Just like the previous nights at 12:48 a.m. he was torn out of his sleep again by a painful shock wave travelling from his legs up in his chest. He opened his eyes and felt the severe spasticity in his legs again. He could barely reach the lamp on his bedside table and turned it on. With his legs shaking under his blanket it seemed like there was a creature under it. Pushing up on his elbows he pulled himself up to a sitting position and almost fell back down with the spasticity taking over his body. He held himself up and pushed up on his hands, holding his balance some and just watching the blanket move with his legs under it. He hissed, “What is going on?”Kieran couldn’t grasp what was happening to his body again, now the third night in a row and trying to relax and focus on his breathing he moved the blanket over and saw his legs moving. At the same time he felt them attached to his body now, he felt them touching his mattress and he felt when he moved the blanket over and the cooler air of the room graze his legs. When he touched his hand to his leg he felt the warmth of his hand on his skin and he couldn’t help tears shooting into his eyes. There was no explanation and without thinking too much Kieran actually was able to move his legs over to the edge of his bed without the help of his hands and he pressed his lips together, tears wanting to flow and not understanding what was going on with his body. The spasticity let off some, just a slight pain still lingering in his legs but he didn’t care, he felt his legs, he felt his belly and he felt the nerves in his chest up to his T-4 vertebrae, he had sensations again.
He looked at the clock on his bedside table and it showed 12:53 a.m. His legs fell over the edge of the bed and when his feet touched the ground he couldn’t stop the tears anymore. Slowly they were flowing over his cheeks and with both feet placed securely on the floor next to his bed, he scooted his butt over to the edge of the bed. He held on to his Quickie right next to him when he slowly pushed himself up and with his whole body trembling he stood up. For a moment he wished he would have his forearm crutches close by so he could use them as assistance but he realized immediately he didn’t need crutches. His body straightened and momentarily he stood up and he looked down at his legs and the tears just ran out of his eyes when he said in a whisper, “What the fuck?”
He stood and insecurely he took a step and another one and because of all the emotions overcoming him he could barely focus on the walking but it was like his body remembered what to do and soon he had taken at least ten steps. He was holding on to the wall but not so much for physical assistance but more an emotional assistance. His whole body was trembling as he took some more steps and then let go off the wall and stood freely in his room and turned around and looked over at his wheelchair parked next to his bed. He moved his eyes over toward his bathroom and step after step made his way through his room toward it. Just when he reached the bathroom and with shaky hands turned on the light, he saw himself in the mirror standing on his two legs scanning his upright body, tall as he really was. He held on to the door frame for a moment and just stared at himself in the mirror, not believing what he saw and his tears kept coming when just as sudden as all this started an intense pain shot through him, seemingly starting at his T-4 vertebrae again and he jerked down, gasping in shock and with one hand holding on to the door frame, he hissed, “Shit!”
The pain shot through him like an explosion and ran down his pelvis and into his legs when they just gave out on him and there was absolutely nothing Kieran could do when some uncontrollable force took everything away again as his legs gave out under him and he slammed to the ground, in the process pulling down items from a small shelf and pushing it over, things falling around him as he landed with full force on the hard tiled bathroom floor and hitting his head on the sink, right away blood oozing from the side on his forehead.
His breathing came in gasps, his whole body trembled, his hands shook so hard he couldn’t hold on to anything, like they had grease on them.
He cried and he tried to breathe but a choking feeling made it impossible for him to even say anything. His legs were dead again and laid scrambled in front of him, twisted strangely and he wondered if he had actually broken some bones in the fall. The blood ran over his face and he laid his head on the cold bathroom floor and he cried.
Fiona was startled when she heard a loud noise and woke up from a light sleep.
She sat up quickly and softly touched Tyler next to her and hushed, “Tyler, I heard a noise, wake up. Where is your gun?”
Tyler shifted and she repeated, “Tyler, wake up. I think there is someone in our house.”
Now Tyler heard her and the tension in her voice. Quickly he sat up, opened the drawer of the bedside table next to his bed, and pulled out a hand gun. He sat on the edge of his bed and listened to any noises from outside but there was nothing.
He got up and slowly tip toed to their bedroom door, turning around to Fiona, whispering, “Stay here!”
Fiona took her phone from her bedside table, ready to dial 911 any moment.
She watched as Tyler opened the door and she worried about him, “Baby, please be careful.”
Tyler moved out of the room and with both hands held the gun in front of him, ready to pull the trigger if he had to. He listened into the house again and looked up and down the hallway when he saw a thin line of light under Kieran’s door.
