• The Cerebellum Blues Story, Chapter One: The Accident.
The end should start with the beginning.
So in preparation of my album launch, which should happen in May, 2011, I'm recapping how I got back into music, starting with the night of my brain injury.
When I awoke in the post midnight hours of January 27, 2006, with my head wedged between a toilet and a wall, I was glad for the toilet, because I had to throw up. Several times. It must have been the food, I thought. Catherine and I had been to a tasting event at the California Culinary Academy, and I had grazed on many a partially cooked morsel, several of which were fish and had been out long enough to change color a little. As I loudly vomited, I was embarrassed and worried, because I was positive I was making a pretty bad impression on my new neighbors. “They must think the guy who just moved in upstairs is a drunk,” I mused. When I finally felt well enough to head back to the bedroom, I stood up, which was oddly difficult, fell again, then made for the bed, figuring if I could just get back to it and get to sleep, I’d feel fine in the morning.
WHAT? As I entered the bedroom, Catherine sat up in the bed, and I was so stunned to see her I fell yet again. She was supposed to be back at our old apartment (in photo), while I was moving some stuff into our new one. What was she doing here? I hit the ground like a magnet would hit an iron floor, it seemed to pull me down, and I remember being glad, but confused, that it was carpeted. Our old place had carpet, but the new place was hardwood throughout. What was going on? Catherine got up out of the bed and was about to check on me when she saw the bathroom. It looked like there had been a zombie fight with chunky, red stuff everywhere. “What happened, are you okay, why are you bleeding?” My answers made no sense and she got scared, finally calling 911 as I begged her not to. I was convinced that if I could just make it to the bed...
The paramedics showed up pretty quickly, asked me questions about calendar dates, drugs and drinking, and then got ready to take me to the hospital. I did not want to go, but I at least figured they would give me something to make me feel better. I was also wondering how they were going to get me down the stairs. By now, I had figured out that I was actually in our old apartment (we had signed the lease on a new one earlier that day, but not moved in yet, which was one reason for my confusion) and I was dreading the trip down the two flights of metal and concrete stairs that led to the lobby of our elevator-less building. Where was the high tech contraption they would be transporting me with? I got my answer as they strapped me to some kind of plastic chair, picked me up, put a plastic bowl in my hands just in case, and huffed and wheezed me down to the ambulance. “Lame,” I thought. “Well, I bet the ambulance is cool.”
Catherine road shotgun, and we arrived at the hospital where I knew, just knew, I would be given something to make me feel better. Truly, I had never felt worse in my entire life, and I was ready for whatever they wanted to give me. But first there was a transfer to a gurney, then a CT scan, and countless questions throughout. Catherine was right there for all of it and hours passed before they finally gave me anything. I think it was Ativan, which turned out to be the only drug that would make me feel better for months to come.
I was put in a two-person room. Catherine made a corner chair her home for the next six days and kept the nursing staff on their toes, double checking their drug dosages, catching their errors and generally keeping them on their toes. When the doctors gave me their diagnosis, they had had considerable debate about why I had fainted. There was concern of drug use because of some chemicals present in my blood that indicated I had been taking something recently popular in the Mission, but Catherine and I convinced them I had not. With that cleared up (mostly, I'm not sure they totally believed me) they opted to describe the cause of my fainting as vasovagal syncope and got into the damage report: a fracture of my occipital bone, which resulted in a hematoma on the cerebellum and some other stuff, which altogether earned the classification of severe taumatic brain injury. Despite my seemingly dire situation, they gave me the impression that I would be fine in a few weeks (there was a skiing trip I was planning and they assured me I’d be able to go). During the rest of my stay, some friends visited, for which I was very, very grateful, but mostly I slept and had strange dreams. I remember one that was so vivid yet so fantastical that as I woke as I was frantically trying to find a newspaper to bring back from this place I had been catapulted to (it was an island, but double decker, and you got to it by being catapulted across a fair stretch of ocean).
Early in my hospital stay I was a little concerned about my appearance (I was wearing a neck brace and dressed in nothing but a smock) and about constantly having to throw up into cups held in place by others, and having to pee into little jugs, also held by others, as I could not stand, but in time I didn’t care. I was just so grateful that people were willing to help someone so bad off. As my hospital visit progressed, I was asked to try to walk, to navigate some stairs, to use the bathroom on my own, and once I could do all these things, they were ready to release me on one condition: that Catherine would be able to provide 24/7 care. She didn’t think twice and I was discharged on 2/1/2006. My parents, who had been visiting regularly picked my up, and the only walking I had to do was from the wheel chair to the car, with Catherine making sure I stayed upright. If I remember right, it was raining.
The drive home was quick, as we lived just down the street from the hospital, and in 10 minutes or so I was home. Climbing the stairs to our second story apartment took forever, but I finally made it to my bed. I would barely leave it for weeks.