Coming home, to the only house I’d ever known, focused me in a way nothing else could. In the hospital, I didn’t know where I was. I believed I was in other states and even other countries. When I saw my home, I knew exactly where I was.
I went to outpatient rehab every day. Each morning, one of my parents would take me to the rehab facility. Depending on the whims of the insurance company, I would stay for either a half a day or a full day. I received physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
The physical therapy strengthened my body enough that I was able to walk with the aid of a cane. Later, my therapist took away my cane and I began walking independently. We did a LOT of balance exercises, because my sense of balance was affected by the accident. She would ask me to balance on a low balance beam, then balance on one foot, then balance on one foot with my eyes closed. It wasn’t easy!
The occupational therapy worked on improving my fine motor skills and my hand-eye coordination. I spent hours in front of a light board, punching buttons as they lit up. My arm had been in a sling, due to the broken collarbone. Someone (I don’t remember who – probably a doctor) took away the sling after a few weeks, but I still tended to hold my arm against my abdomen as if was still in the sling. It hurt when I moved it! The occupational therapist gave me a couple of tiny dumbbells and made me do lots of simple arm exercises to strengthen my arm.
I still don’t understand the speech therapy. I guess it had to do with improving my ability to communicate, as I had no trouble talking. After the accident, I had to re-learn a lot of things, including just about everything I’d learned in school (math, science, history, and so on). But that wasn’t what we did in speech therapy. My mother remembers me complaining about being forced to play some extremely simple computer games, for no identifiable purpose.
Meanwhile, my parents went over all the things I needed to know for school at home. I had forgotten everything, from how to add 2+2 to the year the founders signed the Declaration of Independence (1776). Once I was reminded, the information came back quickly, but my parents re-taught me everything.
One of my few leisure activities during this time was playing card games on the computer. If I could’ve, I think would’ve played Freecell for hours on end. In hindsight, I think this proved to be an important tool in healing my brain. Playing card games makes you think, strategize, and plan – all skills that are useful for a damaged brain.
I don’t remember a whole lot about this period, but I do remember being constantly tired. Because of the accident, I was sleeping 10-12 hours a night. I went to therapy, studied, and slept. And that was it. My body was still recovering, and everything was a challenge.