A Blog and Community dedicated to healing in all its forms
(My name is Mary Beth Orr. I am a professional horn player and currently 3rd Horn in the Grand Rapids Symphony. The following is my story in hopes it may be a helpful resource.)
The following is the first of probably many entries in the blog section pertaining to trauma. I’ve separated my story into sections in the attempt of making access to specific information easier for those searching for it. If you are in the midst of trauma, just recovering, or processing trauma maybe reading about my experience and what I share about mine, might make you feel less alone, less strange, or helps you embrace and accept your own journey. Please use this as a resource in any way you need. Below is the start of the hardest section for me to write.
The Trauma – Recap
May 5, 2018 at approximately 10 in the morning I was T-boned by a van in a country road intersection. I was told I ran a stop sign at full speed. I remember nothing and there were no witnesses. I awoke in the hospital 3 days later with a severe head trauma from grade 4 concussion, collapsed lung, bleeding spleen, lacerated liver and kidney, broken C6 and C7 vertebrae, and multiple lacerations and contusions. However, for me, the worst injury by far, was my missing front left tooth and the severe trauma to my bottom lip, having bitten completely through it severing the muscle entirely. It has taken years for me to come to terms with the incredibly confusing and sometime conflicting emotions associated with trauma, and especially one that effects your body so intensely, but that your conscious mind cannot remember.
I was in the hospital for 5 days’ total. I still marvel at being there for so short a time given my injuries. For whatever reason, be it biological fortitude or sheer stubbornness, I heal extremely quickly. What you will read below is an exercise assigned to me by my trauma therapist. I was transitioned to one after completing speech therapy, all intended to assess and treat my traumatic brain injury. To be clear, there is no way to define traumatic brain injury in terms of a specific diagnosis. The brain does what it does, when it does it, and how it is affected by such a severe impact and subsequent level of concussion is something that shows itself gradually over time. It isn’t always consistent and it continues to evolve and grow with healing until you’re able to assess what is sticking around, and what isn’t.
The following exercise is a stream of consciousness, present tense, first person recollection of my first and lasting memories while in the hospital. I also decided to take it further to my time home which will come in a later post. Transitioning to home had some surprises for me as well and felt it was important to explore those feelings and memories. I am being vulnerable and raw with this because that is what it is. That is trauma. Being…. “appropriate” or “polished” is essentially a lie and I want this to be as open and honest as possible.
WAKING UP 1st time
I AMOST DIED TODAY, At least that is what everyone keeps telling me. I’m not going to say I feel good…or fine…. but I don’t feel like I almost died. But, I think it is fair to assume I would have no idea what almost dying even feels like…. since I have never “almost” died before. I do feel confused. And pissed. And achy. Uncomfortable. My last memory is of falling asleep 3 nights prior with the thought, “I love my life, I am so happy”. But it isn’t the next morning. It’s 3 days later. I never made it to the horse farm that morning. I never made it to the last show of Figaro that night, or church the next morning…. How many times have I woken up? I think I remember faces, people around me, looking at me like I have 3 heads…. or maybe that is a mix of pure panic and relief. My mother, my mom; she brushed my hair. My friend …. she just had an audition, she must have just gotten back, how did it go? She looks relieved and irritated at the same time… Wtf….
Everything hurts and my mouth is so dry. Suzy is taking care of business ordering around nurses. My husband keeps telling me to stop moving, and reminding me of the accident. My mouth hurts so much. My lip is crusty and so swollen I can’t really open my mouth. My tooth. My tooth is gone. I need to fix that. I don’t know why I am not more confused…. I can’t remember anything, but I also never seem to totally forget I was in an accident and everything is different. Everything is different now and will stay different. Just like that. Boom. I am accepting this super well. Why am I not freaking out?
WAKING UP… 2nd time
They changed my room today. I think that means I’m not in ICU anymore? I only woke up for a moment during the change. And by the way… it is a really disconcerting feeling to wake up to someone pulling a catheter out of you…. in case you’ve never been in the hospital…. you lose the ability to be modest or have physical boundaries very quickly. Nurses don’t care. They have a job to do. So, if you just happen to be on your period when you get in a car accident and lose consciousness for 3 days and they have to cut your clothes off of you…. you WILL wake up in a barely there gown with hospital issue tear away underwear up to your rib cage and a menstrual pad the size of Noah’s ark…. yeah. I said it. Go on little dude….do what you got to do. Fuck it, I’m going back to sleep.
