Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guinea Pigs and Sibling Rivalry

Those of you who know me well enough probably already know this story, but it's one of my favorites.

I've been told that Matthew loved me quite a bit when I was a baby, but in my first memories of him he was not my biggest fan, as can be seen in what I've come to refer to as "The Guinea Pig Incident."

When I was about four and Matt was eightish, he had two guinea pigs. He named them Tony and Linda, after our parents. These names proved appropriate because Tony and Linda developed a rodent romance and eventually became proud piggy parents.

My parents let Matthew keep two of the babies, and with that, their family became a little, stinky, furry version of ours. He named one of the babies Matt-- makes sense. The other? Fluffy.

Tony, Linda, Matt, and Fluffy. One happy family.

March 9, 2011

I was in Blanchard's liquor store in Allston, MA when my father called me. "I don't want you to worry too much because I'm not sure about the details, but Matt's been in a skiing accident." Why would I worry? What? Did he break his wrist or something?

Well, he did break his wrist, but that was the least of our worries. Nobody is sure the fine details of how Matthew crashed, but that hardly seemed important once I realized what serious condition my brother was in. All I know is he was snowboarding (not skiing as my father originally told me), and he didn't make it to the bottom of the mountain. He was found by our friend Tyler, two hours later, lying unconscious in the snow.

I didn't sleep that night. I was on a train to New Jersey before the sun came up the next day.

Matthew was in a coma and hardly recognizable when I first got to the hospital. He had a fractured skull, broken wrist and finger, a few broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, and hypothermia. The doctors couldn't tell us much. All brain injuries are different. Despite the lack of information we were given, I knew things weren't looking good.

He made it through the hardest days, though.

It's hard for me to remember now just how hopeless things seemed those first few weeks. He just lay in the hospital bed. The twitch of a finger or toe made my parents and me happier than I imagined a moving digit ever could.

Matthew's emergence from his coma didn't happen quite how I figured it would. I pictured one day his eyes would open, and he would simply wake up. It was a much slower process, though. One afternoon his left eye opened, but his gaze seemed vacant. Day by day, though, he became more aware, started moving his arms and legs, responding to simple requests.

Matthew is out of the hospital now and has been moved to Kessler Rehabilitation center. He still hasn't opened his right eye, but we have been assured that he will soon enough. He responds to yes or no questions, laughs at inside jokes, gives nice big hugs. He's becoming himself again.

That's what this blog is all about. Matthew, himself. Since it's from my perspective, it will be mainly about Matthew as a brother. Sometimes it's difficult to remember the brother I grew up with. These past three months have been the longest of my life, and it's hard to imagine any time before the accident. The person I was on March 8, 2011 is a phantom.

People need to remember, though, that Matthew isn't just a brain trauma patient. He is an amazing big brother and friend. He may not be himself at the moment, but he's coming back, and the stories I'm going to share with you do not represent the last of the memories Matthew and I will create as our true selves.