He turned to Fiona again, “There is light on in Kieran’s room.”
Fiona got out of her bed and walked over to Tyler and looking over his shoulder into the hallway and toward Kieran’s room she didn’t hesitate and walked out into the hallway and straight to Kieran’s room. Tyler held his gun toward the floor, “Fiona, watch out. Let me get in front.”
Fiona let her husband take the lead and they both quietly rushed down the hallway and in front of Kieran’s door, Fiona knocked, “Kieran, are you awake?”
There was no sound and she didn’t recall having heard any screams like she had heard many times when Kieran woke up in cold sweat, having dreamt of horrible and nightmarish things. The dreams had somewhat subsided lately with the sleeping medication and muscle relaxers.
Slowly she turned the knob on the door and peeked into Kieran’s room, first her eyes travelling over to his bed where the light on his bedside table was on but no Kieran in his bed. She found his Quickie next to the bed and again, no Kieran in it and now she opened the door and peeked around when she spotted him lying on the floor in his bathroom. Right away a tremendous fear for her brother bubbled up as she rushed into the room and said his name.
She expected to see something bad but right away she tried to comprehend the fact that Kieran was in his bathroom but his wheelchair was next to his bed. Tyler put his gun down and rushed over to the bathroom where they found Kieran, bleeding from his forehead, obviously distressed and crying on the bathroom floor. Strong muscle spasms ripped through his legs and he was lying on the ground holding his hands to his belly, sobbing.
Fiona kneeled down next to him, “Kieran, my God…what happened?”
She examined his head and Tyler softly pushed down on Kieran’s legs to hold them down somewhat, not letting them jerk his body so severely.
Kieran didn’t say anything and Fiona desperately asked, “Kieran, what is going on? Are you hurt? What did you do?”
She couldn’t help think for a moment that this could be something Kieran had done to himself once again. She scanned the bathroom floor with different containers and bathroom items scattered around Kieran, the shelf turned over on the floor, door opened with some catheter packages having fallen out of it.
Kieran cried and Fiona was worried, “We have to take you to the hospital.”
She turned to Tyler, “Call an ambulance baby.”
At that order Kieran was startled and looked at her with furious eyes, wet with tears and gasped, “No, don’t call an ambulance…I will not go to the hospital.”
Fiona had not expected anything different, Kieran hated the hospital and anything to do with it.
Kieran grabbed Fiona’s arm, “Do not call an ambulance!”
His voice was filled with tears but at the same time demanding.
Fiona tried again, “You are hurt Kieran. Tell me what happened. Why are you in here? And why are you not in your chair?”
Kieran shook his head some and thought for a moment at what to answer and if he should tell Fiona and Tyler what he had experienced three nights in a row now. He threw the idea out quickly, it was all so surreal and he wasn’t even sure himself what was going on and wasn’t sure if this was a real thing or if he was tormented by some kind of hallucination. No one would believe him if he told them that he had walked into his bathroom.
At that moment Tyler saw all the bruises on Kieran’s thighs and with a quick tap on Fiona’s shoulder he made her look at Kieran’s thighs. Fiona moved her eyes over and in questioning disbelief she threw her husband a concerned look.
Tyler shrugged his shoulders discreetly and said, “Okay, Kieran, we won’t call the ambulance but you have some explaining to do and we need to get you into your bed and take care of your head wound and make sure you have no other injuries.”
Tyler was a strong, muscular man and he got behind Kieran, slid his arms under Kieran’s arms and locked his hands in front of his chest, then pulling his brother-in-law up and dragging him to the bed. Kieran couldn’t do anything but let this happen and Fiona followed her panting husband to the bed and there she helped him put her brother back on his bed. Kieran was not really heavy but still a grown man, a little over 6 feet tall and he used to be strong and still carried some muscles on mainly his shoulders and arms. His legs weren’t as heavy but still he weighed 160 pounds and it wasn’t easy to put him in his bed. When they finally had him positioned in his bed, Fiona rushed to get the first aid kit from the kitchen while Tyler sat on the edge of the bed, watching Kieran, “You have some strong spasms right now.”
Kieran didn’t say anything. Tyler took a tissue and pressed it to the head wound until his wife came back with the First Aid Kit and got busy cleaning the wound from the blood to get a better look at what was going on. The wound wasn’t as serious as they first expected, just the fact of the skin on the forehead being thin with the blood vessels right under its surface making it bleed more severe than it actually was.
Fiona quietly tended to her brother and soon Kieran had a thick gauze pad taped over the wound. Tyler watched as Fiona finished up with wiping over Kieran’s face once more with a wash cloth and then asking him sternly, “Kieran, what the hell is going on?”
