Sunday, January 31, 2010

for sarah and dave!

(ok quick pause from the story) probably only other therapists would understand the significance of this, but on thursday, i walked the length of the parallel bars! dave was at the back helping with my trunk, sarah was at the front helping at my knees, and brandi was letting me squeeze her hand. sorry sarah for my uncontrollable hands that kept hitting you! it took almost an hour, and i was pretty parched after, but it was awesome, i'll take it! one step at a time...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

the day the music died

i remember this terrible day like it was yesterday. it was a cold, winter day. by the end of the day, my smiles had disappeared, and my laughter was gone, and all that was left was depression. it was an awful day, a horrible day, a disappointing day... it was february 11th....the day duke lost to carolina in cameron indoor. the whole morning of the game, i proudly wore my 'duke cameron crazy' shirt, which definitely stood out amidst an overwhelming sea of carolina blue. and EVERYONE had something to say to me, because i was the only duke fan around for miles. so other patients, therapists, doctors all talked smack to me, knowing quite well that i couldnt speak and defend myself or my school. how insensitive! typical unc fans...(kidding! it was all in good fun!) i was relieved to see dr. m that day, sporting his duke tie, the only other duke apparel i saw all day. i had to watch the game in my gross, dingy hospital room, on a tiny, ANCIENT tv-it was a miracle everytime it managed to turn on. i had always associated this game with being with good friends and cheering our hearts out. whether we were actually in cameron watching it ( UNBELIEVABLE experience btw) or at a bar with a with some duke fans (shiv would scare away any unc fans) or if i was stuck in the sub-basement of the library studying with my best friend laju and we were forced to watch the game on a laptop on, the game always came with great memories. this time, though my brother had to work early the next morning, i begged him to stay because i couldnt bear watching it alone. in retrospect, we would have been better off not watching it! i remember pleading with the basketball gods, saying that since nothing had gone my way this year, maybe they could help duke win. they clearly had NO sympathy for me because we lost both games and carolina went on to be national champions! the day after the game, since i lost a bet with my therapist, i had to wear a carolina hat! who knows what will happen this year... all i know is that even though the nurses must have pricked me over a million times, and my blood always came out bright red, i still swear i bleed duke blue...

Friday, January 22, 2010

play that funky music white boy

you all must be wondering why every title of my blog entries is the name of a song - well there IS a reason for that.the ONLY part of my body that wasnt affected by this stroke, the only part that remained completely untouched, the only part that was functioning normally, that part was my eyes had lost their peripheral vision, my nose was hypersensitive to scents, and obviously, every muscle in my body was totally ruined, so that left my ears. they gave me my most powerful possession - listening. when i couldnt see the world around me or talk to the world around me, i could listen. and i didnt miss anything. from the whispers of the wind, to the conversations across the room, i heard it all, and ever since i remember opening my eyes in the ICU, there has been music. through every, single memory i have, i always remember there being music. when my eyes werent strong enough to watch tv, my family would have to leave me all alone in the ICU, where all i could hear were my thoughts, but i was never really alone - john legend, beyonce, a.r. rahman, and countless others were always singing in the background. i also became attached to cd's people had given me like nishas beyonce cd that i must have listened to everyday. then there was pooravs cd, which had all the latest hindi songs so my parents would put it on every chance they got (the cd stopped working after awhile because we played it so much!) then there was howie's unforgettable cd which had everything from songs from love actually to some of jason mraz's songs, and it soon became a favorite of family, friends, and therapists. i loved music because every song carried with it a memory. whether they were songs on howie's cd that were making new, wonderful memories,or songs on a cd my cousin ajay made for me, though i hadnt heard them before, they carried with them his memories, or songs on a cd arup gave me that reminded me of all the great memories i had from college. my ears were tickled by the whispers of the counting crows and maroon 5, my soul was awakened by their lyrics, and my heart was pounding to the beat of the music, because as long as i had my music, i had my memories.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

a whole new world

i thought sleep was hard to come by as a second year duke medical student on rotations but sleep became near impossible as a patient in the hospital. there was a constant stream of nurses in my room all night to give me medicines, water, to turn me in bed to prevent bed sores, or to draw my blood (i do NOT have good veins, so these 'vampires' made my nights painful). i couldnt adjust anything on my own when i was uncomfortable so i had to wake my parents up to do it for me but i had no way of waking them up and no way of telling them what was wrong. lets just say no one got much sleep for months...i loved sleep when i actually got it. i loved sleep because i could dream and when i dreamed, i entered a whole new world. it was a beautiful world where i could walk, i could run, i could sing, i could dance. it was a wondrous world because i could be happy. then, the morning would always come and shatter my world. reality would come crashing down on my dreams. i would have to realize all over again the terrible events that had happened. i wish i had a magic lamp with a genie who could make my dreams a reality, but this wasnt a movie. but one dream actually did come true...i had this one same dream everyday in the ICU, before anything had really happened. i would go over to my neighbors house for dinner. i would sit down in a chair with my plate. when it was time to go, i would try to get up but i couldnt. i was frozen, stuck. i was so terrified because i move, and i was alone. then out of nowhere, baldeep would come in. he would gently pick me up in his arms and take me home. he would save me, everyday. and that was what was happening in real life. with his every visit, with his every phone call, with his every comforting word, with his every smile, he was picking me up, picking me up from the depths of the world, from the bottom of misery, from the pits of despair. he was saving me, everyday, and he is still doing just that...dreaming is still my favorite part of the day. every night, i close my eyes and im taken to a whole new world. there i meet baldeep and we go off to explore countless amazing places. and every morning, i fight the break of dawn, hoping to draw out every last moment of my dreams. if you are looking for me tonight, you can find me somewhere near the moon, with baldeep by my side, somewhere amongst the stars...

