Let me tell you about one more factor that has been very important and crucial; my dear friend, Nancy.
I knew Nancy in college in Wyoming. We were very close friends in those times a few decades ago. We spent all our free time together, often playing backgammon all night and listening to music. Nancy was the one who exposed me to progressive rock. Progressive rock is not easy to describe, but it was my touchstone when I started playing music of my own.
Nancy and I kept in touch only intermittently over the years after college, hooking up a few years ago on Facebook when I was still in Minnesota. But contacts were few and far between.
Then I had my stroke and found myself in Tacoma with no friends. But after a few days I remembered, Hey, didn’t Nancy say she lives in Tacoma?
I had her number in my phone and sure enough, Nancy was here, and only lives a couple of miles or so from me.
We were finally reunited the next day, and it was like all those years apart hadn’t happened. Lucky thing for me. And I found that in the intervening years, Nancy had become quite knowledgeable about medical issues, being employed in the medical industry.
Nancy questioned me quite heavily about what I was getting told by the doctors and what I was going through. And she knew what to do about it. She began driving me to my medical appointments, and being present in the exam room when I am with the doctors. And she became involved, to the point where she has in-depth discussions with the doctors.
It’s been unbelievable, the level that Nancy has become involved. She notes down the dates, times and places of my appointments and makes sure I make it to them, including the ones in Gig Harbor and Seattle to see specialists. Nancy has made sure that I picked up on what I was being told and that I understand it. There have been times where Nancy has been more involved in discussion with my doctors than I’ve been.
And the paperwork! Boy howdy, is there a lot of paperwork. Nancy makes sure it gets done and submitted on time, sometimes, even doing it herself. I could do it, but with my new TBI-caused short attention span, I can be confident now that it is being done right. I have periods where I can’t even remember my own phone number, and Nancy is my best defense against filling in something stupid on the never-ending paperwork.
Nancy has become involved with more than my medical care; she also makes my nutrition her business. She has been known to call me and ask what I’ve had to eat so far that day. My TBI has made my appetite a sporadic thing; often, I am just not hungry. Before my TBI, I made it a practice that I would only eat when I was hungry, but with Nancy in the picture, that is no longer an option. “Your brain needs to be well nourished if you expect to get through this,” she tells me. When my doctor recommended that I take iron supplements, Nancy explained to me that I should also increase my vitamin C to help my body absorb the iron.She also went out and bought me vitamin D3, and I think it’s helped my recovery.
Nancy has even been known to check with the pharmacy to verify that my prescription for my medications has been received and finds out when they will be ready to be picked up. And she drives me to my support groups in Tacoma and Puyallup and is an active participant in them.
I’ve also had Nancy added as my representative, authorized to receive information about any of my care and benefits, and to talk about any of it; Nancy has taken that and run with it. There are times Nancy will think of a question or something I hadn’t thought of, and she takes it on herself to pursue it.
And I have never asked her to do any of these things. She is just there whenever I have any need. I don’t know what she gets out of doing this; she just tells me I’m worth it (she somehow seems to feel very strongly that the world needs me in it–she told me that once).
Apart from the medical and nutritional, I also have the benefit of having someone I can always talk to, and I can talk about anything. One great thing about our friendship in college was that we never seemed to run out of things to talk about–no awkward silences, ever. That continues to this day. I learn from Nancy and all I can do is hope she learns from me.
Nancy calls herself my medical half and is my medical representative; I call her indispensable. She lives the example of what being a true friend is all about. When I tell her what she means to me, she will say it’s not necessary; that she knows.
But I will say before the entire world: Nancy, I love you deeply and there are not words to express how deeply and how much you mean to me.
I hope any of you with a TBI reading this has your own Nancy. If not, I can’t tell you how to get one.
All I can do is advise you: some way, somehow, find your Nancy.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.