Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rocking the creek

Returning from a photo op among some boulders along the creek that bisects the garden.

Tumblr pics: Conejo Valley Botanic Garden.

It's gotten so that stair-climbing doesn't always merit a photo on our rehab walks/hikes. Ho hum, Stephanie climbed another flight of stairs.

On our first visit to the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden in early January, 2015, I very carefully made my way over the steps inside the garden. Not long before that, it would've been impossible for me. The steep stairs going up the garden were hard enough, even though they have rails.

I couldn't have managed the stairs in the picture below it weren't for my then-new hiking sticks. Now I can take steps far more easily. Still, I wouldn't have been able to traverse the broken rocks in the pic above without them.

Keith scampered along the boulders like a kid, but I stayed below, carefully making my way along the rubley ground. The resulting photo op can be found in my Tumblr, as can a photo of the great blue heron who settled down by the creek soon before we reached the outcropping.

You can't immerse yourself in nature if you can't make your way through it.

 

We wisely decided to leave behind the wheelchair on our first trip to the botanic garden.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.