Friday, March 05, 2004

Every time the phone rings I tend to jump. Sometimes when the pain pills and muscle relaxants hit just right I tend to sleep for an hour and a half. I'm not sure why I suddenly have to sleep, but I do, and it's always an hour and a half. When the phone rings I jump out of the sleep, usually hitting something to get to the phone, and this time it was the facility where Jon lives. "Mr. William?" the voice asks. Now I am used to being called by my wife's last name since she works and I stay at home, but the only place I know that consistently gets names wrong that way is at Lake Katrine. So it was Jon's nurse. Seems they were having a happy street fair and Jon somehow fell out of his chair. This is the chair it took a year and a half to get out of Medicaid, because they thought a man in a coma didn't need mobility. The whole point of coma stim is to get the man in the coma to come out of the coma and start rehab. So they stimulate him.

When Jon coughs, he coughs. The trache hurts and tickles his throat all the time anyway, but when he coughs the neck muscles tighten and the trache gets moved. Sometimes that makes his cough again and his face turns red and he doubles up and clutches his throat, or his chest if he can't bring his arms up. They used to have pads around his bed and call him a "falling angel", a term which means "He who need pads and extra vigilance". So the theory the nurse gave me was he coughed himself out of his wheelchair.

Sometimes when Jon is feeling really well he moves more. He squeezes my hand real hard and looks me in the face. It reminds me of a man clinging to the arm of a rescuer while hanging over a deep ravine.

When I was very young I lived in a small house in northern Phoenix. The hill the house was on was covered in volcanic rock. My father explained that it had been a volcano once and I played on it a lot, examining the stones. But I also began to have nightmares that the volcano had erupted again and my father and I were floating on a shed roof in a river of lava. The shed splits in two and my father's side tips and dumps him into the hot lava. I rush to the edge and grab his hand, but I am just a little kid and he slips from my grasp. I sit on the roof, floating alone in a sea of lava, and wake up in a sweat. That's how it feels to hold my son's hand.

"He has a small bump on his head, nothing to worry about, his vitals are fine and the doctor will likely order a cat scan of his head." So inside that head an area of soft, scarred brain tissue was slammed against a rugged, bumpy skull and now the tissues are swollen. Pressure counts for most of the damage in a mild traumatic brain injury. That's why Jon has a shunt placed in his skull, to drain excess pressure into his abdomen. I assume that a good place to put it. So if pressure builds up, maybe it will be controlled, if the shunt is still working and not plugged. It it was plugged he might start shows signs of being sleepy a lot and not very responsive. Oh. Wait a minute, with the phenobarb that he's on, he IS sleepy a lot and not very responsive. So how will they tell if he starts acting like he always acts? This is the sort of thought train that takes me into a strange head set where every phone call is a nurse or doctor, and every sound outside sends me to a window. Jon is not in the military, so it would never be a telegram, but I still feel nervous when someone comes to the door.

They'll call me with the results of the cat scan if he has one done. Or they won't. The nurse who said she will may be off duty before the results come in or she may find that since I am only his father, not his doctor, I may not be allowed to know what the results are. They may have to protect his privacy. This is something they do better than protecting his head. It's just a small bump. Or a concussion, or a clot forming, or an interior wound which has destroyed months of healing. But they'll let me know. Jon will let me know. He'll come to the door, knock twice and just before I open the door, he will vanish with a wave goodbye. Then I'll know.

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