WAKING UP …3rd time – Making sense
I can’t sleep. I really feel the bruises now. My lips…. So many stitches and they’re so dry. I feel the stitches pulling everywhere. My tooth is still gone. I need to fix that. How do you fix that? I have to figure that out. If I can just get my lip healed and a tooth I can move on. I can still play the summer season. Oh shit, I need to tell Joe I can’t do the Northwood Graduation. My music….my pops music was in the car. Did my husband tell Erich? Did he get the music to him? Ok, I hurt everywhere, and my shoulder…. I can’t sit up and can’t lie down. I can’t sleep. Too many I. V’S and I can’t lay on my side. Every 2 hours they’re checking on me for something. I think I’m going to lose my mind.
It’s morning and my husband Kerry is here. I feel so much better when he’s here. My husband is super calm but I can tell it’s mostly because he’s exhausted. He has to answer a lot of my questions because I still can’t remember anything. I feel more alert so I want to start finding a solution to this problem. This is super inconvenient and getting in the way of my life. I had plans. Kerry is looking at me like I’m crazy and also…. he looks sad. Then he brings me a mirror and I see myself for the first time. For the first time, I cry. Just a little before I get it together. But, it’s real now. I see what he sees. What all of them see. And I get it. I am very, very broken.
I feel gross, I am dying for clean hair and skin and desperately want a shower. I can do that. Maybe I can rest then, just do this one thing and I can feel better. Just a little bit better. Kerry takes me in the bathroom. Just getting out of bed feels like…. real. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to stand, to walk, but it is something moving forward so, one step closer to less broken. He takes off my gown and stops. We both look. We both look at the black and purple parts of me taking over like the spots of a leopard starting to bleed together like a water color. I want to cry again. I think he does too. But we don’t. I stand there and let him bathe me; with so much tenderness, love, and fear he bathes me. The water feels good. I only feel a little stinging from my cuts. Okay, I will get better in no time. Being clean is more like me and I got this. God awful uncomfortable gown back on. Ugghhh… walking back to that God awful uncomfortable bed. Walking sucks. It makes me feel weak. And it hurts too. Now all I can think about are ways to heal faster…. but I’m supposed to rest. Fuck rest.
Everything has blended together since I woke up. Same parade of nurses, trying to be comforting but really just waking me up any time I am actually able to rest. All I want to eat is pumpkin pie. I mean…. why not? Whoever was miserable eating pumpkin pie? I want to go home. I think I may be able to today. I’ve had visitors. They make me feel better and worse all at the same time. I look like shit and can see both the shock and relief of them seeing me alive but also seeing how awful I look. But it’s all people I LOVE. Love is good. I do feel an overwhelming need to make people feel better about how I’m doing though. It’s not their fault. It’s me. I just want to skip this part. I want to fix all of this. This was my fault. I’m told the accident was my fault and I have to accept it. So, this was my fault. I messed everything up. Ok…I’m losing it in front of my nurse. He’s starting to talk in the 3rd person. Is he trying to be funny? “Derek doesn’t do crying” sheesh….” Derek really wants you to not be sad” …. oh, for Fucks sake…. Sorry dude…. gonna take this one moment to feel sorry for myself before I get back on my war horse.
Suzy and my husband are here. I can go home. I CAN GO HOME!!!! Comfy bed, comfy clothes, my comfy pets…. Yassssss. But FIRST.
Get an appointment with my dentist…. or any damn dentist that will see me. TOMORROW. I’m in the car with Suzy, Kerry had paperwork to do. I hate not having a tooth. No…. I hate not having MY tooth. Sheesh…how would I have handled losing a limb?! I am so shocked at how sad I am about missing a piece of myself. Good Lord girl, get it together.
Phone call number 1, my dentist…. So, I’m telling you I just got out of the hospital, have lost a tooth that inhibits me from performing and everything that means, my career could be completely lost and you can’t get me in for 3 weeks? Bye. Click. You’re dead to me.
Next…. Oh, so you don’t handle that kind of thing. Ok. Thanks. Bye.
Ok, now Suzy is getting irritated…. I can feel it…. “Why don’t you just give it a few days and rest, You’re not even actually home from the hospital yet”
I get it. I scared the holy shit out of her and everyone. I ruined everything. But I wish I could get her to see I NEED this. I need some sign that I haven’t lost everything and that someone has this covered, that someone can help me. That I’m moving forward. I can rest then. I can rest if I can at least get this part of the healing process started.
5th call…. Dr. Ribbitch. YES! They can see me tomorrow! They can see me tomorrow. The receptionist said he is excited to help and knows exactly how to fix this. Ok. I can rest.
To be continued in next post…. Be well reader.