A few weeks ago you all heard that my good friend Jim was ina bad car wreck.. and was in a coma. He spent several weeks in and out of the coma…Last I reported here he could recognize people but not speak. He wasn’t able to do anything when I went and visited him a few weeks back.. Since then . Jim has improved steadily. He’s in a rehabilitation center just outside of NYC now.. I got a letter from my good friend Bill last night that really made me feel hopeful. Jim is up and able to move around a little in a wheel chair. he recognizes people and can say heir names. He can read words put in from of him too!.. The most interesting thing is.. he counts… constantly I’m told..

Here’s the way Bill tells the story:


.. Jim recognized me when I walked in, saying “Bill”, and even did his best to introduce me
to the nurse sitting with him by taking my hand and her hand and putting them together.
He started really fidgeting around quite a bit in his wheelchair, (where he spends much of his time seat belted in),
as though he wanted to get up, and then his deliberate counting continued: “17, 18, 19, 20,…”

The nurse encouraged him to talk to me more, but it was mostly anxious fidgeting and counting, “35, 36, 37, 38,…”
She decided to let me take him for a stroll around the wing in the wheelchair which definitely calmed the fidgeting.
The change of scenery was what he wanted/needed, but the counting still proceeded, “7, 8, 9, 10…”

We tried to change the topic to colors.  “Jim what color shirt am I wearing?”  “20, orange, 21, 22, 23…”
“What color shirt are you wearing?”   “28, blue, 29, 30…”  and he waved me off, seemingly annoyed that my
simple questions were breaking his concentration over his counting.  (By the way, his answers were correct,
and his numbers and words were fairly clear and easy to understand during all of this.)
However, when you were able to break him off the counting for longer periods, his words would become
more difficult to understand and disjointed.

Then I went after the alphabet with him, which he fairly successfully recited a couple of times,
but then it was back to the numbers, as there are many more of them to explore than letters…
More simple questions:  “Your dog is so friendly, can you tell me his name?”  “44, Charlie, 45, 46,…”
“What street do you live on?”  “420, Oxford, 422, 424,…”
But again, these trivial questions weren’t of interest to him and he would only quickly slip these
short answers in between his streams of numbers.

The nurse left me to continue my laps around the 4th floor wings with Jim alone.

I began to realize that maybe Jim was deliberately using the counting as a tool to maintain a continuous
stream of thought.  He could count for long continuous strings of numbers, but sentences without numbers
could only go for a few words before they became jumbled, mumbled and disjointed.
…OK, no more simple questions, just regular conversation, and don’t get distracted by his counting…
(or sometimes just count right along with him…)

“Jim, I came here from my daughters’ volleyball game in Cold Spring tonight.”
“Which one?”
“Both, Katie and Julia.”
“What grades?”
“Katie is in 11th.”
“What grade Julia?”
“Julia is in 9th.”
…and back to the counting….

We had some more limited success with this and then Jim started to ease up a bit on the counting and
started trying to read some of the things on the walls of the hallways.  His reading is actually pretty good,
and relatively easy to understand.  Again, I think focusing on a number of written words in a row helps him
to keep his stream of thought going and he’s able to do it without jumbling his speech vs. a full conversation.

So as we did our hallway “laps”, we’d read some of the things on the doors and walls along the way.
Sometimes I’d just read them aloud as we went by, if Jim wasn’t up to it.
Along the therapy wing hallway loop there were also these solid Red 1970’s vintage phones on the walls.
So, along the loop, I’d be calling out:

“Speech Therapy…”
“Housekeeping Closet…”
“Bat Phone…”
“Laundry Chute…”
“Equipment Room…”
“Bat Phone…”
“Training Classroom…”
“Dining Room….”

…and on around the loop for a 2nd lap…

But this time Jim stopped the wheelchair just after the Elevators and rolled it over to the red phone there.
Before I could stop him, he reached out, pulled the corded handset to his ear and said “Batman?” into the phone.


It’s so cool to hear him making this progress.. it’s also very cool to hear how the brain works in such strange ways..   This al ounds like good news to me…


OK.. I gotta sleep..


OH.. don’t forget.. I’m helping run a maker  meetup  on the High Voltage hobby tomorrow at 7PM at Alumni Hall of Champlain College.. you can read about it here.   Come whatch us ZAP ourselves !

nte all, nite sam


3 Responses to “Tuesday night – counting on Jim”

  1. Paul Kruse says:

    Sounds like great progress John. The counting thing is interesting: people with OCD count a lot for no particular reason…primarily to tell themselves to “stop checking” I think: “The door is locked ….. one… two…three…four…five…x…y…z…eighteen. (then to self…OK damn it I’ve checked that door eighteen f’ing times. It is LOCKED and I’m outta here (sometimes successful in leaving, sometimes not….sometimes start counting over….) Maybe a similar part of the brain in action? Blessings to you my friend.

  2. Paul Kruse says:

    PS: “BATPHONE!!!” 😀

  3. Addie says:

    Good to hear he’s slowly but surely rehabilitating. Our thoughts are with him, his family, and all of you who are helping him!

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