Sunday, June 22, 2014

June: Currently

Loving this sweet picture of me and my people. My doctors and therapists decided I needed to go on my family's annual Disney World trip that was planned and paid for long before my accident. I was so nervous and worried, but-- these words taste like vinegar-- they were right. It was just what we all needed. That girl you don't recognize is Clara, Zoe's friend and the newest member of the Cacibauda family. And let me just say that while Zoe's friends are nice, I don't usually want to hang out with them, but I do it because I want to hang out with my sister. But Clara? She fits right in. I had a blast. Wheelchair and all.

Missing my sweet, hilarious, sassy little sister. I've always thought it was silly that people always think we are twins because we are so different, until I realized that she's just the other half of me. She's the one who grabs my arm and pulls us to the next risk-taking event while I frantically try to sort out the logistics and do the research while running behind her. She makes a grand entrance when we walk into a room and I sneak in behind her, because she loves the attention and I love to watch her shine. Her free spirit dives fearlessly into anything and everything, while I walk carefully behind her, ready to deal with anyone who tries to get in her way. She's the marshmallow cream to my peanut butter sandwich. The one who pushes me in my wheelchair down the ramps at Disney World while our mom covers her eyes behind us. I couldn't ask for anyone better. I love you, Z.

Enjoying these last 6 weeks with my sweet babies before they move up to pre-k 4 and don't need their "Ms. Awesa" anymore. They are so grown up, and their sweet hugs and giggles do more for my heart than they could ever know. So blessed to be part of their lives.

Obsessing over the uncertainty of my future until I send myself into cardiac arrest. My car accident and injuries have made things I've always wanted seem so different and sometimes out of reach.

Preparing for another intense week of rehab. PT and OT are hard and exhausting and frustrating, but cognitive therapy is what kills me. My brain controls everything that makes me Alexa. Having to re-learn how to read and do math, two of my favorite things, with this newly acquired dyslexia is frustrating. That's what we are working on now that my 3 summer math classes have started. I am praying this experience makes me a better teacher. It has certainly made me even more passionate about getting my masters in reading education to become a reading specialist.

Wondering what the last 5 months of my life would have been like if my accident had never happened. I'd be in Spain right now, studying abroad for the summer and finishing up my Spanish education endorsement. I'd have no idea how lucky I am to have a perfectly healthy brain and spine, and that being able to balance on one foot is, in fact, a lot harder than we think. My biggest worry would be whether I should stay in and study or go out and get drunk in Spain, and I'd probably pick the latter, because how often do you have the chance to get drunk in Spain?

Packing my apartment because I'm moving to one that doesn't have stairs or neighbors who scream at each other every night at 3am.

Checking to see if there's anything on TV besides Finding Nemo, because a few weeks of nonstop rain when you're a daycare teacher will make a lot of kid-friendly movies get really old really fast.

Wishing my family, daycare babies, rehab therapists, and college classes were all located in the same place. 

Drinking an Ocean Water from Sonic, because I normally only drink water and coffee, but Saturday is for breaking the rules.

Planning my first tattoo that I want to get when all of this rehab stuff is over. I know, I know. Me? A tattoo? BUT my brother and sister both have multiple and hello, I can't be left out!

Reading Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out. And a bunch of kid books that I have to read for cognitive therapy to practice reading with dyslexia. Boo. I don't get to do a lot of reading for fun these days, because it's not as fun when it makes your brain hurt after 5 minutes. Double boo.

Listening to my Ben Folds playlist.

Watching Downton Abbey. Finally. Not right this minute, but I just started season 1 a few days ago. I needed something to move on to after I finished season 2 of Orange Is the New Black in a day and a half. So there's that.

Marveling over the BEAUTIFUL quilt my friend/former neighbor/former babysitter made for me and sent me all the way from England!! (She gets to live in England with her husband and 4 kids and make quilts all day because she has a badass life.) I am not even putting this in my blog because I feel like that's something you should do when someone gives you something. I am legitimately in love with it. Thank you so much, Jenn!!

Thanking all of you for reading and sharing my last blog post about my sweet friend and guardian angel, Dane! It's gotten almost 3,000 views and I saw so many people who aren't even my friends on facebook sharing it on their page! Wow! Thank you so much. I had no idea it would take off like that. Dane is just as great of a guardian angel as he was a friend to me during his time here. Thank you.

Feeling good. Really good. That's not something I've been able to say a lot since my accident. I'm finally starting to almost have an equal number of good and bad days, which is way better than having a lot more bad days than good. My rehab doctor has me on some steroids which have been decreasing the swelling near my brain and spine, which helps decrease some of my pain. And that is a lifesaver. Our next obstacle is to figure out why my legs go numb. BUT today I feel good. I feel like maybe my whole life isn't completely ruined and that there are still good things up ahead for me. I will not let one person's stupid decision to run through two red lights take all of my dreams away from me. She does not get that power. I will push through the bad stuff because I do not want this to be where my story ends.

