Where Am I?

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I was laying on the couch and all these little men came in with a stretcher and whisked me off to St. Francis Hospital in Beacon. That's the last thing I remember for four months. Hannah Palin: When I finally arrived by my mother's bedside, my stepfather led me into the tiny room where my mother lay hooked up to every conceivable wire and monitor.

I took her hand just to let her know that I was finally there and she responded with a surprisingly tight squeeze. She knew her only child was there and her spirit wanted to let me know how happy she was, but her fragile body just couldn't handle it. Every monitor in the room went crazy. Alarm bells went off. The room became this living thing. Hissing and beeping. Consuming my mother's life blood.

Hannah Palin: Nurses and doctors filled the room.

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My mother tightened her grip on my hand and then I fainted. The mother I grew up with died that day and was replaced by an entirely different person, who just happens to have the same memories and body and family and address as my dead mother. She spent the next three months unconscious in intensive care. After an operation to repair her aneurysm, my mother spent two more months in a regular hospital room. She was able to sit up and talk a little bit and was conscious, although not exactly coherent.

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Hannah Palin: One day, I couldn't help but ask where she thought her spirit had gone while the rest of her lay unconscious at the Westchester Medical Center. She told me she'd been in Vietnam. It has something to do with reincarnation, I think. I don't know if that was a previous life or that's the life I'm going to or what but it was so far away from anything I know now.

I know nothing about vegetables and I know nothing about Vietnam and I know nothing about being a little old man, but that's what it was. Hannah Palin: When Christmas came around, my mother was moved to a rehab facility but she was still just the shell of a person. She could barely talk.

She was using a walker. She needed help going to the bathroom. She still had a feeding tube coming out of her stomach. Hannah's Mother: I had to learn to walk again.

I had to learn to climb stairs. It was a real weird sensation being 46 years old and having to learn to walk again. Hannah Palin: After seven months, my mother was released from the hospital and I returned to Chicago to pick up my life where I left off. When I returned home, I found myself grieving and feeling really guilty about it. My mother was still alive. I was supposed to be happy, but I just kept feeling like she was gone forever. I ordered myself to have patience. To wait it out. I was her daughter.

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Hyde and our dreamer, Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of that classic tail of a divided self. Students learn how navigation satellites and global positioning systems help determine one's location. He takes a photo of himself and a photo of Bill Clinton he has lying around. It seemed this time that the dreamer was the son of a very rich and wicked man. Did you suddenly think, "Hey, what am I doing?

She needed me. Then slowly, very slowly, this other person began to emerge.

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Hannah Palin: That's my mother and I singing together. My mother never used to sing.

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Now, she'll erupt into song at the mere hint of an attentive audience. Then she got a tattoo above her left knee. A little red heart on a green stem. She's addicted to Wendy's hamburgers and even sings a little song about how much she loves going there.

Hannah Palin: I told myself my mother wasn't always like this. My mother used to be very proper, very meticulous, very aware of social conventions. The ones that usually discourage people from wearing Groucho Marx glasses while singing Hey Good Looking in the middle of an airport. Hannah's Mother: I used to be very perfectionist oriented. Now, if things are perfect that's nice. If they're not so perfect, it's okay. Hannah's Mother: Yeah. Everything is okay. I love sex now. I wasn't too crazy about it before. I don't know what the difference is but I'm just more open to that kind of thing now.

Hannah Palin: My mother's illness, like a death or an accident, was one of those moments when time stops. When normal disappears. When you marvel that everyone else in the world can still laugh and go to the movies and complain about the weather. That's an explosion. In those moments you can see life happen. It has clarity and meaning and purpose in the midst of its horror and pain.


Then those moments pass and you're consumed by the trivia of daily life once again. Sometimes when I'm overwhelmed by the task of making my way through the world, I try to focus on the fact that the electric bill does not matter, the idiot driver glued to their cell phone does not matter, the mind numbing day job truly does not matter.

Hannah Palin: Welcoming the strange and the different, being open and available for my husband, my friends, my family, experiencing love and laughter as often as possible, that's what matters. It can all be taken away in one brilliant flash. Hannah's Mother: I don't know. I don't know how other people fell. I do know that I don't worry about death at all. Not at all. I've kind of seen it and I've been there.

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That's very liberating. Hannah's Mother: Not unless being a farmer, a vegetable farmer in Vietnam, in the other side.

That could be what heaven's all about. Being a vegetable farmer in Vietnam. Maybe that's the whole thing. Thanks to Jack Straw Productions for helping her tell that story. Robert Krulwich: I'm trying to think where would My heaven I don't know. Last night in my dreams, actually, I was in a cafeteria with a lot of writers, all of them wearing wire rim glasses? Jad Abumrad: Before we go to break, I played the story you just heard for a neuropsychologist in the UK. His name is Paul Broks.

Wrote an incredible book called Into the Silent Land, and he said and interesting thing to me. We are all just a car crash or a slip away from being a different person.

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Paul Broks: That's right. That's precisely how I felt the very first time I went into one of these neurological rehabilitation centers.

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I suddenly felt very fragile. That in an instant we can be completely transformed. Of course, it's not just the person who's affected, the person who's injured who's affected. It's also the people around them. Paul Broks: There's an interesting little anecdote of this as I was with someone who'd had a severe head injury. I went to see them at home. I did some work with him at home and he got very angry at one point. Got very tired of doing my tests and threw all the test materials on the floor.