God, a Stranger, and Tears (Part 1)

         – God, a Stranger, and Tears (Part 1) –

unnamed

Fast forward twelve years from the snowy day in December when I had that life-changing seizure. (1*) Yes, I can share much of what went on during those years, but I can’t. I mean, I can, but before I do, I’d rather show how, about twelve years later, God used a total stranger to help me.

But first I need you to do something. Imagine you went through a huge life-changing ordeal that came out of the blue, hit you hard, and altered your normal way of thinking. Now, imagine what it would be like if, for years, no one could fully understand how hard it was for you in remembering names of very common things, places, and people. What if, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year, you often had to think twice as much before you said things that, for most others, were easy to remember and say? And what if that illness was rare enough that finding others with that ailment was impossible? Well, readers, that was me. 

loneliness

 

I felt alone.

 

 

 

For years I had not talked to one person who had the same illness, who could fully understand what I was going through. A few years after my illness hit I did meet one man who sort of had a memory problem from an accident, but still, not the same.

“I have a taste of what it’s like forgetting names,” people often said (and still say).

No, you really don’t, soon became the first thought that followed (and still does).

As years went by I got used to it, thankfully, as God used family and friends to show me love, support and patience when I couldn’t just pop so-and-so’s name out or say what the movie was called I had seen the night before, along with using simple words in explaining things.  However, it still was hard not knowing even one like-minded (literally) individual who could truly understand what it was like.

God knew it was finally time to do something on one particular day. An unforgettable phone call came from a dear friend.

images

“Marianne, I told a friend yesterday about you having had Encephalitis twelve years ago. She wants to talk to you because her teenage daughter had it.”

My eyes got bigger. “Really?”

“Yes. She was wondering if she could call you. Can I give her your number?”

“REALLY? Oh, my word! You sure can!”

Later that afternoon. Ring, ri… (yes, I was patiently waiting with my phone close at hand and grabbed it as soon at I heard any ring.)

“Hello.”

“Hi. I was wondering if I can talk to Marianne Petersen.”

To be continued.

1* – Click here to read about that life changing seizure.

I Live Here? (Part 2)

            – I live here?  (Part 2) –

images

 

As Chris began opening that door, I asked again, but this time just to myself, “I live here?”

 

 

 

That was the last sentence of my last post about the first time visiting my home while staying in the hospital. That illness called encephalitis affected my memory big time, keeping me from remembering anything about that sweet little apartment my husband, myself, and our two young daughters called home. (1*)

As I felt uncertainty about all that was around me, my husband opened the door. There I was, standing in my home that, to me, felt like the first time. Pretend it was your first time visiting your friend’s new place. You go in, begin looking around, curious at what you see. Even though I had lived there a few years, that is exactly how I felt.

Once inside, one of the first things I noticed was my mom, who was standing in the living room with my two daughters. She held our six-month-old, Trina, as our three-year-old, Cassie, was standing there glued to her Grandma’s leg. I did recognize the girls, since they had visited me a few times in the hospital, but not instantly. After all, that was my first time seeing them outside the home I was used to: the hospital. Sad to say, but having a Mommy-type feeling toward them was still hard to find.

“This is where all four of us live,” Chris said, as he and my mom sensed a cloud of questions floating over my head while looking around.  They knew not to overflow me with information about the things I was looking at. Slowly I began asking questions about those things that stood out.

 

KS-Question-Marks

 

“Who gave this to me?” “How long have we had this?” “Do we use this a lot?” “This is a paper towel, right?”

 

 

I’m sure I more than once asked, ‘What is this?’ After all, things like a microwave, rocking chair, or changing table, were things I didn’t recall seeing before.   

“It’s time we now go downstairs,” my husband said, finally sensing I was enjoying looking around.

“Oh, cool! More neat stuff to look at,” and down we all went.

“You mean all these clothes are just mine? This shower is a lot bigger than that one at the hospital. I know what those are,” I said with a grin. “Toothbrushes! Is this one mine? It’s  yellow, right?”

