Sure as Autumn Flame


5 weeks to words

ImageA hot air balloon emerging from the mist,
Perhaps this is what reality looks like under all that morphine.

For months I’ve buried the stirrings of an emotional connect beneath the daily grind,
Only for a fatal incident to open my eyes to the love from friends and others close to my heart  I nearly left behind,
Through morphine and painkillers those memories are fleeting, but real,
As they etched themselves into my heart to remember, to heal.

My friends, you came and chatted, how I hung on to those conversations,
They remind me of our shared laughter and enjoyable moments,
How we’ve grown and paved our path to future destinations;
These I’ve neglected, all in the name of blinded pursuits for success and accomplishments,
And to close a chapter on love and all other emotions.

The days at home can be long and empty,
Filled with images and thoughts but alas they are so damn flighty;
You came by and spent the hours with me when I’m stuck at home and my brain so laggy,
Not my best state, with the world through my eyes turning topsy-turvy.

Touched – I was, a quiet peace that accompanied your presence,
You saw my before and aftermath, never again;
Eight lives I’ve gambled, granted with one – to love, to cherish, to put a smile on others’ faces,
To tell the stories the world ought to hear, and know somewhere, somehow I’ve made a tiny difference.

Stay if you plan to stay, don’t come and go,
The body’s battered, there leaves only the soul.
The former I can play, the latter I keep within,
Bit by bit revealed, through encounters thick and thin.

The recovery path might have seemed easy and nice;
Masked through optimism, character and moments I fantasize;
There have been minutes of frustration, worry and agony,
The fear of losing myself – intelligence, pace and musicality,
The tremble in my veins, not seeing my past wordsmith and ideas surface…

The mind could draw a blank just like that,
I find myself searching my memory banks as though I’ve misplaced the catalogue for them,
Like a confused librarian who has nothing on her hand,
I leave my search to prayers and hope,
While I re-teach myself to think the way I did again.



Through one ear.
June 7, 2013, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Life's fragile recollections | Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 22 post-operation.

Imagine waking up to the world and not hearing anything in your right ear. Imagine a side of your head being constantly submerged in water, and all that channels through is a constant high-frequency buzz. It probably sounds fine, one would think, since the other ear remains alert. You would think that I can still hear and I will probably get used to it.

Now imagine having grown up with music, as both ears are trained to listen to the widest range of notes, tonality, harmonies and more.

I entered a world of silence for 21 days. Convinced that my right ear has lost 90% of its hearing, I stopped listening to music, or opted to listen to a selected few with only my left ear. I turn my good ear to others who speak to me, and find myself lost in a drone when I walk out.

Doctor’s visit.

I felt my heart sank at the slightly possibility of not regaining hearing in the right ear forever. All that crashed through my mind were music scores – unplayed – and the piano, its lid closed with a final bang.

Tests showed good news.

Tasked now with daily need to recalibrate the ears to hear sounds from both sides (not just the left), little known nuances about the human body’s abilities to recover from injuries continue to amaze me. I began hearing notes in my head, through the vibrations and nerve endings in my ear. Not the audio, but that distinct separation that the notes are ringing in my head – even on both sides.

So it has begun. Endless music from classical to indie, throw in some radio news in between. Each day the music gets clearer in my head. The great thing about being half deaf is that your voice rings within your head clearer, without the external noises and sounds cutting in. Matching harmonies to acapella renditions became easier – so this is what is it like to hear music in my head.



Recovering from brain injury – a new type of strange
May 31, 2013, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Life's fragile recollections

With 25 staples removed and 2 stitches remaining in the head, I am definitely on the route of recovery. My body has shown an amazing way of patching up after a major surgery, and I am thankful for that.

Doctors have specifically told me not to think about work, don’t stress the brain, and basically not to add pressure to the brain. The disturbing experience of my brain going into overdrive made me wonder if I would be the same person one month later, or will I have changed?

Someone asked me, “You think you would be quitting your job due to its long hours, if you can’t handle it?” That got me thinking instead, What if I can’t measure up to my previous standards anymore? What if I lose the ability to multitask and go through work at the speed and efficiency like I used to? In fact, what if I’m no longer as sharp as before, considering words do not come to mind anymore? Many “What if’s…” hover along the topic of whether my brain will be at a suitable IQ level in future.

While it is common that brain trauma often causes the brain to ‘shut down’ for a while, it became an idle mind for me that I never once thought I had to sit through. The brain goes into a blank whenever I mull too much over a thought, requiring the need for me to sit around with the diary to immediately pen random thoughts down lest I forget them. Writing wasn’t and still isn’t easy – the lack of better words, the need to re-read previous posts to ensure I wasn’t repeating myself, the lost in my sentence flow and more – while reading seems to be the only thing that calms me and eases my brain from an overdrive.

“Overdrive” became a new concept. Thinking too much becomes a problem, because my memory space doesn’t seem to able to entertain more, nor too much details. I can’t seem to think more about a certain topic I read – these have to be stored for future references instead. When someone asks me too many questions, I can’t handle it and literally have to ask them to slow down.

The brain bubbles with many thoughts. I’m glad that I finally have the time to sit and think, something I never allowed for due to the insane schedule I put myself through. But to channel these thoughts into plans, solutions, ideas and more seems impossible (for now).

It might be a case of having to find new ways to reconnect my ideas, and probably revised ways of remembering things. Memory lapses and the need to sit down and think through what I have done and not scares me, but all I can do is to hope and pray that it gets better over time.



