Saturday, March 9, 2024

Back in The High Life Again

It's high time I checked in with you. 

The big event I have not mentioned in these pages happened back on August 30, 2020. At about 10 PM that evening, I was standing in the parking lot of the local Smart & Final, watching Wifey returning the cart as I stood by the Sienna waiting to get in, when I suddenly blacked out, fell backwards, and hit the back of my head square against the concrete.

Why did that happen? No one really knows, but I strongly suspect that it was a reaction to a continued heavy dose of several blood pressure medications that were being administered to get my heart to calm down after years of pumping as hard as it could to get blood through my tiny little faulty aorta. I think my heart simply stopped beating; the therapy had worked all too well. 

I plan to relate that experience, and my long recovery, later on, but for now let me discuss a few more things from that day, then skip to right now. The impact got my heart started again, but I sustained a brain injury which very nearly killed me. I was not expected to last the night. but—spoiler alert—I did, quite well. My marbles may have been thoroughly jumbled, but they were all still there.

The overall main story arc for me since then is the continuing recovery of my brain from The Big Koonk. It's taken a lot longer than I expected. It mostly subsided to the background for some time, probably since the beginning of last year, and during that time I had little awareness of the passing of time. I was more or less constantly in the moment, and looking back at that period now I can't reliably place anything accurately on the timeline. My head would poke above the water from time to time, only to submerge again.

In November, suddenly my head popped up for air with my awareness of time restored, and I found that I was actually able to write cogently again for the first time since the accident. Determined not to slip down again, I seized upon the opportunity to flog my brain back into something closer to normal working order.

Since then it's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, up and down, but gradually upwards. I'd go through periods of differing ability sets. One week my voice came halfway back, and I could sing again, a little. Then that subsided, and I went through a week of not being able to remember the names of actors in films. Then that would go away and I'd find myself reaching for words that were suddenly not there. Then I went through a period where my sense of smell came back partially. That went away too.

I soon recalled that the last of the neurologists I consulted, the only one who was actually communicative and did an MRI of my brain, more or less told me that this would be happening at a certain point. It was evidence of the brain working to restore internal communications among the various processing centers, passing around roadblocks to find new routes. Thus did I enter the final stretch of my recovery.

While this was highly encouraging, it was also pretty disorienting. The harder I tried to gain control of the process, the more I descended into ineffectuality. I found I had no option but just to ride the rollercoaster and take each day as it came.

Then, several weeks ago, a subtle change occurred. To put it simply, I had reached a certain equilibrium in my brain function. I found myself able to think rationally at a constant, if still somewhat diminished, level. A growing list of seemingly insurmountable problems I suddenly found myself solving, one by one, with increasing ease. 

There is no real improvement in my sensory deficits at this point (no sense of smell, little sense of taste, loss of singing voice), and there are still some loose wires in my memory. But my brain is now working in concert in terms of sentience, and that is the important thing. I am now within shouting distance of being myself again, after a long time of having to portray a credible simulation of myself to family and friends. Now I know what the members of the Monkees had to do for their TV show. Oh yeah, and Jack Benny in his professional life (you realize that he really wasn't an egotistical skinflint and lousy musician, right?).

A few nights ago I was at a local bar listening to some of the very best improvisational jazz I have ever heard, real postgraduate stuff, and I actually seemed to feel my brain improving as I listened. I then remembered that music is the carrier frequency of my thoughts, and those synapses need re-connecting too. The music was absent from my brain for a long time.

So where does this all leave me now? Well, I still need to address my sensory deficits, which my experience indicates are not permanent, but will require some proactive effort to banish. But that will have to wait until the dust settles completely, and I have a better idea of what I have to work with. I'm not quite done healing.

But I am close, and that's great! The comeback is becoming fun. I have a rare chance to become a better, more effectual person than I was, and at my age that's a nice place to be. I plan to take full advantage of it.

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