And now the one thing I can perfectly picture me saying. “So this is where I sleep?” feeling all around while sitting on it. “This bed is huge!”

Remember, I was only familiar with twin-sized beds from both hospitals.

I stayed on my bed most of the time in the hospitals, so of course seeing that bigger bed stood out.

The things I saw that, to this day, stand out the most:

“What are those little boxes? They sort of look funny?” I asked while looking under my bed.

hidden gift

Looking under my bed? Yep. By this point I was having fun looking above and below, inside and out of almost everything. 

“I don’t know,” Chris answered. “but they do have a certain look that gives me a clue what they are. Let’s pull them out.”

Chris and my mom must have giggled inside, knowing that was the best time for them to explain what wrapped Christmas gifts were all about.  My face must have had the same look of excitement as a little kid who is about to unwrap Christmas presents.

“I wanna see what I got for people,” I said, grinning from ear to ear.

Of course I forget what they were, but I do know I’ll never forget sitting on my huge bed, my three-year-old-daughter, Cassie, who was now a bit more comfortable standing closer to me, hoping she would get to see a gift that was meant for her. 

Christmastime, ever since, is very special to me when watching little kids open up gifts. And I believe it’s because I got to experience opening up Christmas presents as a twenty-three-year-old little kid.

1* – Click here to read I Live Here? (Part 1)

 

Marianne Petersen is a member of Northwest Christian Writers Association and author of a forthcoming memoir about her experience with encephalitisYou can follow Marianne on Twitter at @marimemoirs and read more at her blog, MariMemiors.com.

I Live Here? (Part 1)

                  –  I Live Here?  (Part 1) –

sp_1

What do you think it would be like for a twenty-three-year old to forget what Christmas is all about? Go back a few years, and that’s exactly what happened to me the Christmas of 1990.

A severe brain injury called encephalitis hit me hard December 20 that year, causing me to forget a majority of everything. (1*)  Working on getting my brain to move toward normality was taking place in the second hospital about three weeks after that brain injury hit. Thankfully, while in that hospital, a special afternoon outing took place about four weeks after Christmas. I got to visit my home for, what felt like to me, the first time.

Now I don’t recall who was with me besides my husband, who, of course, did the driving. No way could I drive, being I still had to get used to understanding how cars even worked.

My family of four lived in a six-plex apartment with two levels: the main level had the kitchen and living room, while the bottom level had two bedrooms and one bathroom. I can describe it now, but when getting out of the car that day, I hadn’t the faintest idea what to expect.

“Well, here it is,” Chris said as we pulled up right in front of our door. “Here’s the place we’ve been living for about two-and-a-half years.”

“This is where I live?” I quietly asked myself as the car came to a stop.

What do you think I did? Jump out all happy, smiling ear to ear while skipping to the door? Far from it. Instead, I slowly stepped out.

“This . . . is our place?” I calmly asked while insecurely folding my arms as I began walking toward our apartment I didn’t recall ever seeing. I stared up and down that front door and its surroundings. “I live here?”

fix-door-x

 

As Chris began to open the door, I asked again, but this time just whispering to myself,  “I live here?”

 

 

 

 

– To be continued.

 

1*  – Click here and read what took place just a few weeks before. 

How Sadness Showed Me God’s Presence

             – How Sadness Showed Me God’s Presence –

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 11.59.39 AM

Are you one who makes your own abbreviations for words you find difficult to spell or those that are really long? For instance, ‘E’ is the letter I type instead of encephalitis, the word used most often to describe the illness I had years ago. (*1)

That illness caused me to forget what the names of many people, places, and things were called. (I jokingly call it my noun illness. After all, I have to find some humor in it.) It also affected my spelling, making it harder for me to glue in certain words: ‘E’ being one of them. Excuse me, I mean encephalitis.

Since there were many other things I was working on recalling—who my family and friends were, what certain items I was being shown were used for—food was far from the top of my list of what to work on to remember.  But, I still had to eat.

