Tuesday 26 July 2022

Brain Storm

It is a crispy-cold but sunny Winter's day and our Michelia Doltsopa is in full blossom against a bright blue sky.  A cloud of white petals, like crumple-winged butterflies, sends out an intoxicating perfume so sweet and beautiful that really, it's a shame a wedding isn't happening right here and now.

I did chores today like vacuuming the floor and prodding a long feather duster into high corners to evict daddy-long-legs.  I carried a box of firewood from the back porch to the fireplace and also hung out two loads of washing.  

Then I drove my car to a friend's house and leapt out like a crazed monkey to get a double-shot latte into my desperate body. 

Yeah, so what?  These rather mundane details are worth mentioning, um, why?  

Because never ever again will I take it for granted that I can vacuum and carry firewood and leap like a monkey. 

You see, my sister was doing all those things without considering how her brain engages her legs and arms to perform so-called simple tasks. 

Few of us give this miracle of movement much thought. 

Robyn is super fit. All her weekends were spent climbing mountains, hiking through the bush and swimming in cold lakes, posting a photo of her wildly splashing feet above the water-line to prove each episode of madness. 

She prefers to wear sturdy boots in the outdoors to high-heels at a cocktail party.  Nights curled up in a sleeping bag in a tent to luxury sheets at the Hilton Hotel. A dehydrated Spaghetti Bolognese in a tramping hut to a fine meal in a flash restaurant where they really should provide a magnifying glass to find your steak, shitake mushroom and a carrot that has been carved into a lotus flower without your consent.

But now, and how unfair is this, my sister has been in hospital for a month after a sudden brain-bleed struck her down and paralysed her left side.  We all wondered if this was a temporary or permanent goodbye to her fit-as-a-fiddle agility and "Hello" to a "new normal", where ordinary daily tasks are  performed very slowly with huge frustration. Sheer determination and a gritty fight to re-claim some of her former life?

Physiotherapy sessions consist of learning to stand again while holding a rail. Taking scary tentative steps while not knowing where her left hip is placed because she cannot feel it. Shuffling her bottom from a wheelchair to bed.  Learning to grasp a green plastic cone and pass it from one physiotherapist to another. Then a yellow one. Then a blue one. 

It's all ridiculously simple to me, the onlooker, but a major effort for Robyn. She is cheerful one minutes and in tears the next. Energetic but quickly exhausted. Impressively decisive an hour ago but then then so brain-foggy she can't decide what track-pants to wear that day let alone where and how to live after she is discharged from hospital.

A stroke or brain-bleed is not only a medical trauma to the body. It is a mental and emotional trauma to the mind. 

What will my sister be able to do in a year's time? Or not do? Will she ever sleep in a tent again or jump into a fern-fringed waterfall?  Will she be able to peel potatoes for dinner? Drive her camper-van? 

My sister is a tough and inspirational person and I believe she will do better than what the doctors told her after tests and scans. That her brain-bleed was a bad one and inoperable. That she was "unlucky" and her mobility will be severely impacted long-term. 

We all know that may or may not be the reality but we know there can be light after darkness.  Sometimes the outcome is better than what we fear. 

Last week as I sat in my living room on a stormy night there was a power-cut. The lights went out and our candles got lit.  The room was still glowing a bit because of our wood-fire but not enough to read a book by.

Wait. Then wait some more. Over the road I could see lights appear from trucks and from up a power pole as a few men braved the night to fix the problem in the wind and cold.  Finally, the lights snapped back on and I yelled out my thanks to the hard-working team over the road, faces unseen.

One yelled back, "Sweet as, bro!" and then drove off into the night. 

Oh, beautiful wondrous  light. 

Thanks guys! 

Robyn, there is light after a storm. 

I didn't know how many friends you had. True friends who will cheer you on all the way to a better life than what you have this minute. And you must be so proud of your two grown-up kids who were instantly at your bed-side with love, tenderness and astonishing maturity.

I didn't know how tough you were until this happened. Never imagined that, just three days after you lost your left-side, you would be joking about climbing Mount Pirongia again soon. 

Well, knowing you, it might actually happen - not soon but eventually.


Candle by candle. 

Step by step,

Prayer by prayer,

Your left may come right!