Head Shy

I saw myself fall in slow motion—my head was going to slam into it. There was nothing I could do t lessen the impact—it was happening too fast.

Daniel later described being woken up by a scream and then a loud thunk.

I was approaching the side of the bed by my cedar chest, when I slipped on the carpet and fell. My head bounced off the chest with an explosive crash. When time caught up with me, I was lying face down on floor, my head at the foot of the chest, my cheek pressing on the scratchy shag rug.

And I started crying, sobbing, keening. I couldn't stop. My head had hit hard, hard enough to cause a concussion. The thought of undergoing nightmarish acute recovery from brain injury once more— I couldn't, I just couldn't. I was terrified.

Since the brain surgeries, I have become head shy, fearful of any further injury to my brain. I always pause at the top of a staircase to brace myself before I take the first step down. During the pause, I picture myself tripping and falling downstairs, bouncing from step to step, trying to protect my head with my hands. I see myself sprawled at the foot of the stairs. I envision stillness, and silence.

My brain injury has affected my balance. When I'm over tired, my balance is usually the first outward sign of trouble. But even on good brain days, if not mindful, I tend to be klutzy. (I didn't use to be klutzy.) My shins are constantly bruised and scraped from my walking into objects.

I have fallen down stairs several times since the surgeries. Every time I find myself in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, I take stock of my injuries—the first thing I assess is my head.

The first time I fell down the stairs, I lay still trying to figure it out. What had just happened? What hurts? What hit?

Daniel who was sitting in the living room came running. “You okay?”

I turned to him, beaming. “I didn't hit my head! I didn't hit my head! I'm fine.” I didn't care about the rest of my body. That time, I just came away from the fall with bruises. Another time, I broke my foot, and last time I ripped some ligaments. But I was fine—I didn't hit my head.

I don't care about visible injuries—they heal within a short period of time, not like an invisible brain injury.