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Personal Stories

Personal Stories

Welcome to the Personal Stories page

Posted On - Monday, June 16, 2014

The Brain Injury Association encourages people to share their stories with others. This blog page was developed to offer people a means of sharing their stories with others. The notion that each brain injury is different is still as true today as it was 20 years ago. However, there are lessons we can learn from the experiences of others. Hearing the stories of others can educate, inform and inspire.  We post the stories without editing.  The stories are yours.  We reserve the right to not post stories with profanity.  

That is why we developed the Personal Stories page of the Brain Injury Association website. We wanted a place where people can share their stories, and where people can comment on stories as well. We do have a few simple ground rules:
  1. If you would like to share your story– please send it via e-mail to us. We cannot guarantee that every story will be posted. We will try to post a wide range of stories. We cannot post videos or pictures. Please just e-mail the story.
  2. Posting the story here does not keep you from posting it elsewhere. The story is still yours. Our site is a way to share it with others.
  3. If you wish to share your story but are having trouble starting your story, there is a guide developed by a group of people with brain injury. It is meant as a way to help you think about what is important to share in your story. You can download the guide here.
  4. Use the Tags to find stories that will be helpful to you. Tags are terms used to describe the story, and can help you find stories that are relevant to your situation.
  5. Commenting on stories is encouraged. The Brain Injury Association reserves the right to take down comments that are offensive, inappropriate, or are blatantly marketing a specific product. Readers are encouraged to share their opinions, but remember these are real stories, and real people. Be nice.

From No Knowledge to In Depth Knowledge

Posted On - Monday, June 16, 2014

"From no knowledge to indepth knowledge" My boyfriend was in a serious car accident in my state on February 19, 2011. He rolled 11 times down the embankment on the side of one of our highways. The accident was so bad it made the news. The witnesses said when they got to him, it sounded like he was gurgling. In fact the doctors think he was taking his last breaths. He was unresponsive when paramedics got there and later flatlined twice in the hospital. The doctors advised his parents 8 hours after the injury to pull the plug. He had a 95% chance of being a vegetable, he did everything but break his legs. His seat belt saved him from being thrown from the car. He had a right side subdural hematoma and herniation, 2 collapsed lungs,9 broken ribs,left drop foot, his left shoulder blade shattered, rotator cuff damaged,and his left arm broken in 3 places where it was hanging out the window.

He was in a coma for almost four weeks. In the hospital he had seizures and mini strokes. The doctors didn't bother to fix his left arm since they expected him to die.

Before his accident, he was living a crazy life, an adrenaline junkie. On the path to either death or jail. He was a known street racer, doing and selling drugs and plenty of other illegal things. At the time of the accident, he was NOT racing. It was later discovered his upper ball joint broke off. But the state police did no investigation. He had a passenger and she had some injuries but was not nearly as bad off. The state police buried his injuries at the bottom of the file.

He was in the hospital till July 2011. They put a shunt in the left side of his head that drains into his stomach. When he got out, he couldn't walk, he couldn't remember anything, and could barely use his left arm. His filter was nonexistent, which now it gets laughed about but I am sure he offended more than 1 person. Thankfully physical therapy got him walking again and using his arm again. Then, a set back; the shunt malfunctioned and drained too much fluid. His mom had to call the rescue. He once again went back to not walking.

By the time his court date came around in June 2012, he was back to walking, but with a cane, and he still had serious memory problems. The prosecutor and the judge were in shock when he came in, having no idea he even had injuries. His parents couldn't afford an attorney so he was assigned a public defender. Unfortunately, he ended up with a felony- driving to endanger with personal injury- 5 years probation, 5 years suspended and 2 years loss of license.

All this happened before I knew him.. I only knew of him. My ex-fiancé and I were also in the car scene at that time. In June 2013, I left my ex and due to his drama, I was forced to delete all of my car friends off facebook. A few months later, I was able to re-add everyone and he was friends with all my friends, so I added him too and that's where it began. We started talking on facebook messenger and then texting. We discovered we only lived 1/2 mile away from each other. One day, I had something in my tire. I texted him and asked if he could help me.. I had no idea was to expect when I got there. I knew nothing about brain injuries, except what you see on tv. We laugh about it now but I seriously expected him to be way worse off than he was. He apparently saw something in me, because he pursued me like I'd never been pursued before. I had a lot of reservations. What will everyone think, im dating someone with disabilities!

