While in the middle of recovering from jetlag, good times with friends and family, and running errands in Ohio, we had something very unexpected and scary happen. On Friday night at the RIC (after arriving from Thailand on Tuesday night), we went for a family walk after supper in the little woods by the RIC. Claire and I sat down to have a chat and Tom went ahead with Silas and Eliza. He was showing Silas how to climb a tree, using a thick, dried vine that was wrapped around the tree. I heard a loud crack and looked over to see Tom lying on his back on the ground (this was about 6:45). We ran over to him and asked him if he was okay. He looked dazed and said his head hurt and that he had landed hard on his head but he got up and seemed okay. We were laughing, telling him not to climb any more trees. Claire and I went back to our conversation. A few minutes later, Eliza came running up and said, “Daddy doesn’t remember anything about today.” Of course that sent a shock through me and I went straight to him and started asking questions. He could not remember one thing about our day- that we went to the DMV, saw our house, or what we ate for supper. As I asked him more questions, I realized that he didn’t remember flying from Thailand or even living in Thailand at all. I was really scared. We got inside fast and asked for help from the staff at the RIC. Gabe quickly looked up directions to the closest hospital, we had a quick prayer time, and other staff took the kids (thank God they were there). As Gabe drove Tom and I to OSU East, Tom was very nauseous and also distressed that he couldn’t remember things. He was confused and he knew it. He began repeatedly asking me a cycle of questions. He said over and over, ” I don’t know where we are. I don’t have my id. I don’t remember anything.” It was clear he had no short term memory.
When we arrived at the hospital, the intake nurses took info and strapped him to a board and put on a collar. When I didn’t know his social security number, Tom supplied it. He could remember things from the past, just not the near future, including five minutes before. I called several people and knew the prayers were starting which was a huge sense of comfort. Mom and Dad left Rosedale to go be with our kids at the RIC. That was also a huge weight lifted. I was so worried about the kids, knowing that seeing Daddy so confused was scary for them. Tom was also very worried about them and asked if they were okay over and over. The staff in the ER were all so kind and reassuring and did a great job of getting right to it. One intake person even held hands and prayed with us. They asked Tom lots of questions, tested his reflexes, his spine, did an EKG and got him in quickly for a CAT scan. During all of this, Tom continued to ask me the same questions again and again, resetting almost every two or three minutes. He would frown in confusion, look at his wrists with the hospital bracelets and iv port, look at the monitor and ask…
A tree?? Why was i in a tree?
How long ago was this?
Are the kids all right? Are you sure?
Where are we?
I don’t remember anything.
He was frowning, confused, puzzled. Not like himself at all. I kept answering the questions and would sometimes ask if he remembered. He sometimes knew the answer but he was never sure. Wilbur (from RMM) and Jason (my brother in law ) happened to be in the area at the time and they came right in when we had been there only an hour or two. Having them there was the biggest relief. i could leave the room for a bit to call people and they could help answer his questions. I have never felt like Tom needed me as much as he did in those moments. He was so vulnerable, worried. He held my hand tight and said he loved me. I felt I was getting a taste of what it feels like to have a spouse with alzheimer’s. So scarey and so sad to have someone that I need and lean on so much so childlike and scared.
There were moments of relief. Jason and Wilbur helped us laugh and relax a bit and took some of the stress. They even got Tom laughing and he began to be a bit more like himself, even joking a little. Wilbur asked him questions about the past and about soccer and Jason got him talking about his memories from our Morocco trip. The CAT scan came back clear for brain bleeding and swelling and that was a big relief. That was a big turning point in my feelings – after that, I had a lot of hope that he would return to normal where before I felt a lot of fear. More relief came when Tom started to ask some new questions, like “Where are my parents? What kind of tests did they do? So, I have a concussion? etc.” He said many times that he felt like he was dreaming or waking from a dream. He was surprised that he had never been unconscious and that he had been awake throughout. Although he would quickly forget the answer to his new questions, each one gave me hope that he was coming out of this. There were even a few questions he began remembering the answer too- like remembering that he fell from a tree.
The doctor told us that we would need to move hospitals because they did not have a trauma doctor at OSU East, so we would be moved to the main OSU Medical Center. Jason and Wilbur left at that point (thank you, thank you for being there). Riding over there in an ambulance was a low point. Being in a new, strange setting made all the fear come back for Tom. He knew he was confused. He gripped my hand tightly and didn’t say much. I tried to reassure him and give him information. I was so glad the kind medics let me ride with him in the back. By the time we arrived at the second hospital, Tom couldn’t remember the first one and in our second room, he couldn’t remember the ambulence ride. Mim arrived and we were so grateful for her calming and reassuring presence. Tom was seen by more doctors and nurses, they took blood and then we were left alone for some sleep. Mim got a few hours of sleep on the uncomfortable waiting room couch, bless her heart! The nurse let me crawl in bed with Tom but warned me to be out by seven or she would be in trouble with the day shift! It was surreal to lay there holding hands, still jetlagged, and going through this crazy experience together. We whispered together for a long time. We said “I love you” many times. Tom asked me many questions about the day, slowly piecing it all together, slowly remembering more and more. I went to sleep with peace in my heart, knowing he was healing.
When we woke up the next morning and after Tom went for an x-ray there was much relief and rejoicing as we saw that Tom was himself again. Tom got breakfast in his room and Mim and I had a nice breakfast and chat in the cafeteria. After waiting for several dr. visits, we were released that morning with great thankfulness in our hearts. Thank you, thank you God for your wonderful healing and protecting hands and all the grace moments in a very scary day.
I come out of this experience with a huge amount of gratitude. I am so thankful for the prayers and I know that I witnessed God’s healing of Tom during the early hours of Saturday morning as we lay in the hospital bed. I was scared and my prayer were simple cries for help- “please, God, please.” but we received many, many assurances that others were praying and I felt those prayers lifting us up and surrounding us. I felt God’s peace and mercy and grace toward us throughout. I felt his love when he sent Gabe (and the other RIC staff like Tyler and Tina), Jason and Wilbur, Mim to be with us and when my parents went to our kids. The hospital staff were wonderfully warm, personal, and caring. Our church and RMM family called and cared. Most of all, I’m very, very grateful that Tom came out of his fall fully recovered and himself again. I felt like I fell in love with him all over again in the night as he became himself again and we rehearsed the day again and again until we both had enough peace to sleep. I thank God for you, Tom and I treasure you and need you very much.
Thank you so much to all of you who prayed and where there. I was so conscious of our supportive community all around us. And thank you God, our wonderful healer and helper.