The Costanzo Baby SecretBy: Catherine Spencer
AT TEN o’clock on the morning of September 4, exactly one month to the day since the accident, Dario Costanzo received a phone call he’d begun to fear would never arrive.
“I have news, signor,” Arturo Peruzzi, chief neurologist in charge of Maeve’s case, announced. “This morning, your wife awoke from her coma.”
Sensing from the man’s neutral tone that there was more to come that didn’t bode well, Dario steeled himself to hear the rest. Over the last several weeks, he’d conducted enough research to know that brain damage resulting from a head injury came in many shapes and sizes, none of them good. “But? There is a ‘but,’ is there not, Doctor?”
“That is correct.”
He’d thought himself prepared and found he wasn’t prepared at all. Images of her as she’d looked the last time he’d seen her, with her head swathed in bandages and the rest of her hooked up to a bewildering array of tubes to keep her alive, clashed horribly with the way she’d been before everything began to go wrong.
Lovely, graceful, elegant.
Sunlight in motion.
And now? Abruptly, he sat down at his desk, afraid his legs would give way beneath him. “Tell me,” he said.
“Physically she shows every sign of making a full recovery. Naturally she’s very weak at present, but with appropriate therapy, we anticipate she’ll soon be well enough to continue her convalescence at home. The problem, Signor Costanzo, is her mind.”
Ah, Dio, not that! Better she had died than—
“…not to alarm you unduly. This is quite common following the kind of trauma she sustained, and is by no means as serious as you might suppose.”
Realizing that in leaping to the worst possible conclusion, he’d missed what appeared to be a more optimistic prognosis, Dario wrenched his attention back to the neurologist’s measured tones. “Exactly what are you suggesting, Doctor?”
“I’m suggesting nothing, signor. I’m telling you bluntly that your wife is suffering from retrograde amnesia. In short, she has no memory of her…recent past.”
Peruzzi’s hesitation was brief, but telling enough to arouse Dario’s worst fears all over again. “How recent?”
“That’s what makes her case unusual. As a rule, retrograde amnesia applies only to events immediately prior to the injury. In this instance, however, your wife’s memory loss extends over a longer period. I am sorry to say that she does not appear to remember you or the life you shared.”
Psychogenic amnesia…hysterical amnesia…. Terms that had meant little or nothing to him a month ago, but with which he’d become all too familiar since, floated to the fore-front of Dario’s mind. “Are you saying her amnesia is psychologically induced, as opposed to physiologically?”
“It would appear so. But the good news is that, regardless of which label we apply, the condition is rarely permanent. In time she will almost certainly regain her memory.”
“How much time?”
“That I cannot predict. No one can. It’s possible that she could recall everything within minutes of her returning to familiar territory. More likely, it will take days or even weeks, with flashes of memory trickling back in random order. What you must understand is that nothing is to be gained by trying to force her to remember that which, for whatever reason, she cannot recollect. Doing so could be highly detrimental to her well-being. And that, Signor Costanzo, brings me to the crux of this conversation. We have done our part. Now you must do yours.”
How—the word had hounded him for over a month, begging for answers no one could give. How had he so badly misjudged the depth of her discontent? How, after all they’d promised each other, could she have turned to another man? How had she shown so little faith in him, her husband?
“Patience is the key. Bring her home when she’s ready to leave the clinic, but don’t immediately expose her to a crowd of strangers. Begin by making her feel safe and secure with you.”
“How do I do that if she doesn’t even remember me?”
“Once she is a little stronger, we’ll explain to her who you are. We have no choice. You’re her only next of kin, and she needs to know she is not alone in this world. But she has lost a year of her life, a frightening thing for anyone to face. Let her see that you care about the person she remembers herself to be. Then, as her trust in you grows, slowly reintroduce her to the rest of your family.”