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The impatient patient

I'm not supposed to be writing this. I'm supposed to be letting my brain rest.

My brain is recovering from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and I'm supposed to be letting the blood be reabsorbed into my brain. No heavy lifting is how I interpret this, but the neurology people consider my work – reporting, writing and editing – heavy lifting for the brain. For those who dismiss journalists and journalism, you read that here: Journalism is heavy lifting.

I'm not supposed to work or drive for a month.

The only problem is my brain won't shut down. I'm a journalist. Everywhere I look, everything I experience … well, it's a potential story. I go on vacation, I see stories.

I get mugged, I see a story.

On Sunday, Nov. 2, I was clubbed on the head while walking to my car in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was after 11 p.m. I had attended a trivia quiz at one of my favorite community hangouts, the Merlins Rest pub on Lake Street. My team tied for second. A teammate and I walked out together. He was parked on the street. I was parked just around the corner in Merlins Rest's parking lot. Neither one of us thought I was in any danger of walking maybe 20 or 30 feet to my car by myself.


I don't remember much in the immediate moments leading up to the mugging and during it. I do recall seeing a person some distance away. I remember wondering later, how did he get to me so quickly? The answer surfaced a few days later.

A 'whoomph,' then blood
I remember a "whoomph," which must have been some object coming down on my head. I still don't know what it was. I might have passed out. I remember putting my left hand to my head and seeing a lot of blood when I brought it down. I remember rubbing the blood on the knee of my jeans.

By now there were other people in the parking lot. I remember asking someone I recognized from the pub to call 911.

I remember the ambulance and the police arriving quickly, and police asking questions. How much did I have to drink? Did I see anyone? What did he look like? What is my name? Where do I live? After running a check, they told me I was born in Geneva, Ill. Not too many people know that. Homeland Security at work?

I remember throwing up A LOT each time I was moved – from the simple act of lowering the gurney's back in the ambulance, to being shifted to a gurney in Hennepin County Medical Center's emergency room, to being moved from the ER gurney to the CAT scan, from being moved back to ER, to being moved to my own room, to trying to go to the bathroom. Any motion brought nausea and dizziness. I absolutely hate throwing up. I hate dizziness. My head really hurt. Not long after my arrival at HCMC, I remember wanting to die during one bout of nausea and saying to myself, "Just let me die now, please."

My friends don't like hearing that last one. I understand. No need to worry. I'm very relieved to be alive and to realize that my mugging could have been far worse.

A few comforting details
I try to comfort myself that they didn't get my car keys or my car, they didn't try to charge anything with my credit cards, that I likely will recover just fine, that I got to vote less than 48 hours after the attack and that I walked into the polling place with the help of MinnPost jazz writer Pamela Espeland. So there, thugs.

I remember MinnPost CEO/Editor Joel Kramer and Managing Editor Susan Albright showing up at my bedside the day after with insurance information and Halloween chocolate, offering to retrieve my car and take care of it. I remember them asking me about voting and feebly answering how two HCMC people had told me I could vote absentee from my bed, that they could arrange it. I still could not lift my head without the room spinning or see that well to read a ballot (my glasses were stolen, too) and said I'd have to deal with it later. Joel and Susan are journalists, too, and everything's a story, so sure enough a story about HCMC's voting help appeared on the site.

Questions from visitors and callers seemed taxing most of Monday. Then there are the questions taxing my brain.

Each question leads to another
Chiefly, what I don't understand is what would possess people to clobber a 5-foot-2 woman for about $30 in cash and a hopelessly outdated cell phone? It doesn't even have a camera. I would have handed them my purse; just don't hurt me. All the possible reasons – drugs, a gang dare, desperation – lead to many more questions. What's going on in our society that people would do this? For example, is this really the time to be cutting back budgets on youth and family services? For some reason, I think a youth was involved.

What do I know since the attack? A security video camera at the neighboring White Castle reportedly caught three men running from the scene about that time, three men who were spotted in the White Castle moments before. They are still at large, as far as I know. The police have not returned my phone call, but they will be hearing from me again. Merlins Rest is now escorting customers to their vehicles.

Meanwhile, a nearby resident found my driver's license in the alley and Googled my name and saw that I worked at MinnPost. Rimhel Ridley emailed me about his discovery, but when he didn't hear back he called MinnPost's office. He searched up and down the alley for other items. The other day I got this note from my hero along with my license: "Our thoughts are with you as you recover from such a terrible act. Please don't let the jerks in the world keep you down long! We wish you a speedy recovery."

A new, unwelcome descriptor
Such notes from well-wishers keep me going as it sinks in that I am a victim of a crime. That's a new descriptor for me, and I don't like it. On the other hand, visitors arrive almost daily with food and flowers and offers to clean as needed and to drive me wherever I need to go. Cards arrive in the mail and cheer me up.

All this touches the heart of an occasionally cynical journalist. I've been so independent for so many years that it is difficult to ask for help or to let people do things for me. As a friend prepared to flip the switch of my vacuum cleaner the other day, she explained that she felt so awful about the attack that she needed to do something to feel better.

As I heal, I am learning that my friends and family need to heal, too.

To readers: I know that other crime victims have suffered far worse than I have, but does it make sense to continue writing about this process – as long as my head doesn't hurt too much? As I type this line, my head is aching a bit and I am going to stop after a few more sentences. And I promise not to reread this too many times before sending to my editors. MinnPost, as a rule, does not keep up with cops and robbers. But I find myself curious about how people bounce back and wondering about the solutions and, bottom line, will they find my attackers? As Eric Black likes to say, what think?

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Comments (8)

Terrifying story of an incident that could happen to anyone. First heard of the mugging via Twitter.

Get well soon, hope they catch the guy.

Casey, Thanks for sharing your sobering story. It seems over the years i've had friends of both genders equal opportunisticly mugged. When it gets so overtly violent from the outset, as in your case, it really upsets me! I'm mad at parents, education, the economy and just mad at the people who think this is an acceptable thing to do. Wishing you a speedy recovery; don't use those brain muscles too much for a little while.

Cornelius - bartender, Merlins Rest

Get well, Casey. My thoughts are with you.

How awful. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope your brain can rest now.

Casey. Sharing this story is useful to many who have been victims of crimes -- small and large. That said, don't overdo. You're in our thoughts!

WTF? Oh I'm so sorry to hear about this, this is my neighborhood. Please get well soon.

Thanks to all of you for your comments, good wishes and support. I am happy to report that I am feeling better every day.

This piece came tumbling out of my head in about an hour's time on Sunday, and then I was able to take a long nap afterward. I sometimes worry about sharing something so personal and graphic as in TMI, but this might have been somewhat cathartic for the impatient patient. And if it alerts or reminds others to be watchful, all the better.

Thanks again for your readership.

As I'm very interested in the health care reform issue, I read all of your articles and have been so pleased with the depth of the research and completeness of analysis that contribute to such valuable journalism. Now, to hear that you have been dealing with headaches as you've done such incredible work, I'm impressed. I'm also very sorry that this violence happened to you and that you have suffered so. Be well and careful.