at the last six months, I can see how he has done that already, although I believe our story is far from over. But busy-ness detracts from Godliness, and the entire Engelman family could really use your prayers.
If this is your first time visiting the blog, and you’re wondering what on earth is going on, here are a few posts that will catch you up: