Isabella got sick with sudden acute encephalitis on November 25th, 2010. Before her Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), Isabella was an outgoing, happy-go-lucky, carefree little girl. Right before starting preschool, her and I went to Build-a-Bear and made a stuffed animal, a Yorkie. Together we recorded our favorite saying and put the “sound” into the stuffed dog. Whenever we squeezed her paw we could hear us.
Over the last almost 4.5 years, I have seen this stuffed animal quite a lot. The other day Isabella squeezed the paw and I remembered that we recorded a “sound”. I am not really sure how I had forgotten that. Listening to our voices, stopped me right in my tracks. A flood of emotions overcame me. It was bittersweet. It was sweet in the sense that she sounded so little and yet so innocent. However it was hard to hear because it was before everything changed. It’s another reminder of how our life is defined as “before Isabella got sick” and “since she got sick”. That one moment has become the divider that separates our life into two eras.
As I listened to the sound of our voices, I allowed myself for the first time to wonder what Isabella would have been like had she not gotten sick. To be quite honest, I can’t even imagine who she would be. When I tried to in vision that, my mind went completely blank. I think it is because I have never allowed myself to go there.
The recording of our voices is similar to how I feel about the videos and pictures that I have of Isabella before she got sick. The videos are of Isabella singing songs from preschool and just being silly. It’s been almost 4.5 years and I still can’t watch them. It is too hard and just thinking about them causes me to start tearing up. Ironically, pictures are different. I can look at baby pictures and be ok. The closer the pictures get to the days and months leading up to “that day”, the harder it gets. As much as I love it, it also is a painful reminder of what once was and now will never be.
As with many things, I find this journey to be bittersweet too. Heartbreaking because Isabella has forever been changed by her ABI. Her life is much harder than what it should be. Isabella’s life is a constant battle of one step forward and three back. Amazing because Isabella wasn’t supposed to make it and yet here she is defying the odds every step of the way. She continues to inspire those around her as she fights to regain her life. Throughout this journey I am continuously reminded just how truly blessed I am. I love this Isabella more than life itself and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than by her side.
Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney-Apruzzese, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.
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