From that one day in the first hospital when I ‘woke up,’ (*2) they slowly but surely got me back to eating. However, sitting up on my bed was, to me, the only place to eat, having known of no other place . . . yet. Finally, one unforgettable day took place in the second hospital. I had my first experience eating in a room with other patients. No biggie for most twenty-three-year olds to eat with other people around, but for me, it was a day I’ll never forget.

“Now, Marianne, many patients eat together in this room,” my nurse told me as we walked down the hall to the dining room. “Everyone here is like you: all healthy enough and physically able to eat in this room together, but having a tough time remembering things. A few of you will sit at different tables, while a few people who work here will bring you your food.”

fotolia_106265296As I slowly looked around at all those tables, the nurse showed me where to sit. I’m glad she did, because there was no way was I able to think where to sit when I didn’t really love the idea of sitting next to strangers. Even people I’d known for years still seemed a little like strangers to me, but I knew these people I’d eat with really were strangers.

Once sitting, I was just like all the others: silent. While looking around, I noticed that the majority of those around me looked down-and-out. Sure, illness was to blame, but it still seemed far too negative to me. I had a brain-damaging illness, also, but I just didn’t get why I felt a bit more peace-filled than most of the others seemed to be.

After we got our food I’ll never forget what I asked that lady who put my plate down.

“What is this I’m eating?” as I looked at this brown, ball shaped something about the side of my fist.

“Tonights dinner comes with a baked potato. Here’s some butter if you’d like some.” No way in the world will I forget staring at that baked potato. Now remember, my sense of taste was gone thus why I just stared at it for a minute or two. After we all started eating, we slowly started talking to other patients or to those who were serving us. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the ones who had this negative glow around them.

They shouldn’t seem so upset about so much. It just makes being here harder. I feel sorry for them. They should be happier.

Seeing all that hit me hard, for some reason.

I asked my nurses as we walked back to my room afterwards one important question. “Why are they like that?”

tumblr_lm48isi6dv1qzbyb8

“Their brains have similar problems as yours and most patients can’t help but react that way. Many get mad at almost anything because they are sick and tired of working hard at remembering. There are really only a few like you who do not get angry while here working on memory.”

After that unforgettable baked potato meal, I ate in that room many times, eventually getting a bit more comfortable sitting with those few who were willing to be more positive. That first meal, however, is the one that stood out.

Why is this on my ‘Must Share’ list? Because is was at that time, I realized God was with me in that hospital. Even though I couldn’t understand it all at that moment, as days went by I realized it was because God, my Father, was holding me, the Holy Spirit was inside me, and Christ was sitting right there next to me . . . and those potatoes. Those three are the ones I give credit to for keeping that little extra peace inside of me, which I felt and needed.

Thank you, Lord, for living in your children, even when we aren’t clear what it is we are going through.

Romans 8:26 – Likewise, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. for we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  (NKJV)

Romans 8:27  –And He that searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (NKJV)

1* Click to read how my encephalitis began.

2* Click here to read about that day I ‘woke up’.

Unforgettable Forgettable Pictures

 

   – Unforgettable Forgettable Pictures –

There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.

—Marie Antoinette

Sermon-remember

Memories. Memories can be tough sometimes. Sure, everyone has things here and there they don’t remember. But for me, I only had things here and there I DID remember when I walked into that new hospital to help me recuperate after being hit with encephalitis. (*1)

My stay at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Washington, was much different than the first one I had stayed in close to a full three weeks before. Since I was now physically fine – or for the most part anyway – the goal now was, before going home, to work of my ability to remember. Different types of therapists had well-structured class times in different rooms, covering different subjects, day after day. Much of my time was still spent in my room resting, because the more I had to work so hard to think caused me to get worn out. Believe me, I really appreciated my room.

Here’s a sample of what one of my many classes was like.

“Marianne, for starters, I’m going to hold up little pictures of things that are very common to most people,” my speech therapist said while holding up a photo taken from newspaper ads. “Let’s see if you can tell me what it’s called.” 

Looks easy, right? Wrong.

Of course, I don’t remember that exact first picture I was shown, but I’ll never forget how I felt: dumb.