Kieran didn’t say anything and even though the moments from just a little while ago were racing through his head, he knew he couldn’t tell his family. He looked at Fiona and Tyler and then looked away again.
Tyler then asked lowly, “Kieran, how did you end up in your bathroom without your wheelchair?”
Kieran had no answer and didn’t say anything. Tyler stood up and let his hands feel on Kieran’s leg for any fractures or swelling. Even if there would have been a fracture Kieran would have not known or felt it.
Fiona looked at Kieran still wondering about the situation, “Why are you not talking to us?”
Kieran wanted to say a lot as his head was spinning with the strange situation but he just couldn’t tell them and all he brought over his lips was, “Maybe I was dreaming.”
Fiona didn’t stop, “And in your dream crawled to the bathroom and slammed your head on the floor?”
Kieran’s green eyes shot at her and he said tensely, “Listen…I don’t know what the fuck happened. I am okay, you guys can go back to bed and just leave me alone. Thanks for….this.” He pointed to his head and when his sister and her husband didn’t really move, he said, “Please leave me alone now.”
Fiona looked over at his bedside table and asked lowly, “Have you been taking your meds?”
She was worried Kieran had been sloppy with the anti-depressants.
Kieran said still tense, “Yes, I have been taking my fucking meds, you put them out for me every day…Just go now…please.”
Fiona and Tyler got up, they knew Kieran meant it and they also knew not to push him when he felt tense and frustrated.
Tyler touched his hand to Kieran’s legs and said lowly, “It’s all right bro…I don’t think you broke any bones. Hope you can sleep again.”
Kieran thanked Tyler lowly and he walked out.
Fiona still stood next to his bed and once more she asked, “Kieran, how did you get over there?”
Kieran looked at her with shiny, green eyes, “I told you. I don’t know so just leave me be now. Stop asking me shit. We have a deal…”
Fiona nodded and replied, “Yes, we have a deal but I am your sister and there is nothing I can do about myself worrying. I am human and not a machine. You are my brother and I will always worry about you and you know exactly how I feel. We have a deal and I will leave you alone but you cannot stop me from worrying because I love you.”
At that Fiona felt her voice tremble and added, “When I saw you a while ago on the bathroom floor…I thought…I thought you may…”
Kieran stopped her, “Don’t say anything else. Just go now…that is all I am asking right now. Leave me alone.”
Fiona felt her eyes get teary and she said lowly, “I love you Kieran. We all love you and you know we are here for you.”
Kieran didn’t say anything else and his sister turned around and walked out of his room, closing the door behind her.
They did have a deal; a deal where Fiona wouldn’t keep asking questions if Kieran wanted her to stop. It had been an issue in the beginning of his living with them when Fiona was almost overbearing, always worried about him and always asking him how he was and if he was all right. When one night Kieran just couldn’t handle his sister’s questioning he went off on her that night and it ended with the deal that Fiona would not ask him questions he didn’t want to answer or talk about. There had been too many things in his life that he couldn’t talk about or didn’t want to remember and he did not allow his sister to stir traumatizing emotions to come up inside of him if he didn’t want to talk about it.
Sometimes it was difficult for Fiona to keep that deal but she tried her best and she knew when Kieran was getting mad and she didn’t want to push him.
As Fiona had closed the door behind herself, Kieran took a deep breath and recollected the moments he had been through earlier. He was exhausted and felt like he had been hit by a train, the spasms in his legs were still strong enough to move his blanket as he laid there. He looked at the ceiling and tried to process what had happened. He had literally walked into the bathroom and with Fiona and Tyler being involved in this, the situation seemed less and less like it was a dream but some real life event that had been happening. Everything medically possible pertaining to his paraplegia went through his head and he tried to figure out what could be triggering this kind of stimulation and sensations in his body. He couldn’t really come up with any good explanation but instead he tried to feed on the feeling again, the feeling of having his sensations back and being able to even walk again. It was unbelievable and as he thought about it all, a few more tears dripped on his pillow before he fell into a deep sleep of total exhaustion.
He moved slowly in his wheelchair the next morning and moved even slower in the bathroom. For a few moments he sat in front of the mirror and looked at himself. The gauze pad on the left of his forehead reminded him of the ordeal the night before and he felt bad for having been tense toward Fiona when he knew his sister only wanted the best for him. He would have to apologize to her for the hundredths time. She had been very patient with him for the past couple of months. As he got in the shower he saw more bruises on his body, apparently from the fall during the night. A large greenish blue bruise had appeared on his hip and his one knee was also bruised. Even his toes on his left foot were bruised and he hissed, “Shit!”
