During a shift at Northwestern, Gail slipped and fell again, this time hitting her head on the tile floor. She was checked out and okayed by the nurses there and sent home, but that night her condition worsened dramatically. She slept for almost continuously for three days, with Deb on the edge of panic the entire time. She would wake her up every few hours to see if she wanted to eat or use the bathroom, but she was largely unresponsive. Deb forced her to go to the hospital, and they kept her under observation for nearly a week, while Deb ran back to Marseilles to check on her father.
Gail has very little memory of that time. She suffered from severe nausea, disorientation, and memory loss. As with many individuals who suffer from head injuries, her personality changed. She became listless and forgetful, a far cry from the vibrant, willful, opinionated woman Deb fell in love with. When Deb read to her at night, she wouldn’t remember the next day. Their granddaughter came to visit from Indiana in the first few months after the accident, of which Gail has no memory. At first, light and certain sounds triggered debilitating bouts of nausea, and Deb had to assist her with many basic personal needs. In an instant, it seemed her wife had been taken from her on a fundamental level, but she never gave up hope.
In August of 2009, Deb’s father passed away. Gail was still months away from any sort of recovery. It proved to be one of the darkest periods in the history of their relationship. “I was scared. I was very scared. She was sleeping 20 hours a day, and it was a little nuts then. With this ongoing mist of crazy mishaps, a lot of times it [felt] like we [were] just putting out fire, after fire, after fire, after fire.”
Deb picked up the slack at home, taking care of Mollie, while attending to Gail’s wellbeing and trying to work. They had begun homeschooling Mollie, so she took over duties with that as well, once the school year started. Gail continued to require up to 16 hours of sleep a day for even a base level of functionality.
Gail recognized just how much she had lost in the accident, and the prospect of facing life with reduced faculties of any kind terrified her. She had always been a very independent woman, caring for others every chance she got, but that didn’t seem like it would be possible any longer. In the first year after the accident, it didn’t seem possible that she would be able to have any kind of life, as she had to sleep so much. The level of trust she put in Deb to help her with sometimes embarrassing tasks was pushed to its absolute limit. As much as Deb had protested at becoming a parent, for Gail, becoming dependent on someone else, even her Deb, was even more difficult. She went into a period of depression, and their family entered a new, darker status quo.