Jackie is home for a visit – but it doesn’t go well

By admin
10 December 2013

Jackie comes home for a weekend for the first time since the car accident. He refuses to believe it’s his house and throws bottles at his family when they try to help him, shares Michelle Fourie in her blog about life with her brain-damaged husband.

Jackie in his wheelchair. We take him outside more at the rehab and Ruben enjoys sitting on his lap. Jackie in his wheelchair. We take him outside more at the rehab and Ruben enjoys sitting on his lap.

After Jackie has spent eight weeks in rehab it’s decided he can come home for the weekend. This is the first step towards coming home permanently.

The aim is to gradually familiarise him with his home environment and get us used to what we can expect when he comes home permanently.

Our domestic worker, Sophie Sibanyoni, and I are trained in the use of the wheelchair. We rearrange the décor in the house to make things easier for Jackie. He still can’t climb stairs and we turn the dining room into a bedroom.

Sophie Sophie

We’re excited but fearful when we fetch him on Friday afternoon. I want to get home as soon as possible. I’m sure something will click when he sees the house, the dogs and the familiar surroundings.

What disillusionment.

He doesn’t know where we are and nothing is familiar. He won’t believe it’s our house and everything we tell him he regards as lies. He’s convinced we’re trying to fool him.

I realise on the first night it will be a difficult weekend. He moves around like a child who has recently learnt to walk. His balance is still bad and he runs from wall to wall to avoid falling over. The wheelchair is impractical in the limited space in our house.

I must change his nappy for the first time and he lies down obediently like a baby to enable me to do so.

He continually asks what happened to him. When we tell him he doesn’t believe us. He shouts at our son Jacques (15). We show him photographs of the accident scene and he accuses us of doctoring them.

Jacques Jacques

He eats as if he’s starving. After three minutes he asks for more food because he’s hungry. He can’t remember that he’s just eaten a whole plate of food.

We’re afraid he’ll put somethig in his mouth and choke on it, so we remove all small objects.

I sleep on a mattress in front of his bed . . . or rather, I’m awake on the mattress in front of his bed. I’m afraid he’ll get up during the night and leave.

He now talks all the time, but terribly disjointedly, and is paranoid about everything. His brain doesn’t switch off for a moment.

I realise he won’t respond well when I have to take him back to rehab on Sunday night. By Sunday we’re wrecks. The kids, Jacques and Ruan (7), are disillusioned and I’m positively faint. Jackie is more than a handful.

Sophie stays with me because without her I’m not going to make it. I realise this that first weekend.

It’s difficult to get Jackie bathed, but eventually he’s clean and dressed so we can take him back to rehab. He’s convinced I’m taking him back to war and refuses to get into the bakkie. He throws bottles at us and poor Jacques gets shouted at when he tries to help Jackie get in. He tackles Jacques with power I can’t decribe. I feel so sorry for my child, who has to experience this. Ruan is afraid and says nothing.

'He throws bottles at us and poor Jacques gets shouted at when he tries to help Jackie'

Eventually we get him into the bakkie and barely stop at robots and stop streets and the child locks are on to prevent him jumping out.

At rehab he won’t get out and shouts at us. I’m so relieved we got there in one piece that I shout back, like a mother scolding her child.

Eventually he’s back in his bed, calm, as if he again feels safe in his space.

Back in the bakkie I sit and cry, relieved that he’s back. We’re disillusioned and traumatised by the weekend visit.

If that’s how our lives will be in future I’m starting to run away now. But where to . . . and what about my children?

Lord, please help us.

Life goes on in the midst of the chaos in which we find ourselves. While Jackie is in rehab Ruben plays his first mini-rugby match. My heart breaks because Jackie can’t share it with us. Here’s Ruben on his way to the tryline. Life goes on in the midst of the chaos in which we find ourselves. While Jackie is in rehab Ruben plays his first mini-rugby match. My heart breaks because Jackie can’t share it with us. Here’s Ruben on his way to the tryline.

Michelle Fourie-Michelle

* Michelle Fourie lives in Pretoria, where she has a thatch-roofing business. She blogs weekly for YOU about how her and her family’s live changed when her husband sustained irreversible brain damage.

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