In 2007 I almost got a tattoo for my 19th birthday, I had no idea what I wanted, and I think I was planning on just playing it by ear.
However, the night before my birthday I was in the car accident that changed my life and obviously changed my birthday plans. Instead of a big party and a potential tattoo, I was laid up in bed with a handful of friends around. I remember sitting around, not feeling completely awful, but I had no idea what the following days would bring. I must have still been in shock. I remember not being able to speak. I could croak out a few words, but for the most part I stayed quiet. I remember hiking up my jeans and showing off my bruises, my battle wounds. I remember laying in bed that night, 24 hours after the accident, my friends voices still fresh in mind, and realizing how difficult it was to breathe.
I went to the hospital the next morning. The checked my head, my lungs, my legs, my knees, my neck and my vocal cords. I explained my headache but didn’t make a fuss about it. I slammed my head into a window… I figured a headache was the norm. I focused mainly on my lungs. Each passing breath was more difficult, and my lost ability to speak was starting to freak me out too.
I had minor damage to my vocal chords, which apparently is a normal reaction to the way my body swung and at what force it moved, and the difficulty breathing they blamed on airbag dust and a few tiny tears in the lining of my lungs. Nothing serious, things that would heal in time.
It took ten days to get my voice back, less than a week for my breathing pattern to feel normal, a month or more until the bruises faded away. It took me over a month to drive a car again, even though the insurance had replaced my car within seven days. It took me 5 days before I went back to work, 11 months before I found out how severe my brain damage was, and another 3 years before I regained the majority of my memories that I’d lost that night.
But through it all, I still really wanted that tattoo.
My doctors said I was at risk for seizures, sudden memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and suicidal thoughts/depression for 5 years. But once February 17th, 2012 rolled around without any of those previously listed symptoms occurring, I would then be considered “normal” and “no longer at risk”.
Once I found out a portion of my brain was dead, and had to be ‘rerouted’ in order to perform its previous duties, I was put on a lot of medications. I went to brain therapy, which was similar to kindergarten, where I had to draw circles and numbers and list as many fruits, vegetables, zoo animals, farm animals or whatever other category they picked that day, as I could in sixty seconds.
I remember my mom getting upset at my second visit, the doctor asked for farm animals and I think I could only name two or three. I know she was just scared for me, but she got upset and started sternly listing farm animals in my face. Cows, Chickens, Goats, Pigs, Turkeys, Horses, Sheep… look… I’m better at this now.
It’s hard to determine how “much” memory you’ve lost. It’s not like I woke up and thought it was 2005 or something. I knew what day it was and how old I was. I knew where I was when I crashed and where I was going.
But the first time I went home, I had no idea how to get to the hospital or the high school. I couldn’t remember people who said hi to me in the halls at the university I attended. I’d get to school and forget where my classes where. While driving, I’d forget what certain signs meant, or which exits to take. My first night back from the hospital I couldn’t remember how to type. I failed my french classes after acing them before. It started off as little things. I later realized I didn’t know why my boyfriend and I had broken up, what my junior year homecoming was like, or what any of my books and movies were about.
We pieced it together and figured out I was missing about 4 years of memories, in chunks. I knew some things but not others. I remembered some people but not most of them. It was a strange world to live in. I STILL run into people in Port Huron who know me but in my eyes are complete strangers. I smile and play nice, but am always left with a sense of confusion and sadness after.
This has turned into a really long post, I hadn’t meant to do that. Sorry.
Anyway, I made it to 2/17/12 without any problems and I’ve regained 75% of my memories. Some things I just wake up and remember, some things came back to me in flashback type events, other things I need to be reminded of but sounds more and more familiar each time I’m made aware of it.
Four years ago or so I picked a tattoo. It has a million pages worth of meaning to me. In two tiny square inches, It represents the person I am today, and the person I was before. It represents all the memories I’ll never regain and all the ones I’m thankful I have. I decided to wait until I was “in the clear” before getting it. That date passed nine months ago, but life gets in the way sometimes, and now today has arrived. Today is the day I’m getting my tattoo.
Pictures to come.