“Remember, when you have a brain injury, everthing takes longer to recover from,” she said to me.
I didn’t want to hear it, though true. When I first became injured, I had a series of homemakers and a series of colds. In the beginning, when the homemakers came from VHA, they were professional. They came in, whipped on their working coverall, and washed their hands, complete with soap. Later, when they came from another place, washing hands was, well, not exactly par for the course even though they went from one sick person to another injured person all the day long. And I got colds. And they hung on.
I didn’t ever remember colds hanging on that long before I was injured.
Or taking weeks to recover from.
Worse, every time I finally recovered, I got another. And every time, I got one, I became so unutterably tired, I could not exercise, not even the little I did as my shoulder and neck sprains and strains healed. And every time I got a cold, my brain-injury healing progress became retarded; my cognitive functioning dropped. The couch and TV became my daily friends. I became fearful of colds and other infections, especially the year I was laid so low, my progress turned into regress.
Yes, when you have a brain injury, even a cold will take you out for weeks. It will lay you down, and only a month after it leaves, will you be able to rise again. Slowly.
And so after many, many months of remaining virus-free, I was not happy this past January 24th when I picked up some sort of weird bug that made patches on my skin, burned my hands, and pained my feet. Then turned into endless peeling, of revealing tender new skin, yet continuing to callous up the old. Weird. And I absolutely was not happy to be reminded of this maxim, that to be brain injured means slow recovery from viruses and bacterial infections too.
But what can you do?
Rail against the inevitable or just go with the flow? This time I kinda did both. But a miracle happened too, and perhaps it was of my own making, from all the work I had done with my “hypothalamus fix.” Unlike previous infections, this bug did not stop my exercise routine cold. Sure, my muscles refused to do the full work, but they did not entirely grow so weak that I could not do even one second. And my mind, though it regressed cognitively and emotionally (meaning my affect went back to being unresponsive), did not completely go blank and seek TV or endless naps.
Unfortunately, that did not affect my recovery period. The virus left me over a month ago. I woke up one Friday morning and did not feel that rundown feeling of something infecting me. But still, it was a month before I felt back to my old self. Unfortunately, all the tasks I had dropped when I became ill remained waiting for me, and the passing of weeks had only grown the pile. That was another familiar frustration, of seeing the things left undone and wondering how I was to do them. Fortunately, this time I had help. My therapist.
I am better now. Daily, I continue to take Cold-FX, the one thing that reduced my susceptibility to infections. I continue with my “hypothalamus fix.” And I try to remember to grease up my palms and fingers with cocoa butter and wear gloves so that my hands can return to their old sensitive but tough selves.