I woke up when someone wheeled my bed-with me in it-from my hospital room. Even before I opened my eyes, I knew something wasn’t right. After opening them, I could see only blurry shapes and faint outlines of color, as if I were looking through a dirty glass.
My brain, which I didn’t yet know was damaged, tried to fill in what was happening. I decided the nurses were moving all the patients into the hallway, lining us up head-to-toe along the upper-floor railing. Their shoes shuffled along the faux marble floors and voices whispered urgently in the darkness.
What the heck was going on? Why were they sneaking us all out into the hall in the middle of the night?
Sobbing, I begged a nurse to call my husband. She shook her head no. She was probably trying to hide her evil deeds, I thought. I felt for the phone and miraculously punched in my home phone number, just by touch. How on earth did I remember it when I couldn’t remember which city I lived in? On the other end, Paul mumbled as he fought his way back to wakefulness. It was three a.m.
“Come get me, honey!” I covered the phone and tried to keep my sobbing voice low. “They’ve put us all in the hallway. What are they doing to us?”
He tried to soothe me. At some point he did calm me down, and the nurse returned the receiver to the cradle. I drifted back to sleep.
Paul, on the other hand, lay wide awake. His lively, intelligent wife now sounded like the paranoid conspiracy theorists she used to mock on their favorite TV crime dramas. What do you do when your spouse becomes a different person, literally overnight?
Later, I learned my mind had tricked me. While I imagined I was trapped in an endless corridor, I had actually been wheeled to a private room. The nurse had tried to explain this, to no avail. Relenting at last, she was the one-not me-who had dialed my husband, thinking he might be the only person to assuage my fears. There had been no sinister plot, no patient abuse. It was simply my damaged brain, playing one of the many tricks it would play on me as it tried to repair itself from the recent trauma.
Unfortunately, Paul received similar panicked, but unfounded, phone calls over the next several nights, not just one.
The neurosurgeons had warned Paul after I was rushed unconscious to the emergency room, “We can save her life, Mr. Ross, but that’s all we can do. We have no idea yet what effect this hemorrhage had on her brain, memories, motor skills or personality.”
We spent the next year and beyond learning what those effects would be.
This is the prologue to my latest book, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life. Available in Kindle, Nook and Paperback.