A frequent topic of conversation in the brain injury community is how one marks the day their lives abruptly changed. Some take the time to revisit the grief of a changing identity, some choose to celebrate the journey, some even consider it a rebirth of sorts. Last year, Kitti dubbed November 12th “Happy Survivor Day”, and chose to personally thank the medical professionals who saved her life. Pure joy emanated from both Kitti and those who saved her life.
This year’s Survivor Day will look quite different, as she isn’t able to visit the hospitals and doctors offices in person due to COVID restrictions.
There are two front line team members that are on her mind in particular this year, Pauline and James.
Pauline is a custodian at one of the hospitals where Kitti recovered. Every day, Pauline would enter her room to mop the floor, discard any trash, and more. Pauline was a woman of very few words; she seemed content to do her job, and to do it well. Always pleasant, but not a overly expressive person. Being on the brain injury unit, she would announce herself and state that she was there to clean the room. At this time, Kitti was not walking or talking and at most, would nod in acknowledgement.
One day – a particularly distressful day for Kitti, Pauline walked into the room and said her typical announcement. Out of nowhere, Kitti replied “whatever” in a long drawn out “whattttt evvvv errrr” with an imaginary shrug of the shoulders. Pauline looked up from wringing the mop stunned, as she had not heard Kitti speak before – she may not have even known that Kitti had any vocal output. With the biggest smile on Pauline’s face, she shot back at Kitti, “well, WHATEVER then!” and started chuckling. From that day on, every time these two would come across each other, Pauline would get right in front of Kitti and say “WHATEVER” and Kitti would sometimes be able to respond the same – but would ALWAYS break out into a huge smile.
Last year, on the Kitti’s first “Happy Survivor Day” we were walking down the hospital hallway and Kitti saw Pauline at the other end. Running up to her, Kitti gave her a special candy arrangement she had made for her and loudly (with the laugh we all know and love) yelled “WHATEVER!!!” and put her hands on her hips and gave a twirl. It was such a beautiful moment to witness. We love you, Pauline.
James is another very special person to Kitti’s recovery. James works in food service, and a big teddy bear of a man with a huge smile and personality. You may think that Kitti would automatically love anyone who brings her food, but in reality, for two months she was only able to have liquified foods as she still had a feeding tube inserted. Kitti really just sat in bed and peered around at this point, observing the many professionals that came in and out of her room every day. But every time James came in to announce himself, he’d jovially boom “Hey, Kitti Kitti, MEOWWWW”. (Writing it doesn’t do it justice the way he says it). Kitti would grin back as he set the tray down in front of her. I noticed a few months later, when she could hear the food tray in the hallway, that she would perk up a little – always waiting for the big smile and fun greeting. This consistency was always looked forward to, and is spoken about to this day. James – thank you for being you!
Most moments and days are fuzzy from the five months Kitti was in the hospital(s)...but these memories - these people - are just some of those that are forever etched in her mind.
If you would like to take part in making Kitti’s 2nd Happy Survivor Day extra special this year, please send a short video, photo of you, or note via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via text to 301.537.7984 to be included in a video compilation. We will show this to Kitti on November 12th (as a surprise if she doesn’t find out before) to help make her Happy Survivor Day extra special.