The gaps in Maria Pattakos's memory still are there.

Were her parents really deceased?

Yes, her husband, Arion, gently assured her. They died years ago.

Her brother, too?


And how did the alarm system in the house work? And how did you make the bed? And fix breakfast?

Arion showed her.

Nine months after Maria Pattakos of Kensington was struck and seriously injured by a pickup truck on a neighborhood walk after pushing a friend's granddaughter to safety, she is still reassembling the shattered pieces of her memory.

Five months after she was released from Washington's National Rehabilitation Hospital, where she was treated for a severe brain injury, her restlessness and weariness are waning, she shops and goes to church, and she is painstakingly reconstructing the person she once was.

Pattakos and her husband, a retired Army intelligence officer, are currently on a therapeutic trip to the village where she grew up in Greece.

"Is she completely the Maria of old?" her husband wrote in an e-mail from outside the city of Thessaloniki. "Not yet.

"She still needs some cuing to do some things," he wrote. "She is not yet the proactive person she was. . . . At this point in her homework, she still needs a lot of help and explanation. But, she is getting there and the hope is within at most two years she will be back completely."

Maria Pattakos, 60, was out for a walk with a neighbor on Oct. 12, pushing the neighbor's granddaughter in a stroller. They were walking along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park near their homes when they paused at Cedar Lane to cross the street.

After waiting for the illuminated "walk" signal, Pattakos started across with the stroller. At that moment, a pickup truck driven by John Paul Purcell, 54, who lived about four blocks from Pattakos, turned onto Cedar.

Pattakos shoved the stroller out of the way, police said, and then was struck by the pickup. Purcell told investigators that the sun was in his eyes and he didn't see her. Pattakos suffered broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a broken hip, punctured lungs, a fractured skull and brain damage.

She spent weeks at Suburban Hospital, unable to speak or walk, and then three months in the rehabilitation hospital, relearning who she was. She went home Feb. 24. All the while, her husband kept a daily journal, recording her progress and his emotions. He is still keeping it: "Entries every day," he wrote.

"Her interaction with relatives and friends in Greece has been wonderful. We have been in her home village of some 3000 people for about 31/2 weeks now and every day is a step toward recovery. She engages in discussions without fault, displays an improved memory on a daily basis . . . and walks up and down the hills of the village where we are staying: showing more and more endurance.

"The journey to wellness thus far has had its very, very low points but we are overcoming them as they occur," he wrote. "It has had many, many high points too and for these we rejoice."

-- Michael E. Ruane

Maria Pattakos was severely injured after she was hit by a pickup truck Oct. 12. "Is she completely the Maria of old?" husband Arion writes. "Not yet."