He looked like he had been through a beating with all the bruises on his body now.
If he would have had sensations he would have felt the soreness all over his body but instead his body was numb and still again.
Kieran experienced the same thing on Wednesday and one thing he realized was that every night he went through this a minute was added to the experience. On Wednesday night the feeling stayed with him for 15 minutes. When he looked at the clock it showed 01:04 a.m. as his body went still again.
Thursday he had his monthly appointment with Dr. Richards, his psychiatrist. Dr. Richards’ office was on the fifth floor of the VA hospital where many different providers had their offices. Kieran knew the place in and out. It was where he came for his monthly support groups, it was where he picked up his medications regularly and it was also where he had his Neurologist Dr. Singh. It was also the place where they had brought him twice after his suicide attempts, put him back together and got him admitted to the psychiatry ward. It was the place where he was constantly reminded of his fate and where he was confronted with the fate of fellow brothers in arms. Young men missing a limb or more, young women in wheelchairs, older veterans still fighting demons from wars long gone and family members of service men and women trying to deal with their loved ones PTSD and physical disabilities. He was one of them now and as he wheeled through the doors he kept his eyes down in the hope of not having to look at someone who also had been branded by the wars the US was still fighting in far-away lands.
Dr. Richards’ receptionist led him to his office and there Kieran waited. Dr. Richards was a veteran himself but he had not acquired any visible disabilities and his being a psychiatrist Kieran sometimes wondered if he suffered from psychological issues or if being in his profession he was able to cope with things better than anyone else.
Dr. Richards walked in and with a booming voice greeted Kieran in a friendly manner, “Good Morning Kieran. It is good to see you again. Has it already been two months again?”
They shook hands and Dr. Richards sat down across from Kieran. In his hands he held his all familiar note pad and pen about to start his session with Kieran, “How are you doing Kieran?”
Kieran had his hands loosely interlocked on his lap, his elbows resting on his arm rests, “I am all right.”
"Anything new going on in your life?”
Kieran always had a bit of a hard time to get right into a conversation about his life with the doctor and he sat there thinking about what was new in his life and what was worth telling Dr. Richards.
Lowly he started, “I have a date tomorrow night.”
Dr. Richards smiled, “That is great news. Are you excited?”
Kieran looked down at his hands and nodded, “I am but also a bit nervous.”
“Have you been on any dates since you got back from your last deployment?”
It was amazing how Dr. Richards never mentioned Kieran’s disability but merely the return from the fateful deployment. He never really made a big deal about the injury and the disability but treated Kieran like he was just another soldier who had come back from deployment almost two years ago and no regards to the injury he had suffered and the disability that came from it. Obviously he was more concerned with the psychological damage than the physical one.
He asked, “What are you nervous about?”
Kieran thought about Erin and his heart beat sped up some but then he just said, “I don’t know. I hope I will know how to act and I hope she will be open minded to my issues.”
He gestured quickly at his body.
Dr. Richards asked how the date came about and smiled when Kieran finished his story about meeting Erin.
“Kieran, you already had the guts to ask her out. I am certain you will know how to act around a woman. You are a courageous young man and if she said yes, that means she wants to get to know you. Don’t stress about it but enjoy the time with her. You have to let me know how it went.”
Kieran smiled and nodded.
“So, is there anything else you want to address today? How have your nights been?”
Kieran felt his body tense up at the question and his mind started racing at what to do and if he should tell Dr. Richards about his nightly encounters.
He didn’t say anything for a moment and Dr. Richards picked up on Kieran’s tension, “Are you taking your meds for sleeping?”
Kieran snapped out of his thoughts and looked at the doctor, “Yeah…” He paused for a moment, then started lowly, “I have been dreaming very vividly.”
“I am listening.”
Kieran took a deep breath, “I keep having this dream about….” He paused, then continued, “…about walking again. It feels so real and the other night I actually got out of my bed somehow and fell in my room.”
Dr. Richards glanced at the gauze pad on Kieran’s forehead, “Is that from that fall?”
Kieran nodded and Dr. Richards asked, “What do you see in the dream?”
Kieran felt so tempted to tell the doctor that it wasn’t a dream, but it was real even though at the same time he wasn’t all the way sure if it actually was real or if for some odd reason it just seemed so realistic. He really didn’t know what to think.
Lowly he tried to explain, “I see myself standing up and walking around in my room, in my bathroom and I feel these sensations in my legs again, my spinal cord and at first it hurts a lot and it starts like a severe spasm, then goes into me being able to get up from my bed. I see myself standing at my window and looking out into the backyard. I…it feels so…real.”
