These days, it seems friends and family members of Taylor have very different ideas of Taylor’s current health. This website is partly to blame, since we don’t always do a great job of explaining the details. Here is a clear picture of Taylor’s health as it stands today.
Physically, Taylor is in pretty good shape. She has none of the typical ailments that cause problems with a prolonged hospital stay, like bed sores or pneumonia. She has a feeding tube in her stomach that is being reduced each day now that she is having no problem chewing and swallowing food. She also has a tube in her throat (tracheostomy) that is capped, which will be removed all together, any day now. She has lost some of the flexibility in her arms and legs. She has lost some weight but not an excessive amount.
Mentally Taylor has come a long way but still faces a few challenges. The areas where she is still recovering are motor skills, consciousness, memory, vision, and personality.
Motor skills are the most obvious of Taylor’s challenges. She pulses her arms and upper body continually when she is awake. It is slight but noticeable. It is these movements that cause her arms to end up in the same positions, one extended, one contracted, for long periods of time. For this reason, she wears splints that hold her arms in a neutral position much of the time.
She works very hard to control each and every motor operation. This includes any non reflex motion and includes swallowing and limb movement. It’s like she is searching for the right connection to fire to control each movement. It takes time to start a movement, and the movements are slow and prolonged. You can really hear and see this in her speech. You will ask her a question, and she will start processing the response, a beat, then the beginning of the response movement will start slowly, then she finishes the movement and repeats the process all over again for the next motion. When speaking, this happens on each word. Using this deliberate process, she has good control of her legs and can use them to move her body around. She has some control of her arms and fingers but cannot use them in any useful way at this time.
Despite having slow responses when trying to purposely move her body, Taylor’s consciousness seems to be intact and quick. You can really see this when she finds something funny, as she fires the reflex to laugh instantly without the delay found in her non-reflexive movements.
Unlike many anoxic brain injuries, Taylor can use all types of her memory. She can remember things from the past, access her short term memory, and form new long term memories. Her recent pre-injury memories are not intact. Most past events she remembers clearly, but there are some, which pre-injury Taylor would’ve remembered that she can’t recall now. There seems to be no pattern as to which memories she retained.
Although Taylor’s eyes are most likely functioning the same as they did pre-injury, she has limited ability to “see” things neurologically. She can see colors and position and in bright light, make out objects and faces.This should improve but the extent of the improvement is unknown.
Although Taylor is mostly her same old self, her personality is healing along with the rest of her brain. During Taylor’s stage of healing, brain injury patients typically have amplified emotions. In Taylor’s case, because she is naturally silly, giddy and giggly, this means we spend most of the day laughing at silly stuff. Most of what she laughs at is not something Taylor would have laughed at pre-injury (example: Dad’s jokes).
She is aware of this difference, and this awareness could be seen when she talked today with some of her friends on the phone. After spending the entire day laughing with me, Taylor became very guarded when talking with her friends on the phone. I could tell she was aware of her personality changes and was responding by being less forthcoming. (If any of her friends are wondering why Taylor hasn’t contacted them, this may be why.) This is a natural response. Rest assured, Taylor is every bit as silly and fun as she ever was.