Post-Surgery: Recalling the accident

For the record, I have no memories of falling off my bicycle. This is similar to a car accident I was in nine years ago, when the left side of my head went into trauma because it was at the point of collision between two cars. One car accident, a trained guard-dog that lunged at me and left a cut in my left eye-lid, a knee operation to repair a torn ligament from a wakeboarding injury, and a brain surgery later – I’ve pretty much chalked up one too many trips to Accident & Emergency units the past 9 years.

I digressed. I flew off the bicycle I was travelling downslope on 12 days ago, after letting the other cyclists fly past me and attempting to slow down. The only thing I remembered – skirting a pothole and wobbling on the bike. I woke up hours later gagging on a breathing pipe stuck down my throat in hospital.

So this was what the rest told me after: I had a gash on the top of my head, some surface wounds on my knees, knuckles, hips and shoulders because I broke my fall with a roll (hence no broken limbs). I was very awake and even checked myself into hospital after the ambulance sent me to Changi General, right down to remembering my phone’s password when others needed to contact my mother.

I even said, “Please don’t tell my mum.” Who would have listened to me then, really?

My boss arrived at the hospital too, thank heavens. An immediate CT scan showed that I had a blood clot in my brain, which didn’t require immediate surgery because it might go away by itself. Alarm bells rang when I was asked what month it was, and I said “February” and I seemed to be falling asleep on the spot. Doctors decided to go ahead with surgery that night.

Image

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So, they cut a C out of my skull to drain the blood clot, and supposedly stitched up my head wound. One of the bones in my ear is also dislodged slightly, due to an impact-related minor fracture between my ear bone and the base of my skull. 12 days later I learned that the wound wasn’t stitched up properly by a junior doctor who happened to be on duty that fateful night, so I sat through a re-stitching by another senior (and cuter) doctor.

It has been almost 2 weeks of strange sensations. This morning, the re-stitch was done with local anesthetic, which allowed me to feel the needle and thread going through and the skin of my head being pulled closer together…with no pain. The feeling of having 25 staples pulled of my skull could not be described otherwise because you literally feel the staples leaving your head. Weirdest feelings, ever.

Waking up after an operation to great girlfriends, a concerned boss and his girlfriend, and my panicked mum was great. Although it was a terrible blur now, for my memory is not exactly at its best right now.

Headaches have been part of everyday life. More interestingly, I am medically certified to disengage from stress, annoyances, grief, drama or anything that causes tension build-up in the brain. They get better day by day, except for throbbing sensations, or when the volume of my mum’s voice goes up a notch.

I can’t handle bright lights, loud noises, too many questions, nor turn around too fast. All these become too much for my senses to absorb, and the brain goes into an overdrive.

The right ear’s deaf from its internal fracture and blood clot, but it would heal over time. Once again, balancing on one leg becomes an issue, and I constantly hear a shrill in my right ear – the kind you hear when you are in a room too quiet.

Stretching becomes painful, because muscles tense up in accidents. I must have had taken half the impact on my butt and left shoulder, because the left shoulder and hamstring protest with each movement I make. It brings to memories the nine months my physio and trainers nursed me back from crutches to running and jumping post knee-surgery; it reminds me how amazing the body is, and the strength it moulds in your character.



To be Alive, not Dead.
May 25, 2013, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Life's fragile recollections, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

To begin a new post with such a dramatic headline, I suppose it is uncalled for, but I am incredibly blessed to be sitting at home without any broken limbs now despite surviving a cycling accident. Many cyclists I know have suffered fractures, near-deaths, unfortunate deaths, terrible injuries from being on the road. I too, have joined the community whose members have been burned by the road – most of the time due to an unexpected turn of events that we can’t really say we could have prevented.

So, a downslope journey and an attempt at slowing down caused me to fly over the bicycle, land on my head and break my fall by rolling. I remember none of these, for they were told to me by those who were with me that night. A blood clot formed between my brain and my skull, hence the surgeon at Changi General Hospital that midnight called for a neurosurgery – one to cut open my skull and drain the blood clot – a successful operation that left my head half-shaven, stitched and staples closing a C-shaped scar.

One night in the Intensive Care Unit, another in High Dependency Care, and six nights in a hospital ward to monitor the effects of a post brain-surgery, muscle trauma and zero broken limbs. I thanked God how incredibly lucky I am to be alive, recovering well (save for the damn headaches), and dealing only with two open wounds, a temporary-deaf right ear and a healing head injury.

There were moments that got me frustrated for a second. Having no hair, a deaf ear, and not being able to deal with an overload of questions and problems were some of them.

But walking into my ward and life were the best friends and companions who reminded me that my life I hold so dearly was greatly based on the relationships I have with them. Colleagues, clients, friends from the cycling + outdoor + wakeboard + gym community, primary and secondary schools, some I knew through work but turned great friends came by. Truth be told I never expected so much care and concern from them, but they reminded me how fragile life is, and how much they matter to me.

Traumatic an incident it was, it also created a closer bond between my mum and I. It was a time she fully showed her love for me, and came to accept how much of an adrenaline junkie her only daughter is. It was a good break, for I’ve spent too little time with my mum when I placed work and past-relationships above her.

So here’s a month (or more) of a much-needed break. A time when my head actually tells me, “No, I can’t deal with this. You stop it.”

And every minute’s worth of thanking God, I am still alive. 🙂