The Wheat Penny
First of all, let me preface this entire post with the fact that I don’t remember 95% of it.
I got a concussion and amnesia last Saturday night when Nick accidentally hit my nose with his elbow in a perfect storm of events at his cricket club Christmas dinner. He was reaching back to put his arm around me and I leaned forward at just the right moment, and bam! Concussion. There wasn’t even a bruise or mark on my face, and at the time, all I did was say “Ow!” and my eyes watered, and everyone made some spousal abuse jokes and then we went on with our dinners. (I’m told. I don’t remember this. I should probably pepper this post with “apparently” and “so I hear” and “Nick says.”) Then a little while later, Nick noticed that I was acting strangely, asking him the same question over and over again, not remembering that we’d had our food yet, and just acting sort of spacey. I started the same conversation with our friend Jason twice, and so Nick called NHS Direct and told them what was going on and they advised him to bring me in to A&E (that’s Accident & Emergency, Americans).
We spent the entire night at the hospital, with poor Nick having to re-explain what was happening to me every 5-10 minutes when my short term memory would wipe itself again and I’d say, “Wait! What’s going on?” And he’d relay the events very calmly, and every time, I’d say in a big stage whisper, “We can’t be in the hospital! I can’t afford it!” while he reassured me that no, this was fine. Apparently a few times I threw in something different, like suggesting we just go home and forget about it and look it up later on Wikipedia, or suggesting that we "ask Bernard if we can push the beds together" (a reference to Antonia's dad's house in Cape Cod), or, after he said, “I bumped you on the nose and now you’ve lost your short term memory,” getting very frustrated and telling him I had a very good memory and I think I’d remember that happening. I also casually referenced my eighth grade science fair project on short term and long term memory at one point, which he didn’t piece together until the next day when we’d talked more, but I think I’d like a retroactive blue ribbon for that, Mrs. Hedrick.
About the time I started retaining my short term memory again was the same time the doctor came in to see me. She gave me a very long and thorough exam. The first thing she asked was my name, and then she asked, “Who’s the Prime Minister?” and I thought she was making a joke because I have the same name as his wife. I kind of laughed and said, “Gordon Brown,” and she went right on with, “Who’s the Queen?” and I was like, “Uh, Elizabeth,” which strikes me as a bit of an inefficient question for this sort of situation, since Elizabeth has been queen for roughly one hundred years and it seems very unlikely that even a very old person would be like, “Victoria. Oh wait!”
Then she said, “Do you know where you are?” and I was like, “Uh, a hospital?” and she said, “Do you know where?” and I said, “Well, London,” but I didn’t know the hospital name or remember how we got there and had to keep looking at Nick for answers like a simpleton.
This exam went on for about twenty minutes, while she asked me a million more questions and tested my reflexes and nerve endings and it ended with me having to copy some geometrical figure that she’d drawn. I had to point out I couldn’t have done any better even without a head injury. You know that part of standardized tests when they’re like, “Which of these figures is the first figure rotated 180 degrees?” The answers are always like A) figure, B) figure, C) figure, and never D) Buhhhhhhhhhhh? That’s when my brain hits a wall and starts playing ‘80s sitcom theme songs to distract me from the cold truth that I’m never going to be an astronaut.
After I did well enough on the tests to get into a state school, the doctor said she’d like to keep me overnight and check me again in the morning, and that if I hadn’t improved, our options were a CT scan or a “lumbar puncture,” which are two of the worst words ever, and as my friend Pierce pointed out, why would you say them when “spinal tap” was available?
So we stayed the night and poor Nick sat up next to me the whole time, and then the next morning the nicest man in the world came in and gave us our breakfast options in a gorgeous Nigerian serenade. Corn flakes, bran flakes, Rice Krispies? Toast? How many, three four five six? Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soup, or Horlicks? Sugar? Milk? Just a dash of milk or a lot of milk? Warm milk or cold milk? I have to say, as weird and frustrating as this whole concussion episode was, I have never received better medical attention in my life. We were in the emergency room on a Saturday night in December with a full moon, and the nurses were all sweet and kind, both doctors who examined me were patient and focused and didn’t rush, but answered all my questions, and that man who brought in the breakfast should be knighted. NHS, I am your biggest fan, and I wish my country had something even remotely similar.
Anyway, I’m okay now, and even though I still don’t remember 9 pm to 5 am (the doctor said I might get those memories back, might not), my head is no longer achey and I’m not easily irritable and tired like a toddler like I was all last week. I can also type with just a normal amount of typos again. Apparently I tried banoffi pie for the first time that night and really liked it, but have no memory of this. I keep trying to tell Nick that if we go back to the restaurant and order the pie, surely all my memories will come flooding back, but so far he’s not having it. But that’s all right; he stayed home with me all last week and had to call my parents and tell them he’d broken me, and has just generally been wonderful. He’s even let me make abuse jokes all week long.
One highlight of this whole thing was that when we came home the next day and I was looking through the pictures on my camera that I had no recollection of taking, Chris said, “I knew at dinner that something was wrong because you weren’t being funny.” Aw. That’s nice.
Anyway, I would like to apologize to the Gentleman’s Relish Amateur Cricket Club for any annoying or spacey thing I did or said at dinner, any friends far away who are hearing about this now for the first time, and I would especially like to thank Nick for looking after me and being the best ever, but baby, you didn’t have to hit me to get me to say that.