Here’s one of my common responses. 

“I think I know what it is, but I’m not sure. What’s it called?”

The first time seeing each card was almost impossible. Usually, though, after being told what it was called, along with what it was for, it would finally click! I remembered the name . . . for a few seconds, anyway. I’d say it a few times over and over. Next, a new card. Once again, she told me the name and explained what it’s for. Then, oh, darn it, that first one again. Great. Back to square one.

“Don’t worry, Marianne,” she said, “This is very normal. Trust me, it will get better.”

Slowly but surely, as minutes went by, I remembered the names of the items. Then she added a third picture. Then a fourth. Not too hard anymore to swiftly see one, say its name, do the next, and then the next. 

I felt so much better at the end of that first class.

Don’t get your hopes up like I did, because the next day I came close to starting from scratch. I remember how sad I felt after seeing that first picture. But thankfully, that day I got them all down a lot faster, even adding more. It put the day before to shame, making me one happy camper.

“Soon you’ll have no problem remembering what it’s called the first time you see it!”

YIPPIE!

IMG_0657IMG_0666IMG_0669

IMG_0670

These are actually a few of those original pictures I was given to take home. They probably assumed that years later I’d like to reminisce on how sweet and simple my thinking was. Why the names of each with the photo? Days later, once it had become easy for me to say the name of each, then the hard part – writing down what they were called. Not fun.

But my speech therapist  wasn’t done, and continued. “I do need to warn you that often, you’ll know what something is called but as soon as you try to say some words out loud in your sentence, that word may suddenly seem to disappear,” She told me that is an effect because of what happened to my brain. Thankfully, she then taught me how to describe things in such a way that would hide my new problem.

As an example, she showed me a picture of a dog. Now, in 2018, I can say dog without any thought, but back then, dream on. (Just don’t ask me now what KIND of dog.)

“So instead of telling your friend ‘I love your new… oh, sorry, I can’t remember what that type of animal is called,’ say something like ‘I love your adorable new family member.’ Does that make sense?”

“You mean, I can still sound like I know what I’m talking about even though I don’t know the right word?”

I never forgot how relieved I felt. There was hope. That was the best advice I think I got the entire two weeks I was there. Seriously, at least once a day, all these years later, I still hide the fact I can’t pop that word out I had just thought. I am proud to say, I have mastered that skill. 😉
IMG_0660

 

I saved this one picture for last being I still have to think about this here batch of cool threads often used for knitting.

 

I could go on and give many more examples how it is for me now, twenty-eight years later. Thankfully it’s not so much what something generically is called, like ‘store’ or ‘cereal’ or ‘Movie’. Just don’t ask me the specific name of a store unless it’s one I go to the most. Don’t ask me to give the exact name of my cereal I usually buy. I can’t tell you for the life of me the name of the movie I saw a few weeks ago, either. All I know is those pictures I still have will forever hold a spot in that box in my basement . . . and a place in my heart.

 

1* Click here to read how all this started 

Encephalitis – Time to Make Some Sense

– Encephalitis – Time to Make Some Sense –

Before continuing my story on the brain-affected illness called encephalitis that hit me hard in my early twenties, some brainpuzzleillo-workedtwenty-eight years ago, I want to give a brief overview of what I have covered in my posts thus far.

I had an unexpected seizure on December 20, 1990, causing me to spend over two weeks in the hospital. It took the doctors a few days to realize I had been hit with encephalitis, an illness that affects the brain and, often, other parts of the body.

After being there eight days, I showed the first sign that there was hope, hope that my brain was on the long road of improving, hoping to get as close to normal as possible. However, it wasn’t going to be easy.

After two weeks, I was physically almost back to normal and ready to finally leave that hospital. But because I still needed much work to improve the function of my brain, I was not able to go home. Uncertain what most things around me were used for, let alone what they were called, it was obvious I could not yet go back home and be a wife and mother of two small children. After all, how could I if I wasn’t even sure what being a wife or mother even meant. That second hospital, to focus on my brain’s ability to remember the many necessities in life, was a must.

