Sunday, July 5, 2009


The three Derailleurs show up to Hollis' room and she's calmer than usual.
Her neck is straighter, not drooping down, but the first semblance of upright I have seen yet.
We say hello and start showing her other bike dance teams' videos on YouTube. She watches them all, very intent. We talk about moves that have been recycled and the politics of making up dances in a new genre of movement.
Hollis remembered the high five as soon as I got up on her bed. It was great. Then I showed her some of my drawings in a sketchbook. I showed her some of the drawings we had made together when we lived at the Willow street house. I busted out a pink highlighter and put it in her right hand. This is the hand that is curled to her body. She had no problem holding it. She wouldn't look at the page though. I tried waving my fingers to draw her down to it, but it seemed like she was hesitant. We moved the pen along the blank paper, my hand guiding hers. She would move her hand ever so slightly, decimeters at a time. I decided to try the left hand. The one that has had it's fingers extended for a week now. The day before we were working on "grabbing" and I asked her if she remembered that lesson yesterday. The back of her hand is very sensitive. Whenever I touch that area, her hand jumps. It takes a minute to show her the mechanics of wrapping her fingers around the pen. She holds it for a minute and we draw. The left side has larger movements. She moved the pen around in centimeters on this side. We didn't play for very long because she wouldn't look at the paper. She seemed to get tired when it got hard. I think she was also hesitant because of the amount of people in the room, staring hopefully at the page, expecting a miracle. She dozed off purposefully and we started gathering our things. She had been very quiet the whole visit. When she would utter sounds, her voice sounded hoarse. I guess earlier that day she had been pretty talkative.
Her mother said that while she was getting her nurse attention that morning, her right leg started to kick about. This was perhaps the first time this had happened since they were giving her ritalin. This is a sign of her bi-lateral symmetry working itself out. Yay!

We said goodbye, and I stuck my head in her face and gave her a huge smile. It's a genuine smile because I see her brainy icecaps melting. Coming out of an ice age. I see she is more and more herself and her old sassy attitude was apparent in the scowl she was matching with my grin. We stared at each other, our yin-yang expressions, in a facial battle. After a moment, I copied the look she was giving me, being her mirror. She instantly shut her eyes.
"Oh BUSTED!" I say. "Girl, I am just being your mirror and it looks like you don't like the way you are staring at me. Can't handle the taste of your own medicine, eh?"
I told her that they haven't outlawed smiling yet, and that is something she should work on. "I want to see a smile on our face next time I visit. And I want you to start saying 'wifey'. I am not going to give up, babe." I had a feeling she was feigning tired when we all came into the room, and the slamming shut of her eyes when she saw something she didn't like solidified it. I called her out on it. That sassy girl knows more than she lets on.
I have been spending quite a bit of time with her this week because she might be leaving us soon to go back home to Nashville. Her mother deserves to be in her husband's arms again, resume her life after this tragedy, reconnect with her strong southern support network.

I feel like I have a lot of work to do with her before she leaves. I have some guilt for not being there every week, sometimes not coming for a few weeks. I have to keep doing exercises and activities so I can see for myself what a little involvement will yield. It looks like the high fives have stuck. Now on to singing, dancing, and drawing. Ron Turner, one of the thousands of amazing beneficiaries and also the sponsor of sending her stuff to Nashville, related to me the tale of his friend with a brain injury. He said that while they have a hard time talking, singing is easier. The tones are set and in the subconscious and easier to release than pure expression. It's a maze in there and whatever you can coax out will help show the exit. It reminds me of the first few weeks after she awoke that I was singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and she was matching my tones, awkwardly mumbling, finding the notes. In those chaotic times, my singing to her seemed to speak to her more clearly than my sentences.
I wonder about the perfect song.


  1. I just want to suggest trying botox injections to help loosen her right arm. We have been using this to help loosen my Mom's right hand, and it's been very helpful. (Once a month.) Assits physical therpy very well.

    We go to Dr. Kennith Paresa at Cedars Sinai. You can ask his office for info: 310 659 9566.

    You also might look up DynaSplint - it's a Medicare-approved set of passive/dynamic therapy that helps keep non-active people limber. They have devices for ankles, knees, arms, hands, etc. Some are worn at night, or whenever's convenient. These devices are excellent for gradual therapy, esp in combo w/ the botox, and when patients can't participate too well on their own. (Elderly, etc.)

    Julie Dole
    (Jewel) Los Angeles

  2. As a person with a brain injury, I'll just say learning to talk again was difficult, but over time was fairly natural.

    Naturally, the location of Hollis' injury is key to her being able to re-acquire her speech. And I think singing is a great idea; singing has also been shown to be helpful for stutterers, since you can't stutter when you sing. I've had years of speech therapy, and a lot of it has come from choosing things to recite.

    I have no experience with Botox, having had most of my physical therapy in the 80s. Interestingly, when I had my eye-muscle surgery, my eye surgeon mentioned that one thing I could use to fine-tune the straightness—he never got it completely right—was botulism toxin. He made a face as he said it; this was before Botox became the new miracle wonder of the world.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised after searching to see what my email address typed into Google pulls up to find that you've linked my Lost Vegas gallery. Going over the latest posts though has brought tears of joy to my eyes since I haven't checked back here in a while. I loved all the bedside pictures with everyone dressed up and I am so overjoyed to see that she has progressed as far as she has with all your love and attention.