His voice trembled some and Dr. Richards listened attentively. Kieran felt his heart beat fast and even though he felt somewhat relieved to have been able to confide in someone, it hadn’t been the truth because it had not been a dream, it had been real.
“Do you wake up from the dreams?”
“Yes, it feels like I am awake…”
Dr. Richards made some notes on his notepad and then typed in his computer and brought up Kieran’s records.
After skimming over it he looked over at Kieran and said lowly, “You are a T-4 complete paraplegic Kieran.”
Kieran stared at Dr. Richards waiting for what the doctor was getting at.
Dr. Richards continued still lowly, “You don’t have any sensations from your T-4 vertebrae down and you know your diagnosis. You are still dealing with adjusting to your disability and it is normal for you to keep dreaming about your former self again, walking and doing what you used to do. It is a way for your brain to process the trauma that has occurred. Have those dreams replaced the nightmares you had before?”
Kieran still had nightmares occasionally but usually when he was on his medication the nightmares have stayed somewhat concealed. He couldn’t tell Dr. Richards that he hasn’t really been taking his sleeping pills, even though Fiona set them out for him every night, and he had just collected them in a secret spot. He wanted to experience the strange situation during the night because for a few minutes he was filled with overwhelming joy which then was crushed by the harsh reality again of his being paraplegic.
He answered lowly, “I still have nightmares too sometimes but it hasn’t been too bad.”
“How do those dreams make you feel, the dreams about walking?”
Kieran shrugged his shoulders, “Happy but then depressed when I know that it is not real. I have woke up crying.”
Dr. Richards nodded, “If those dreams keep interfering with your emotional well-being Kieran we could go back to the option of cognitive therapy where you can process this in more detail. Would you like to consider that?”
Kieran did not want to go through cognitive therapy where they dug deep into his psyche and where things could come up that could throw him way off his present self. He had been managing fairly well lately, his medications were adjusted accordingly and he had been doing okay living with Fiona and her family. The kids were good for him, Fiona and Tyler were there for him when he needed support and he didn’t want to change any of that. He was excited about his date with Erin and his nightly encounters would just have to stay a secret and he would have to find a way to deal with them. Maybe they would go away again eventually.
He shook his head, “I don’t want to go through cognitive therapy. I am okay, I will be all right.”
“You know you can call me 24/7, even at night if you feel bad.”
“I know doc.”
“What are you doing during the week physically and socially?”
Kieran told Dr. Richards about his regular visits to the YMCA and his interactions with his niece and nephew and ended with, “I am doing okay at home. My sister and her family are there for me at all times.”
Dr. Richards was there when Fiona had decided to have Kieran move in with her. It had been somewhat of an intervention after Kieran’s second suicide attempt and having been in the Psychiatry unit for three weeks. Something needed to happen then and even though Kieran had been resisting at first, fearing he would lose the little independence he had and the depression keeping him from interacting with people, Fiona had still pushed the issue and eventually Kieran gave in and now he was glad he had made the decision to move in with Fiona and he was thankful his sister had been strict with him. Kieran ended his session with Dr. Richards and they really had not talked about too much and Kieran’s mind was still occupied with the strange things that had been happening to him.
That night he was in his room and he called Erin.
She answered, “Hello?”
“Erin, it’s Kieran. How are you?”
“Hi Kieran, I am doing good. How are you?”
“I am good too.” He took a breath and then continued a little nervous, “Well, I wanted to find out if you are still good to go for dinner tomorrow evening?”
Erin sounded excited, “Yes, definitely.”
“Is seven a good time for you?”
“Yes, it is perfect.”
“I need your address so I know where to pick you up.”
Erin gave Kieran her address and he wrote it down on a piece of paper next to him on the table.
He was really nervous talking to her but at the same time loved hearing her voice and her excitement about going out with him.
It made him feel less insecure about his plans to take her out. He still had some doubts if he could actually pull off a decent date.
"Okay, I will be there at seven then.”
“I am really looking forward to seeing you.”
He smiled to himself at her comment, “Me too.”
They finished their conversation and hung up.
Another one of the encounters happened that night again. He was able to somewhat cope with the sensations running through his body and even though they still left him confused and hurt he was trying to somehow embrace the fact that just for a little while he was able to feel like his old self again. Even though he couldn’t share this with anyone and it was something he had to deal with on his own he tried to stay rational and just take the situation for what it was. He still didn’t understand it and he stopped trying to figure it out. There was no plausible explanation for this.