A young woman is lying unresponsive upon a frozen platelet of ice that is drifting rapidly toward a waterfall. As the river current rushes a bit faster with each and every second a man fleetingly skips across broken ice pieces to rescue this damsel in distress. With his heroic effort he saves the maiden just in the knick of time as ice sheets plummet over the cascading water. Of course, this man and woman then go on to live happily ever after…
Some how, Way Down East, with out sound instilled a sense of urgency, fear, as well as, security and comfort to the onlooker simply with creative imagery. The cinematography captures movement, emphasizes emotion, and creates reaction with use of a simple visual effect. Perhaps, back in the day, one could hear the audience loudly gasp while viewing this 1920 American silent film directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. Regardless of reaction, a movie with out sound is most likely unheard of in this day and age. Now, digital enhancement with surround sound accompanies every movie. Or so it seems. Go butter up the popcorn folks because it is show time.
Sensory over stimulation or 'Flooding' occurs after brain injury because the brain's 'filters' no longer work properly. It is an exhausting situation if more pieces of information or stimuli are received than what the brain can handle. Things like large crowds of people, bright lights, or alarm sounds can cause discomfort. Certainly, the stroke patient has enough to overcome with out throwing this piece of driftwood into the river yet it does seem to go with the flow doesn’t it? Twizzlers anyone?
A new turn of events has transpired with my stroke survivor. Over the past few months he has been watching movies or television shows with no sound. It doesn’t happen everyday. Yet, the first time I noticed this silent movie routine I was busy going about my day tending to things I needed to tend to. Among my haste I could hear my husband belly laughing, speaking out loud and/or then crying along with this entertainment box. At first, I didn’t rush to his side because it seemed he was simply reacting to whatever he was watching. As he sat in his recliner with remote in hand it became apparent to me that he seemed to be having difficulty with the remote or so I thought. His response to my dart throwing of questions was of a silent and confused nature. I picked up the remote, pushed buttons to confirm it worked, handed it back to him and commented that everything seemed to be working accordingly. Perhaps my movement was too quick and much like that of the ice platelets jetting over the falls because he turned the TV off. After a while, I realized he all along was just watching TV with out the sound. Usually, during commercials. Upon my perplexing discovery that there was nothing wrong with the wall mounted wide screen audio device I questioned his action. Looking at me with wide eyes like that of Ms. Gish he said he wanted it that way. I, with much the same dramatic reaction asked, “Why?” Simply, he softly said, “They say what I want them to say.” Can someone pass me the Junior Mints?
Some weeks have past and I still have raised eyebrows. As a caregiver I want to assist my stroke survivor the best that I can. Cognitively, he has had difficulty in this past year. More so after he was hospitalized back in December with what doctors concluded was a virus. That is a whole other story. He has definitely done the two steps forward and three steps back last year. As we all know, each stroke survivor heals differently and at their own pace. I will also go as far as to say each caregiver responds in a way that is uniquely theirs. Maybe my stroke survivor is drifting with a current down a thawing river and I am jumping here or there on the frozen barges to come to his rescue. It seems we are always living like that silent movie. When is the intermission, I need some refreshment?
So, as a highlighted awareness of sensory flooding, also known as sensory overload, motions its way into our theater my stroke survivor and I go on to live happily ever after without all the bells and whistles. Tonight’s double feature is repetitive viewing. Did I mention that along with the onset of silent movie watching my husband also watches the same movie over and over? Hand me the popcorn bucket, I’m going for a refill.
As the screen goes to a darkened and blank screen two simple words softly phase in…they state…The End!