September 25, 2011

Family, Health, Mike

These have been on my mind a lot lately.  Both Mike’s and my memories.  And just memory itself.

There’s the memories of Mike’s arrest.  I think those are some kind of post traumatic thing…they make me cry a lot and grieve.  But in reality there is not a lot of time for that in my day so it must wait.  It is waaaay in the back seat.  Thankfully, Mike has no real memory of any of it.  Or does he?  Last evening we attended a party and he saw a woman there who he swore he knew.  He thought maybe she was one of his nurses.  It’s the first time he seems to have remembered he had nurses…let alone what they may have looked like.   He realized he didn’t know any of the people there (he really didn’t and neither did I) save a few, and the realization of that panicked him, I think because he thought it was his memory deserting him.  In fact, he was right on target.  I expect he simply couldn’t process why on earth we would be at a party with a bunch of strangers.  As I listened to the band and watched him beebop in his chair in time to the music I recalled how much he loved to dance…and how graceful he was.  Since I have two left feet (and when it comes to dancing, both of those might be clubbed), I did not love to dance.  I found myself wishing last evening we had danced more while we could.

While we got ready for the party, I had to fuss at Mike.  We let him have back one of his pocket knives, we gave him some change so he has money in his pocket…which he wanted desperately to have….his wallet, his keys.  He takes these things out of his pockets and plays with them, inspects them and otherwise loses them with regularity (meaning he hides them from all…including himself…and cannot recall where they are).  The knife has been an issue.  It comes out of the pocket every five minutes and must be opened and the blade inspected.  Unfortunately, Mike does not recognize when this is prudent and/or safe and/or necessary.  So I keep repeating the rules.  And repeating them.  They don’t seem to sink into memory though, because it is an ongoing issue and I am about ready to take the knife away.  BUT, as I fussed at him, and warned him that the knife was going to go away, I asked, “Do you understand me?”  He replied in Spanish that  yes, he did understand me.  Now he had Spanish in High School.  But not enough to be particularly fluent.  And he was not prone to speaking in Spanish prior to his injury.  I had German.  My Spanish is limited to what I learned on Barrio Sesamio as my kids watched it.  It was enough to know he clearly told me “Yes, I understand”.  And he smiled at me with his good old smarty pants smile.  Later, when he could not find the knife, he was struggling to find the word for knife.  What came out was the word for knife in Ukrainian.  I speak NO Ukrainian but have a facility for languages…his mom, dad, grandparents, sisters were fluent in Ukrainian so I heard enough conversation to recognize some words and phrases.  mike is not fluent in Ukrainian.  He speaks Ukrainian baby talk and a few words.  When he was coming out of the coma, Melanie (his sister) tried speaking to him in Ukrainian saying maybe he would recognize it since it was the first language he ever heard.  He didn’t respond to it then any more than he did English, but apparently it is in there.  Making me wonder…why, when there is such difficulty in retrieving English words, can his brain retrieve the words in Spanish or Ukrainian?  And what does this mean?

His procedural memory seems good, though he doesn’t process well.  His semantic memory surprises me at times.  For example, he could explain to my grandson how raw, brown turbinado sugar differs from refined white sugar.  Albeit he had some difficulty retrieving all the words for the explanation, he could get the point across with help.  His episodic memory has holes you could drive a Mack Truck through.  However, I think the memories are there.  It seems to me, it’s a problem of retrieval of the memories.  Like the little guy inside his brain that is in charge of filing and retrieving goes on break.  A lot.  As a result, his overall declarative memory is, uhhhhh, inconsistent we will call it.  Very.  Inconsistent.  Very.  Mike’s working memory is pretty well shot.  And truly, it seems to me, that it may be what is responsible for all these other memory deficits and aphasias.  The stuff seems in there, but it seems like working memory is the coordinator of all that well as storing new memories and learning…and that is actually the little man in the brain that’s in charge of pulling it all together.  That guy just seems to go on coffee breaks.  A lot.  I would say he went on a long vacation right after Mike’s arrest.  Sabbatical maybe.  But he seems to come back for short periods, easing his way back to work.  For example.  Yesterday Mike was talking about his memory problems.  I was describing the latest research on regeneration of the hippocampus, whether memory is protein or chemical, what stimulates the hippocampus etc.  He interrupted…he needed to visit the powder room.  He was gone about five minutes.  Long enough to ensure I would need to start over.  When he returned, I asked, “Now.  Where were we?”  Mike replied, ” We were talking about how I can get back my memories.”  I guess the little guy was back from his break.  Shortly thereafter Kristin stopped by.  He couldn’t fathom who “that girl” was.  Even though I explained over and over she was his daughter, and he agreed he knew, he asked over and over, every time she stepped out of the room, “who is that girl I don’t believe I know her.”  They little guy was back on coffee break.  I am hopeful he is going to get tired of drinking coffee soon and get back to work where he belongs!

Meanwhile, I am Mike’s memory.  We go over old stories.  We reminisce.  I remind him of old movies and songs.  He is beginning to remember the nickname he gave me when we were dating.  And I remind him that the tube that says Calvin Klein does not go on the toothbrush.  We are a work in progress.  Who knows what the final product will be.  I suspect that at least it will be blue like that bratty kid on Willy Wonka.  I read that blueberries are good for the hippocampus.  We eat them every day.

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