Today marks the one-year anniversary of Trevor’s second brain injury, which is a rather bittersweet feeling.
When Trevor and I were about ten or 11 years old, our mom and stepdad decided to put the house on the market. We searched for months trying to find a place that was just right for our peculiar little family that had no idea what we wanted. We unsuccessfully toured all sorts of houses, from country to contemporary, tiny to huge, trying to picture ourselves in them. For about a year, Sundays consisted of Walker driving us around, looking at houses and ending up lost, bored and pissed off.
Finally, we came across our dream home, which happened to be an old, 5,000 square foot fix-me-up “mansion” in an old money neighborhood of Kalamazoo. It was built for an anesthesiologist by Glas Builders, one of the richest builders in the area. It had a boardwalk up to the big lead-glass front door and a massive spiral staircase that went all the way from the basement living room up to the fourth floor office. The house was floored with a thick puke-green shag carpet that Trevor and I would rather die than ever think about replacing. In the foyer was an enormous celebrity-sized chandelier which convinced us the house was a mansion.
What I remember most about the house were the amazing amounts of hiding spots. Trevor and I would spend hours and hours playing hide-n-seek while our parents penciled out the logistics of investing in this home. In our young naive minds, the house was ours. We hadn’t a doubt in our minds that we would soon be living there so we ran around and caused ruckus like we owned the place. We called dibs on bedrooms, explored every custom Scandinavian wood cabinet and even decided where our belongings would go. We had our very own Broadway shows on the basement stage and tore up the backyard woods. My mom named our soon-to-be home the “Shackalacka.” Walker told us we could build Trevor a mini-ramp for skateboarding and me a fence for the miniature pony they would soon buy.
It wasn’t until we broke a basement window, got yelled at by the realtor and found out our parents’ offer was declined that we realized our reality was shattered. We were absolutely devastated having to say goodbye to the house of our dreams. The Shackalacka marked the beginning of our over-used family mantra, “believe it when you see it.”
Exactly one year ago, I got the phone call saying Trevor was being airlifted to the University of Utah hospital. I was in utter disbelief, convincing myself I was in the middle of some horrible, drawn-out dream. When my mom told me Trevor had another accident, I didn’t believe her. When the doctors told me Trevor was in critical condition and was being rushed into emergency brain surgery, I didn’t believe them. The situation didn’t become reality until the moment I saw Trevor lying on that hospital bed, connected to a thousand wires and machines keeping him alive.
A year ago today, the doctors told us that if Trevor survived, it would be a long, long recovery. However, I don’t think any of us actually realized how long he meant. During Trevor’s first accident, the health professionals kept saying “this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.” But they were wrong. His first recovery was a sprint; this one is proving to be the marathon!
Over the past year, Trevor has without a doubt improved drastically. He is what any doctor would call a medical miracle. Based on the CT scan of his brain, he shouldn’t even be alive but is getting better and better each day. The doctor said there was a good chance that if Trevor woke up from the coma he would be paralyzed for life, but he is gaining more feeling and movement on that right side. Although he still cannot move his right hand or foot at all, he is lifting his leg and arm up a little more each day. He is able to compensate with his strong side and walk with an obvious limp, but somehow manages to keep up with any of us.
The words are coming back as well, although still a significant struggle. If we point to a Subway sign and tell him to read it, he will probably say “Goodwill.” If we hold up a flashcard with a picture of a cat, he will probably say it’s a dishwasher. However, his responses are on point most of the time. If we ask him what’s up, he will say “boring” and if we ask what he’s doing, he’ll respond with “sit there, watch TV.” The communication of his wants and needs has improved tenfold over the past few months alone.
The Trevor personality we all know and love is all there. He still knows who all his friends are and gets really excited when they show up at the house. He still enjoys playing poker and going out to movies. Whenever we ask what he wants for dinner, he always says “shoo-shi.” He has a similar sense of humor and thinks farts are the most hilarious thing on the planet. He’s as confused as he’s ever been about whether he’s a hipster snowboarder or a redneck farmer, listening to both rap and country, wearing both Carhartt and Saga.
Although this may sound all hunky-dory, it has definitely been a hard year for all of us. We’ve been forced to put our plans on hold in order to care for Trevor. He’s still extremely dependent, screaming at us several times a day for help with simple tasks such as trimming his nails or turning off the TV. We all have nightmares about the possibility of a “third rodeo” and worry about seizures, which he seems to have every two months like clockwork. He’s extremely moody and stubborn, transitioning from laughing to screaming “shut up, whore” in a matter of seconds.
As far as a full recovery goes, “believe it when you see it” seems like the most appropriate attitude to have. Neither us nor the doctors have any idea whether or not he’s going to return to the Trevor we used to know. We don’t know how much time it’s going to take or where he’s going to end up. After his first accident, we were all ecstatic when he was practically back to normal after a few months. We thought the battle was over with, that he won, but we were wrong. I don’t think any of us ever imagined him being in this state again, especially a year later, but here we are. And all we know is that, like the doctor said, it’s going to be a long, long recovery.
However, Trevor’s dedication gives me hope that everything might eventually be okay. He wakes up every morning and goes to the gym for two hours to strengthen his weak arm and leg. He walks down the street and back three to four times a day. He goes to speech and occupational therapy five hours a day, twice a week. When he’s not watching Jersey Shore, The Titanic or Avatar, he’s in his room practicing speech with one of his Aphasia iPad apps. Trevor is always using “Siri” on his iPhone to help him read and respond to texts from his friends. He is adamant on the fact that he will be back to snowboarding (and drinking, which makes me want to throw up in my mouth) in just another year. If you ask him where he wants to go, he will say “Utah, one year” without hesitation. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he does to get better, which is truly inspiring.
Trevor is the man and even though sometimes I hate him for ruining plans and hogging all the attention, I am inexpressibly proud of his recovery. Keep on truckin’ Trev!