Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Rehab and Gabby and Mud
The Gabby Giffords interview is still rolling around in my head and churning up lots of thoughts.
One that I keep coming back to is the importance and challenge and sheer dreariness of rehab.
Upon returning home after my second brain surgery for meningioma, I decided that my new full-time job was rehabilitation.
But here’s the problem, rehab is a pain. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that everybody in rehab will tell you that there is nothing they like about rehab.
Rehab is hard, boring, repetitive, slow, exhausting and, in the short-term, not particularly rewarding. Perversely, though, it’s also incredibly important.
The videos of Gabby Giffords while she's in rehab are almost painful to watch – especially the bits where we see her flounder as she relearns facial expressions (like “sighing”) or relearns the simplest of words (like “Chair”).
It reminded me of trying to tackle a seemingly easy Sudoku puzzle while in the hospital and, after a half an hour or so, figuring out that I couldn’t figure it out.
One of my greatest fears about brain surgery was that I’d survive, but wind up as some smaller, less competent, slower version of what I once used to be. My early cognitive tests seemed to support those fears, which just terrified me.
As my fear drove me to tackle rehab like a dog with a rag, I realized that some days were good days and some days I looked at what I had done…and had to give myself a “D-“.
I used to tell people that rehab was more of a marathon than a sprint because it took so long to get anywhere. But I was wrong. It’s more of a steeplechase than a marathon. Why? Because while the race is long, every so often you have to jump a hurdle – e.g. a Sudoku puzzle or a therapist exam or a driver’s test. Sometimes you fall on your face in the mud – like Gabby trying to find the word for “chair” – and sometimes you clear the hurdle. Falling on your face in the mud, though, isn’t a reason for quitting the race. Like Gabby, you have to wipe the mud off, lift your head up and start running.