On the 12th October Nova and I set off once again to my ‘home from home’, Ninewells. We went down to Ward 23A to say hi to all the amazing nurses who had looked after me so well. They were like an extended family now and welcomed us back with hugs and smiles. We then wound around the few corridors to the neuropsychology department for the appointment that would make or break my hopes for a return to work.
I went into this appointment on my own and began to plough my way through the word tests, the drawing shapes tests and all the others that, by now, seemed so familiar. The results were good. The doctor wrote in her summary:
‘ Sophie’s neuropsychological profile is characterised by a range of performances within the high average to superior range and well within expectation given her age and level of intellectual ability. It is very reassuring to see from today’s assessment that significant improvements have been made across the areas of spatioconstructional skills, processing speed, delayed recall of verbal and non-verbal information and executive functioning. Given that Sophie has only been out of hospital for approximately three months, her cognitive recovery is proceeding very well. Executive skills are often the last to improve due to them being very complex skills involving different areas of the brain and different networks. It is very reassuring to see today that these skills have improved vastly in Sophie’s case and over a fairly short period of time’.
She went on to say there was no reason why I could not return to work and emphasised the need for a phased return to take into account the fatigue I was likely to experience as my brain had not been functioning at a consistent level for a prolonged time period.
Fragment-me, half-me, three quarters me had WON the battle! I was now just ME. My brain was working again, there was no permanent frontal lobe damage, no need for brain injury rehabilitation. Me, Nova, my family and friends and my stubborn, defiant soul had done it all by ourselves. It really felt like a miracle. The respect I have for my body and particularly my brain, and the healing they managed to achieve, is boundless. It seemed impossible but it had happened.
I now had a date for a return to work in a few weeks, I was excited and terrified. Would I be able to do it? Would I fail? What if it was all too much? Despite all my fight and determination, I had seriously lost confidence, unsurprisingly, and I knew the only way to find out was to fling myself back in and swim for my life.
Over the next couple of weeks a couple of things stand out as significant. Only two days after the assessment I drove, by myself, to do the weekly supermarket shop. It was one of the sweetest moments for me. I felt so independent and capable again. I drove, I read my list, I found all the right items, I paid with my own card and packed all the bags into the car. Only ten weeks prior to this I had not even been able to walk, talk or dress myself. Supermarket shopping – who knew it could bring such joy!
We also went on a day trip to Landmark adventure play park with K and a friend. I managed to do the tree top rope course, despite being petrified, and this was another moment to be savoured. Tottering around on ropes in the trees…can you feel the happiness and freedom I felt right then. My body did what I wanted it to do, I had co-ordination, balance and strength again. I wanted to shout it to the world. This is a miracle, every second of every day that we can move and stretch and laugh and connect is a miracle. Don’t take it for granted, it is precious beyond belief.
October 24th dawned and with it came another ending and another beginning. It was the end of the fight for survival and recovery, it was the end of the dark, twisted nightmare, the fear and the worry. It was the beginning of the new person that I was evolving into. It was the beginning of life after NMDAR Encephalitis.