It’s true. Mr. POTL, otherwise known as Dave, got amnesia this past week.
The kids and I were so proud of him as he headed off last Saturday to do the Best Buddies Challenge, a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser from Boston to Hyannis. He had trained for months in the rain and the cold, getting up super early and riding before work or first thing on a weekend morning. He had raised almost $2,000 for people with disabilities.
We were also proud of him because it was his birthday and he chose to spend it doing something for others.
That day was the first hot day of this year. It was 95+ degrees with incredible humidity. I thought of him throughout the day as I sweated just walking to and from my car. I worried about him riding in the heat, but he’s Captain Hydration and is the one who’s constantly reminding our family to drink water. I knew he’d be on top of things.
I got a few texts from him during the race, saying that things were good. A picture of him smiling.
I got another text saying he had finished.
And then a couple of hours later, I got a text saying he was dehydrated and getting fluids. I couldn’t reach him. I tried not to worry, assuming it was poor reception.
Then I got a text from his friend, Adam, saying that Dave wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as expected but they were giving him more fluids. A number of his friends and co-workers were also in the hospital receiving care. Adam was one of the few healthy ones and he became my liaison.
Cape Cod Hospital discharged him later that night, declaring him stable.
A night of texts and phone calls. Everything seemed fine. Dave had to stay at a friend’s house at the Cape with his other dehydrated friends because they had missed the bus back to Boston.
JJ’s sixth birthday party was at 11:00 the next morning at our house. Dave was desperately trying to get home in time even though his car was in Boston, his keys were with the Best Buddies organization, and he was at the Cape.
Lots of logistical gymnastics occurred here.
Dave’s friends would drive him to his car, and he’d end up with a key (long story) and drive from there.
But, as I boy-proofed the yard for the party, removing anything that could be used as a weapon or a catapult, Adam called.
“I don’t want to alarm you, Amy. Dave’s ok, but he’s definitely acting strange. He seemed out of it for a while. We couldn’t really get his attention. He’s better now, but I thought you should know.”
So, as I stood on our front porch trying to remain calm for the kids who were now listening in, I called our neighbor. Without hesitation, she said her husband would go pick up Dave. I called Dave to tell him that he seemed confused and that we thought he shouldn’t drive. He said, “I agree. Good idea.” I told him our friend was coming to pick him up.
An hour later, just as the party was about to start, our friend pulled into the driveway with Dave. Dave waved him off and got out of the car.
As I hugged him, Dave asked, “Why’d he pick me up?”
My stomach fell.
“Remember? We talked about this. You said it was a good idea because you were confused.”
“No. Confused about what?”
“Probably confused from being dehydrated.”
“Why would I be dehydrated?”
“From the race?” (getting more panicked)
And that’s when I knew how bad things were.
I helped Dave into the house and had him lie down. I called my dad, who is the first person you’d want with you in an emergency. Calm and cool.
I told him I needed him to take Dave to the hospital because Dave had no memory and JJ’s party was starting. I didn’t want to call an ambulance because I didn’t want to scare the kids.
My dad got to our house, just as guests started arriving. Kids ran, screamed, and jumped on the trampoline. I didn’t know many of the parents and here they were, standing in my house, as I tried to herd my confused husband out the door to the hospital.
It took my dad and I almost an hour to get Dave out the door because he was so confused. All he wanted to do was lie down.
Two hours later, I had made it through the party, without ever really knowing what I was doing or saying. My neighbors came and took over. They threw balls; they played games. I don’t know what else they did, but I know they saved us.
After the cake, I left my neighbors to finish the party (and clean and take care of the kids) and met my dad and Dave at the hospital. As a physical therapist, a majority of my work was with neurological patients. I knew way too much about all of the things that could cause memory loss.
When I saw Dave, his eyes lit up. He told me later that he always knew who I was but that each time he saw me, it was like we were falling in love all over again. I could feel that connection, and it kept me going.
My breathing stopped when Dave said, “Your dad told me I did this race. What race? Your dad told me I coach soccer. Whose soccer? When?”
So now the memory loss had spread to long-term events, not just the day of the race. He had coached JJ’s soccer team for weeks and had no idea.
As the doctor worked on ruling out brain tumors, strokes, and seizures, I prayed.
“Please, please, please. Please do not let him die.”
And then, I added more. “Please, please, please, God, please do not let him have a tumor. At least not a malignant tumor. At least not something we can’t survive. Give us anything, as long as we can survive it.” And then I wondered if you could pray too much. Was I getting greedy, asking for too many specifics? I hoped not. I hoped that God would take into account my desperation.
I’m going to stop here and write more later, but I’ll give you the ending so you don’t worry:
The doctors ruled out all of the “bad stuff:” tumors, strokes, brain diseases, seizure disorders.
They think he had low blood perfusion to the brain for a long time because of the race, which had caused low blood pressure, dehydration, and low sodium.
It’s been just over a week, and Dave has gotten back more memories every day. The doctors expect him to make a full recovery with his memories, although maybe not the day of the race.
I’m so proud of him for doing the race and for getting through the horror of this week.
I hope we can start looking forward and make some new memories that we’ll never forget.
There is so much I want to write about: the overwhelming kindness and support, the way people have lifted and carried us through this,medical care (the good, the bad, and the dicks), how this has affected our relationship, the kids, even the dog…see why I couldn’t keep writing? I’ll write more soon.
Thank you for reading.