One day during my pool therapy, we were working on strengthening my spine so I could re-learn how to float. Every time I would start to go under, my therapist would say, "Try to come back up. You can do this. Don't let yourself sink." So now we always say stuff like that. I refuse to let this defeat me. I refuse to sink.

**I got my idea for this post from my friend, Jenn. The same one who made the quilt. You can check out her blog and read about her badass life here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Visit from My Guardian Angel

I don't remember anything from the night of my accident.

I don't remember that day or the days before or most of those couple weeks after when I was mostly sedated with ten different types of pain meds and muscle relaxers. I don't remember Christmas or even things that happened weeks and months before. I look at pictures of events like Thanksgiving and my brother's wedding, and it's like it doesn't even exist in my brain.

I have the story of my accident memorized from listening to it be told so many times, but I remember nothing, which means maybe the story I'm about to tell you didn't really happen. But I will forever believe that it did.

Apparently, during the 2-3 weeks after my accident that I was basically a medically sedated blob, I put a few things in my notes app on my phone that I wanted to remember. It's choppy and doesn't make a lot of sense, because obviously my thinking and language skills weren't in good shape after smashing a window with my head.

January 6, 2014: I in wreck. Dane stayed. Was with me he there. Help got me. He left. Angel.

You may remember me talking about my dear friend Dane who passed away in November. I was really struggling with it around Christmas and sometimes I would talk to him when I was in my car by myself. I've had a recurring dream about him since my accident, but I don't think it's just a dream. I think it's a memory.

(You might be starting to worry about my mental health right now, but stay with me.)

The dream starts the same way. I'm suddenly in my smashed up car on Highway 90 in Ocean Springs, in the spot about 400ft from the red light that my car landed in after a truck ran a red light, hit me, and sent me and my car spinning down the highway. (Side note: Thank God for seatbelts. My groceries went flying out of the car. If I hadn't had my seatbelt on, I would have gone flying with them. WEAR THE SEATBELT, PEOPLE.) I'm crying and screaming for help and there is glass everywhere.

I see someone standing by my car on the passenger side with their back to me. I can't move or feel my body but I manage to lean forward enough to lay on the horn in hopes of getting their attention. Why aren't they turning around? I have finally figured out how to form the word "help" and I'm saying it as loud as I can but the person isn't moving.

Then after what seemed like hours (in reality, they said the guy behind me pulled over immediately so it was literally two minutes, if that, but I obviously had no concept of time) there were people on my side of the car. The guy who called 911 and my parents (his name is Brandon and my family and I will always be thankful for him) and EMTs and policemen and people saying a lot of things that I can't figure out.

I look back at the person standing by the passenger side of the car whose back is still to me. They start walking down the highway. They are wearing jeans and a gray hoodie. They are tall and have blonde hair.

I can't find the words but I know who it is. They have to stop him. I want to see him. I try to move my head to look at the policemen but I can't, so I try to make out a few words.

"Dane," I try to mumble to them. "Stop. Dane."

The policemen and EMTs are trying to pry my door open so they can pull me out of the car. I look back up at the road and the person isn't there anymore.

And then everything goes black and I wake up from my dream, which I'm assuming is about the time in reality that my body shut down for the second time and knocked me unconscious until I came to again in the hospital.

I know I don't remember anything. I know I smashed a window with my head and then was unconscious. I know there are stories of people being extremely delusional in situations like this.

But I know he was there. My beautiful guardian angel. He stayed by my car and didn't leave until help arrived. He was wearing jeans and a gray hoodie-- the same thing he was wearing when I saw him before he passed away.

Even though I wasn't fully conscious or in a good state of mind, I know it was him. Because that's the kind of sweet, caring friend he was to me when he was here. Every time I wake up from that dream, my muscles and nerves hurt. It's the same kind of pain that happens when I look at a stoplight or see a truck speed by. My muscles and nerves remember the accident even though I don't.

But I'm also in a weird, peaceful state when I wake up from the dream. It's one of those things you can't explain but you just know because you can feel it. Dane was there with me. And sometimes I think I have that dream so much because it's his way of reminding me that he was and is always here with me.

I don't know if you believe in ghosts or spirits or whatever, but I do. I believe the people we love are always watching over us, and I have a lot of other weird stories to back that up. And those stories happened when I didn't have a brain injury. ;)

I told Dane's mom this story months ago and had considered blogging about it before now. I couldn't decide how far-fetched it would sound, but I thought today was a good day to share it because it's Dane's birthday.

Sweet Dano, you are the best guardian angel anyone could ever have. I am selfish when I think about how much I'd rather have you here with us instead of up there watching over us. Thank you for staying with me and protecting me until help arrived.

Happiest of birthdays to my sweet friend and beautiful guardian angel. You are so loved and missed! Your hug is on the way, and it's one of those running start, squeezing you until you can't breathe kind of hugs. :)

When I start to get frustrated during rehab, my therapists and doctors always remind me how big of a miracle I am. "You can do this, Alexa," they say. "You can do this, because by some miracle, you survived your wreck. I don't know how you did it. You must have someone special watching over you."

I sure do. And he is more special than you could ever possibly imagine.