Found Stories can come from a wide variety of sources. All of us have had the experience of waking up after a vivid dream, and wondering where the images or actions came from. Sometimes we think that we should write down a description of the dream, before we forget it. Here is one such dream that I had several months ago. I was so moved by the feelings I experienced that I took the time to write down the parts that I could remember. Enjoy this Found Story.
The first thing I remembered in the dream was walking around Bethesda West, a nursing home in West St. Louis County where I consulted in the 1990’s. The name of the facility was changed a few years ago. In the dream, I did not work there, but as I wandered around, some of the staff recognized me. As I was trying to leave the property, I found myself confused. I wandered around the property, and was unable to find the correct parking lot and my car. I knew that my thinking was off and I was anxious. What was wrong with me?
In the next scene I was in my car and was driving. The road was terrible, with dangerous giant ruts, ice, and treacherous sections. At times I lost control of the steering. I swerved into the parking lot of some kind of motorcycle repair shop. The people standing outside of the shop were sort of rough-looking. I was still having trouble steering my car and I drove into a motorcycle and knocked it down. The rough-looking guys looked angry and were walking toward me as I tried to speed away.
I wake up lying on a bed. My eyes are closed and both of my legs are elevated in front of me. I smell plastic and feel something covering my nose and mouth. It feels like some sort of oxygen mask. I try to open my eyes, but only the right eye opens. I look at myself. I’m in a hospital gown. Both legs are in traction and are being slowly raised and lowered by a machine. The machine does the same thing with my feet and toes, gently moving them around. I noticed lots of abrasions, stiches and bruising on my legs and feet. Some toes were bent in an awkward way.
My thoughts and my pulse were racing. Where was I? What had happened? Was I badly hurt? Was I paralyzed? Did I have a traumatic brain injury? Had I been in a coma? How long had I been here? I had worked in the field of brain injury rehabilitation for more than 30 years. Was this what it felt like to be a patient who had been in a bad accident?
Looking around, I saw that I was in a large hospital room. It looked like a small ward, with six other patients, all in beds like mine. It reminded me of the ICU at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where I had worked as a therapist in the 1980’s. All of the patients looked like they were badly injured, but most were awake. I had not spent a night in a hospital since I had my tonsils removed when I was four years old. I turned my head and could look out of a window. The building that I could see looked like DePaul Hospital. I had been there for doctor’s appointments many times in the past ten years. I thought for a minute. I must be at the Rehabilitation Hospital on the DePaul campus. Yikes! I am a TBI patient. I was terrified!
It was time to see how bad my injuries were. I tried to move my arms. They both moved a little. I could feel the tubes attached to both arms and something pinching my right index finger. I tried to move my legs and wiggle my toes. The machine made that difficult, but I sensed some movement was under my control. I lay still. My skin felt irritated in many locations, but I was not in severe pain. I hadn’t tried to talk yet. I tried and succeeded in vocalizing a little. Yes! At least I could make some sounds. So far, so good. Now the hard part. What was my mind like? I sat quietly and just “thought”. I didn’t notice anything unusual. Maybe I’d lucked out.
I looked around the room again. I could see staff tending to other patients. Had anyone noticed that I had woken up? Is this like in the movies when the coma patient wakes up and amazes everyone with their normal speech and cognition? Where is Rachel? She should be here at my bedside. Is she okay? Was she in the accident? Was she injured? I decided to try to get someone’s attention. I vocalized again and a nurse or nurses aide approached me. She didn’t look particularly surprised that I was awake. She looked down at me and smiled. She told me that I’m really lucky and that I was pretty banged up. I began asking my questions, out loud, this time. How long had I been there? Was I unconscious for long? Where was I hurt? What happened to me? Where was Rachel? The nurse just smiled, shook her head and told me that we would talk about all of that later. She patted my forehead and walked away. I wanted to scream!
I looked down at my legs and feet. The machine continued to gently move them. My legs were moving up and down. The joints of my feet and toes were being gently stretched. Without warning, my toes curled and my feet tried to break the motion dictated by the machine. They seemed to have a mind of their own. I couldn’t feel them. I was not controlling them. They were moving without my conscious effort. Something was wrong. My brain must be damaged. I screamed.
The dream fades to black. I awoke with my pulse racing. I was drenched with sweat.
I thought, so that’s what it’s like.