But, before I get into explaining what took place after getting to that second hospital, I first will share a bit more about my illness. With encephalitic, it depends where in the brain this illness hits to what effects will show, and to what extent. Thankfully, because of where it hit, it didn’t affect me as hard as it could have if it had taken place elsewhere. Because of where it did hit my brain, two of my senses were noticeably lost: my sense of taste and my sense of smell.

So there I was, not only forgetting what food was called, where and how in the world food even came to be, but not being able to smell it either. Even if food—or anything, for that matter—was brought right up to my nose, giving it one strong sniff, I smelled nothing. Add all that to losing the best part about eating—tasting—you then can understand why I lost some weight, being eating didn’t make it to the top of my list of things I wanted to do.

In my last post, I talked about me getting excited about McD’s french fries and ketchup.2975f38df60b37e9d172ba700c2da448

Read it if you haven’t (*1), because as you read, you’ll notice I loved them because I remembered them!  I did not say I loved them because of the taste. How could I if I was unable to taste them.  I loved them because I remembered those long things with red stuff on them.


Losing my sense of smell also made no sense to me (no pun intended.)

amazing-facts-about-your-sense-of-smell-722x406Food, no. Soap, no. Perfume, no. Flowers a few people brought me, no. My then seven-month-old daughter’s dirty diaper, no. But it wasn’t really that bad. I mean, why would I miss the smelling of things if I wasn’t able to remember what I missed or what they had smelt like before. Make sense? (Pun intended.)

  But, overall, that part of life in that hospital wasn’t all that bad. I was still like a little kid, trusting all those doctors who told me what to do. But I was also an adult who was doing my darndest to show improvement, knowing there was a normal-thinking twenty-three year old wife and mother named Marianne, soon to be found.

To be continued.

1* Click and find out what was so great about Mc D’s.

God’s Puzzle Began Making Sense

       – God’s Puzzle Began Making Sense –

puzzle
God’s plans and timing are perfect, as my first blog about my encephalitis shows.

What started as one crazy puzzle seemed to have many pieces thrown all around. Thankfully, however, a few important pieces were obviously put together by God that first day. He knew when and where it was best to place me when I had my seizure, and who was best to have right there with me. –

That day I left the hospital, eighteen days later, was also perfectly planned.  

If you are assuming that God’s plan for me was to be going home that day, with a quick stop at McDonald’s on the way, you are wrong. That stop was on my way to another hospital.

The first hospital I went to was the closest for the ambulance to take me to on that snow-filled day in December. It was there that it was discovered I was, for the most part, physically fine. Much worry still, for they realized that my brain was far from being fine and needed more care.  1* 

They knew a hospital that specialized in brain damage was a must. The car ride that day—shared in my last blog—was to my next new home, the next hospital where I had to spend a few more weeks. -2* 

This part of the story shows, again, how God went the extra mile in planning, with love, this entire ordeal He knew I needed. That second hospital, a forty-five-minute drive from the first hospital, wasn’t even two miles away from Chris’s parents’ home. But that’s not it. They both WORKED at that hospital! Yes, you read it right. Both his parents worked there. Their hours were very flexible, and both were able to help immensely. I can’t write enough how thankful I am for that simple fact. Dorothy, Chris’s mother, was able to adjust her hours to help watch one or both of our two girls from the start. Their home was the perfect spot for Chris and the girls to spend many nights while I was in that hospital – literally – just down the street.

Having been sent to that second hospital showed us that God was putting a few more puzzle pieces together.  It sure felt like it was one huge puzzle, but we were comforted knowing God was the one who made it. 

As I started my next chapter of recovery, God kept His fatherly love right there. Even though the ‘why, God?’ question was still floating around, knowing my brain wasn’t affected nearly as much as it could have been sure helped. And, knowing that God was there helped the most. brainpuzzleillo-worked

We all just hoped He would put that puzzle—me—back together very soon, and that no pieces would be missing.

 

 

 

 

 

1*  – Click here to read a bit what it was like for me in that first hospital

2*  – Click here to go to my last blog