‘He swears and chases me away’

By admin
12 November 2013

Michelle Fourie, who blogs about her family’s life after her husband Jackie sustained severe brain injuries in a car accident, describes how she and her son try to hold conversations with him but it’s almost more upsetting than when he couldn’t speak at all.

Top: On a family outing before the accident (left) and the car after the accident. Bottom: Jackie in intensive care (left) and the family visits him at the rehab facility.

Our visits to Jackie in the rehabilitation hospital are now part of our daily routine.

When I’ve completed my tasks for the day, I sit in the pavilion at Menlo Park High School while my son, Jacques, does athletics training. His young brother, Ruben, plays in the long-jump pit or runs with the athletics stars. He joins the team while I sit and mainly stare ahead. When Jacques finishes training, we drive to the rehab.

One afternoon while I sat at Menlo Park High School pavilion waiting for athletics training to finish, an incredible rainbow appeared over the field. I suddenly became aware of God’s nearness.

Ruben rides in the corridors in one of the wheelchairs while Jacques and I try to have meaningful conversations with Jackie. We show him photographs of our house, his beloved braai area, the TV set and the dogs.

Jackie speaks to us as if he’s a boy again. He asks questions such as, “Where is my rugby ball?” and “Am I late for training?” He talks about our school teachers and school friends (he and I started dating at school), people who were part of our lives 20 years ago.

After a while it is clear Jacques would rather race wheelchairs with Ruben. Communication with his father is limited and disjointed. And it is also upsetting. Where has his father gone?

Jackie has begun having hallucinations, especially about the army. He was a paratrooper and the army was an important part of his life. Now, suddenly, he fears he’s under siege. He orders me to take him away because he’s attacked. He hears aircraft and gunshots – he says people around him want to kill him. He sometimes describes his most upsetting experiences in the finest detail. I explain to him it’s his imagination and we’re not being attacked. His response is overwhelming because he experiences it so intensely. He swears terribly and screams to chase me away, while other hospital visitors watch and look on sympathetically.

I often sit in the parking lot and cry until it feels as if there are no tears left. God, what’s going on? Please help us.

Then we drive home. Housework and homework must be done. We must go on. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.


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

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