“They Think, Therefore I Am”

Yatzchak Francus has discovered for himself that “having recovered from a brain injury is vastly different from having recovered from any other injury”:

No one thinks that a broken leg or a kidney stone or pneumonia fundamentally changes the essence of who you are. But when you’ve had a brain injury, people don’t believe that you are quite the same, although no one will actually say so. Perhaps it is the expression of a universal personal terror. The brain is who we are in the most fundamental sense. We are what we think, and we think with our brain. Not for nothing does Descartes’ summation endure.

The perceptions of my injury endure as well.

Although I have been fully back to normal for close to eight months, “How are you feeling?” continues to supplant “Hello” as the greeting of choice. Sometimes, it seems I hear the question at 15-minute intervals, as I did in the hospital. I half-expect the rest of the ICU script to follow: “Can you smile for me? Can you stick out your tongue? Can you hold up your arms up as if you’re holding a pizza box? Can you tell me what month it is?” When I decline a glass of wine at a holiday party, my host exclaims, “Of course, you have restrictions.” When my parents phoned a few minutes before Yom Kippur because I had forgotten to call them, I could hear the barely-suppressed panic in their voices, their improbable fear of a persistent vegetative state overwhelming the prosaic reality that the day had simply gotten away from me.