I was reading this article: https://nypost.com/2017/09/07/judge-rules-girl-thought-brain-dead-may-still-be-alive/
It’s about a girl who was declared brain dead but kept alive with a respirator and other life support measures. In the article and other reading I did about this, the girl’s mother talks about her daughter responding to her voice, and nurses and doctors telling her that it’s probably just random movements that she is perceiving as meaningful. Anyway, it triggered a fairly intense memory, and it got me thinking about something.
When Ricardo’s brain hemorrhage happened, they knew he was not brain dead, but they thought he was probably going to be in a permanent vegetative state, if he survived. They thought he would most likely be unresponsive to his environment and unable to interact with the world and people around him.
Those are hard words to hear. Those are words that sends the bile in your stomach curdling. And I held onto some hope, but I was a realist and believed there was a good chance the doctors were right.
Less than 24 hours after his injury, I was sitting by Ricardo’s right side. His mother and I never left Ricardo’s side longer than to run to the restroom during the first two days after his injury. Anyway, I was sitting there, holding his right hand, talking calmly to him, reassuring him–I don’t remember the exact words I was saying–but he squeezed my hand ever so slightly, and it got my attention. Now, mind you, he was dealing with seizure-like movements when he was awake–uncontrolled, chaotic sort of movements, and though the movements were less with his right side where he had some paralysis, the movements were still seizure-like, and seemingly random. Well, this subtle squeeze while I was talking to him seemed intentional, and it caught my attention. And then, ever so faintly, he started to stroke my hand with his right thumb! It was only just a couple–maybe two or three or four motions, and they were small movements, and slightly jerky, but I could tell they were intentional. And I could tell he was trying to comfort me. He had stroked my hand like that so many times before when we were holding hands, and it was so him, so us, and I just knew, I knew, that it wasn’t random movement, that he wasn’t twitching, I knew he was trying to comfort me and tell me he was there.
And then I knew he was in there.
I knew he was there, with me, still, that he knew me, loved me. I felt all of that from that familiar little gesture where he tried, with great effort, and twitchy, tiny movements that couldn’t have covered more than a centimeter or two, to stroke my hand. And when the nurse came in and I told her, and she said it was possible, but more likely it was random movement, I still knew inside that he had stroked my hand.
And about twelve hours later, he was responding to commands from the doctor.
But, and here’s the important thing that it got me thinking about, I remembered how meaningful, incredibly meaningful, it was to just have my husband try to stroke my hand while he laid there completely helpless, suffering. I remembered the incredible gift that his very existence was to me. And then months and years have gone by now, and more often than not, I get wrapped up in frustrations. But you know, in that moment, it was so unbelievably clear and simple–what mattered was that he was with me. Nothing else–nothing we had gone through, nothing he had done, none of that mattered at all at that moment. He was with me, he knew me, he loved me. And that very smallest of things, was the biggest, most important thing I had ever experienced. And I forget sometimes, lots of times… most of the time, I forget that that’s what really does matter most to me. So, I hope, the next time I am feeling frustrated about some aspect of life, especially some detail of our life together that I deem worthy of importance, that I take a minute, close my eyes and remember his thumb sliding gently across mine and the promise I made myself to never forget how important his very existence is to me.
I’ll end my post here, but sometime, I need to write a post expounding on the importance of this visceral type of connection I have experienced to some people–certainly to Ricardo–where you feel like their essence is somehow woven into your own being. The movie Avatar (the one with the blue people) showed this incredibly well I think. Anyway, that’s for another day.