Jackie comes home

By admin
20 December 2013

A restless, disoriented Jackie is now living permanently with Michelle and the children, and she has decided to make this the most special Christmas ever. Read the second-last episode of Michelle Fourie’s blog about life with her brain-damaged husband.

Colleagues of Jackie, David and Collette Hurst, and their child, Caymen, visit Jackie in rehab a few days before Jackie came home.

Jackie’s time in rehab is coming to an end.

His speech development has reached a plateau and immediate therapy has been suspended. Although his balance is still bad, he can manage without the wheelchair. He’s still wearing nappies and bathing him is a battle.

I feel like a coward because I’m so afraid of his permanent homecoming.

Apart from his weekend pass, Jackie hasn’t been home for months. I still sleep on a mattress in front of his bed. He can’t climb the stairs to our bedroom and is still sleeping in the dining room, which is serving as a bedroom.

He has difficulty breathing as a result of an internal thickening of the windpipe where the throat tube was. His voice still sounds different from the way it did before the accident – it’s definitely higher. (Examinations at Steve Biko Academic Hospital established the cause of the new tone is neurological; Jackie’s vocal cords weren’t damaged).

Meanwhile at home he looks for the bathroom in the kitchen. He doesn’t really go outside. He sits or lies down on his bed all day and encouragement to do something else is met with intense antagonism.

He just stares in front of him and I wish I could find the switch to turn the light on.

I miss my husband, and to the children this man is a stranger.

He’s clearly disoriented regarding time and place. And there are questions; a hundred times a day; the same questions over and over again.

“What day is it?”

“Where are we?”

“What happened to me?”

“Who was with me in the car?”

“Did they get hurt?”

“Are we married?” And if I answer yes, the next question is usually . . .

“Do you want a divorce?”

I feel I could scream. I want to hand the baton to someone else. I’m tired . . . and irritable. And worried . . . how will I pay for everything? I don’t want to lose the house.

Accounts are piling up and calls from medical service providers that I’m only now becoming aware of, don’t help relieve the stress. Keeping all the balls in the air requires a special talent and I’m beginning to doubt my ability.

But it’s Christmas. I decide to focus on that. It WILL be a special Christmas! I buy a baobab tree with branches that look like roots to serve as our Christmas tree.

Our Christmas tree

We manage to find all the old decorations and lights. We even dig out the Santa Claus outfit. Suddenly I become creative and write a Christmas story for the children to act out on Christmas Day.

My family will laugh and experience the wonder of Christmas because although everything is different, Daddy’s alive and the birth of Jesus will be celebrated with exuberance and gratitude.

And although Jackie won’t be able to remember a thing...

My brother-in-law, Ricus Truter, surprises Ruben in a Santa Claus outfit.

We’ll know it was a very special Christmas.

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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