Brain Damage

My last car accident was by far the worst; bad luck is supposed to come in 3’s but this was number 5. Five accidents where I was not at fault – either stopped at a light or minding my own business. It was my second encounter with a drunk driver, second car written off for damage beyond repair, and second time my head took the worst of it.

The first drunk found me stopped at a light after driving the babysitter home on Valentine’s Day. My Honda no match for the rear impact of a hulking 70’s tank. My car was beyond repair, yet I believed no serious harm had befallen me – at first. Soon I found myself falling asleep practically mid sentence, mixing up my words and suffering from terrible headaches.

The next drunk found the rear end of my mini van in spectacular fashion – learning later I put an end to his trail of destruction. Second drunk took out a phone booth as he rounded a corner 6 blocks away, next he side swiped a parked car, finally ramming me from behind, as yet again I waited for a light to change. I was only 2 blocks from home; it was my husband’s birthday;  he heard the crash and knew it was me – later telling me when he saw the van he thought I was dead. All I remember is the rear view mirror flying past my head, followed by vague black and white images of an ambulance and hospital.

This last accident took a long time to recover from; off work for a few years, with extensive physical therapy.  I began to notice my “brain damage” although it wasn’t anything I talked about. It was subtle in many ways – my left eye didn’t quite close when trying to sleep, hearing in my left ear was significantly less than my right. The worst was my short term memory; it seemed non existent. After a while I joked to my family about “brain damage” but it wasn’t funny. To this day I set out to do something, get a few steps and completely forget what I’m supposed to be doing. A little trick has developed over time that works well – I find by taking 5 or 6 steps backwards I’m able to remember what I was about to do. One of the oddest manifestations of too many hits on the head is my ability to remember numbers – I have a photographic memory of phone numbers and addresses.

A few months ago I was working alone at a theatre; lunch backstage for a seminar on speaker systems for stadium rock shows. Everyone fed, seminar back in session and backstage now completely dark. Reaching down to unplug a coffee pot my head was assaulted yet again. Who places a half inch thick metal plate, eight inches wide, sticking out of a wall a good ten inches, mere feet above a power outlet? I knew it was bad as I found myself walking in circles, blood filling my eyes as my knees buckled and I went into shock. I find myself having to take more than six steps backwards these days.

Most people don’t know about my rattled brain. I write things down, take backwards steps to remember what I was doing, and thoroughly embrace my ability to recall phone numbers. At the same time hoping I don’t take any more blows to the head.