Jason’s Accident by Liz Masurier - Part 2
Horror to hope
I think staff in the NHS seem to have been briefed on the importance of not giving relatives false hope for the survival of the patient (possibly in order to avoid litigation).
At this time I was often warned of the possibly dangerous consequences of the latest development in his recovery. The shock of hearing the news that Jason’s chances of survival were extremely slim had a physical effect. What it meant in practice was that I didn’t eat that evening or sleep that night and was barely able to make my way home. This is not something I had ever experienced before and it is possibly unique to people in this situation, so it is hard to imagine what it means to have your hope taken away. My waking brain was filled with constant horror and unbearable grief. My dreams were a complete and wonderful break from the stress!
Fortunately for me, at this stage I was accompanied by our families - my sisters, parents and brother and Jason’s sister and mother, who took me home, took me out to eat and helped with household tasks. For the next nine months, I would never be alone.
April 2006 (happier times)
When I arrived in San Francisco the music of Scott McKenzie was playing in my head: “When you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair....” Before I left Fiji, which was part of the world trip I had planned, I was determined to find some flowers to wear in my hair because I was on my way to join Jason who was in San Francisco for a conference. Ironically, Fiji must be one of the best places in the world to find beautiful and robust flowers. I only had to look anywhere - the trees and bushes were full of beautiful flowers. I took some of these flowers and wrapped them into my hair before I took the flight from the tiny airport, buzzing with inquisitive and friendly staff and headed into Los Angeles - brash, crowded and with its aggressive staff, LA airport couldn’t have been more of a contrast. I then took a connecting flight to San Francisco and met Jason on the stairs, beaming with happiness, dressed in a suit and tie for the conference and looking every inch the handsome prince. Back in his room, he presented me with a beautiful red satin dress and a pair of shoes that he had bought in a department store in San Francisco for me that day. “Quickly! He urged me. “Put them on. The conference dinner has already started”. My story really had begun to take on a dreamy fairy tale quality. I began to feel I couldn’t take it in any longer. I thought I would burst with happiness as we ran downstairs to join the assembled crowd for the all-American buffet and ball.
On the 26th January, two weeks after his accident, Jason had been taken off the sedatives two days previously and there was still no conscious response from him. By now, the surgeons would usually have expected some sign of consciousness. Constantly sitting by his side and obsessively checking the bank of bleeping monitors that many relatives of brain injured patients will be familiar with for some sign of improvement, I used to look to staff for reassurance that Jason was doing okay. I begged the young staff nurse for reassurance that he had a better chance of survival now that he had got this far. “No,” she declared confidently, “There is a less than 50% chance that he will survive”.
If only I’d known then how well Jason would improve and how fully he would return to himself!
Just this week, Jason dragged me and our son Jack out on a ten mile cycle ride of the back roads of our local hills, excited to explore the wonderful local area we live in. Afterwards, I went for a walk with another friend. When I returned home, he was co-hosting a philosophy class online - and he then made a Chinese stir fry for dinner. Jason was always an extremely active and capable person, and he has now regained those characteristics and that irrepressibly energetic personality he had before the accident.
A message we would like to give all brain injury survivors and their relatives is to hold on to hope, despite the negative messages you may possibly hear. A return to a meaningful life is possible after brain injury, although it could be a very slow and rocky recovery, as the brain relearns how to carry out simple tasks. Better days lie ahead. It is so important not to lose hope - as long as your loved one is alive, there is always hope.
Liz Le Masurier