If you've never read Where is the Mango Princess by Cathy Crimmins , you should. It is the firsthand account of a wife's journey with her husband as he returns to life after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It's funny and sad all at the same time.
Kind of like my therapy session with L. today.
L. has a brain injury. He's only just woken up from a coma and has massive physical and cognitive deficits. And according to his brothers, he's demonstrating personality changes.
It is hard to sit in front of an early 20-something who presents like a cross between a three-year-old and an old man who's had a stroke. It is heartbreaking to know the long road ahead of him and the extremely limited resources his family. To know that his ability to walk safely is a high priority because he will never have access to a wheelchair.
But it's not all sad.
It's exciting to watch as patients with TBIs progress from one day to the next, especially at the beginning of their recovery. Every new movement or spoken word, each command followed or step taken is a major victory that is celebrated.
And sometimes, funny things happen . . . or are said . . . in the midst of the therapy session.
L. and I were working on visual tracking and acuity, accuracy with grasp/release, ability to follow simple one-step and two-step commands, sitting tolerance and balance, dynamic reach, and object recognition . . . which is all a fancy way to say, I had wooden blocks and he had to reach for them, take them, then give them back to me.
At one point, I held out a square block and asked him, in Hausa, 'What is this?'
He stared at the block for a few seconds. He leaned a little to check out the other side.
A smile crept across his face as he was sure he had found the word for 'wooden block' tucked away in the language cortex of his brain.
'MOOOOSSSSSQUITO!' he shouted.