Friday, January 8, 2010

man in the mirror

i remember the first time i looked in a mirror, i started sobbing, more than ever before, because i hated what i saw... my mom had made my hair differently and excitedly pushed me to the mirror to see. but whatever was staring back at me filled my heart with shock, disgust, and anger. i wanted to scream, but all that came out was tears. who was that? why did i look like that? was that really me? i didnt sound like myself, and now i didnt look like myself, at all. i didnt recognize myself, do you know how scary that is? i dont know what i expected to see. i was paralyzed from head to toe, so that included my facial muscles. so all my facial features lacked shape and definitiom. everything looked different. i was so tired of people telling me i looked pretty, because lets be honest- i looked paralyzed, not pretty. maybe i looked better than they expected, but i am scared to imagine what they expected.. my nurses would always come in my room and look at my pictures from my former life that were strewn around my room. 'she had to have been a model!' 'she must have won a beauty pageant or something!' they would say. they were huge compliments, but they werent for me... they were for her. the HAPPY, carefree girl in the pictures who now felt like a distant memory... another life. shes so different from what i looked like now. she has perfectly straightened, lovely hair; i had an unmanageable mess covering my head. she wears cute, stylish clothes; i had to wear gross tshirts and sweatpants i used to only wear to bed. she wears high heels; i wear sneakers, shes cheer captain and im on the bleachers (kidding!) but seriously, i never wore sneakers in public, well except the gym. she seemed so put together and classy while i felt like a mess and classless. i always had drool on my face and food on my clothes. and i always had to wear my horrid, THICK glasses that i had hated so much, i rarely wore them before. ew. i wanted so badly to be that girl in the pictures again. but i have realized, i will never be that girl again, no matter how much i improved or how normal my life becomes. she had this unwavering optimism in her smile, this pure naivete in her eyes, and this incredible innocence in her face. but my optimism had been ripped away, my naivete was no more, and my innocence had been forced out. i was forever changed, on the inside and out. im older and wiser because of this all, with a few grey hairs to show for it. i learned my lesson, i dont look in mirrors anymore. but if i catch a glimpse of my reflection, i have to do what i do 1000 times a day, everyday - i have to remind myself that under this useless body, beneath these limp, fragile limbs, beyond this weak, soft voice, it is me, maybe a less bright-eyed version, but it was still me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

una palabra

(spanish for 'one word') the most frustrating, horrible, difficult part of this whole mess was being unable to communicate with the world around me. i just had to let go of all responsibility of the situation around me. the first few weeks, my only response was yes (eyes up) or no (eyes down) which made conversations short, to say the least. then we tried using a communication board. letters A - F were in the upper, left corner. letters G - L were in the upper, right corner, letters M - S were in the lower, left corner, and the letters T -Z were in the lower, right corner. i was to look at the cluster of letters that had the letter i wanted , and whoever was holding the board would go through the letters until i said yes with my eyes. easy, right? WRONG! the board wasnt useful at all at first because my eyes couldnt move much so they couldnt reach the four corners. so when i was asked who my favorite character from gossip girl was, i had to choose the 's' for serena because my eyes couldnt reach the corner with the 'b' for blair (who was obvi my fave, right alks? sorry set!) after my eyes improved and i could use the board, it was painstakingly tedious and it took 10 minutes to spell out one sentence. but for now, it was the only way i could communicate so i got used to it. if only i had my voice back, everything would be so much easier, i thought. but it had been weeks and i was told there was a possibility it wouldnt come back...i started mouthing the alphabet constantly,imagining the sound of each letter rolling off my tongue. but in reality, with each letter there was silence. one day i was crying in my room and my nurse came running in and exclaimed, 'i heard her cry.' my mom replied, 'yea sorry! she will be fine.' my nurse responded, 'no, this is the first time i heard her cry!' there was a voice behind my tears, and a few days later, my laugh too! this was great but i needed a voice behind my words. a few weeks later, my mom and i were in speech therapy with emily. i was trying to get my moms attention, so i tried mouthing the word 'mom,' though i felt like it was pointless because it was way too subtle a movement to get her attention. i started to mouth the word 'mom' but to my surprise, a soft, weak sounding 'mom' came out! i had a voice! my mom and emily screamed with joy and disbelief.finally! but my progress was bittersweet. i realized my voice RARELY came on, was so difficult to use, sounded nothing like me, and was so unclear and unintelligible. but it was a voice! martin luther king jr. said, 'our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.' i did die when i was forced to be silent. but that day, i came back from the dead because i wouldnt be silenced anymore.