Well as I write this (June 2014) it's been almost 7 months. Its been the best 7 months I've ever experienced. This man loves me, appreciates me like no one else. It's not about how much money I have, what I have and what I can do for him. It's just about us appreciating each other for each other and I can honestly say I am the happiest I have ever been. I spent a lot of time asking questions, learning about his medications and being the best cheerleader I can be. His memory doesn't seem all that bad most of the time(as good as any other mans! haha). He'd sort of just been "existing" for awhile. His parents were afraid of him going back out into the world. Some days are harder than others though. He tires easily sometimes and can't always understand what I'm telling him. But I wouldn't change how things are for the world. 3.5 years later. he's looking to get back into some type of part time work and trying to get his license back. The main thing I've learned through all this.. is don't judge a book by its cover. Sincerely, Amanda

From Teacher to Author

Posted On - Thursday, May 29, 2014
From Teacher to Author
When I was twelve years old I was diagnosed as having a brain tumor. It was removed two years later, and although my right side was weak and I had some seizures, I was able to function fairly well. I graduated college and began a teaching career. Twenty-five years later, when I was 37, I had a second tumor removed. This time I was left with an expressive aphasia and no functional use of my right arm. I had to give up my teaching job, my driving, my own apartment, and my independence. I was devastated!
I had and continue to have extensive therapies and rehabilitation, water exercises, a leg brace, and private tutoring. My speech problems are significant and very frustrating. My speech is often deliberate and I may search for a word.  At times I use my fingers to help me draw the letters for the words.
I have found that writing children’s books is the most therapeutic strategy for me. It is a creative outlet for my love of children’s literature, and it provides me with some positive feedback and self-esteem. To date I have published four mystery books, all centered around my pet cat Spencer.  They are: Inspector Spencer Solves the Curious Case of Danger Mouse, Inspector Spencer Solves the Case of the Stolen Piano, Inspector Spencer Finds the Purr-fect Solution, and Inspector Spencer Traps Danger Mouse.
My parents and friends have been very supportive. They have always been in my corner, rooting for me.  I also have a wonderful retired reading specialist who works with me on these books and other language challenges.
I am 41 years old now, live with my parents, and recently started a new part-time job. While the job is very basic, it does give me an opportunity to be in a workplace, to socialize with others, and to have a supplemental income.  However, my greatest satisfaction is publishing my books and getting feedback from the children who enjoy them.


A Journey of Recovery

Posted On - Wednesday, May 21, 2014
A Journey of Recovery 

My daughter Bailey was involved in a pedestrian versus motor vehicle accident on May 19, 2009. She was 11 years old simply out with a friend enjoying what started out as a beautiful sunny day. That all drastically changed in an instance when the driver of a Ford F-150 was distracted by his cell phone. His failure to pay attention to the road led to him not yielding to two innocent pedestrians crossing the street. Ultimately my daughter was plowed into throwing and dragging her small frame about 50ft from impact. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, diffused axonal shearing, fractured right hip/femur, multiple pelvic fractures, anatomic storming, and numerous other injuries.
 She sustained loss of gray/white matter differentiation in the lower portion of the cerebral hemispheres, left more than right,in the brainstem, and adjacent brain. Subdural, subarachnoid,intraventricular and intraparenchymal hemorrages with diffused brain swelling with transtentorial and tonsillar herniation. Shearing injury of the splenium of corpus callosum and probable additional shearing foci in the hemispheres. Her Glasgow coma was 3.

Bailey spent nearly 6 months inpatient at the hospital. During that time she had to relearn everything that she once did with ease. She went on to continue out patient therapies for the next three years. She continues to do therapy at home. She now is fully independent. She has mild short term memory loss, mild deficits to her right arm, and right leg. The results of having hemiparesis and from losing 1/4-1/2 of an inch in length to her right leg due to the fracture at the growth plate. She walks independently, and can use her right hand, she can write now with both hands which ironically being ambidextrous was a goal she has prior to her brain injury.

Bailey has taught me so much and continues to do so everyday. I learned how strong we both were and that together nothing is impossible. We developed a "Win Win" attitude right off the bat. The word "cant" was not one we used. If something was difficult that meant it became a goal to accomplish but never an "I can't do it" situation. She has astronomical determination and put all she has towards recovering as much as she could.
She currently is 16 years old and a Junior in High School with a GPA of 4.0 for the first half of the year, her cumulative GPA is 3.7. Right now she is looking forward to her Junior prom and exploring colleges.
Thank you for allowing me to share our journey,
Dawn Michelle Ehasz

Recovery After Second Concussion

Posted On - Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I sustained my second concussion 2.5 years after a first mild concussion in the fall of 2011. Symptoms of that first concussion lasted about six weeks and then I was fine.

But last November 2013, I fell outside my home. I slipped on a step, sprained my ankle, twisted sideways during the fall (to avoid falling on my face) and landed on my elbow. The force of landing on my elbow bounced me backwards and I hit the top of my head full force on the brick wall of the garage. My son was inside the garage at the time and he heard my head hit the wall. I was wearing a hat, so there was just a trickle of blood and I only blacked out for a few seconds. 

I was okay for the first week with bruising and sore muscles, but the concussion symptoms started precisely seven days afterwards and I had head pain such that any thinking was incredibly painful. I stayed still at home for four days and then went back to work in my p-t job as a hospital chaplain. Two weeks after the concussion, I had an ocular hemorrhage. I had some time off at Christmas and just rested. I had to stop all my academic work on my proposed doctoral thesis – it was just too painful and working on the computer was very difficult as was sleeping through the night. I was also sensitive to bright lights and noise. I have been able to keep working part-time, but require huge amounts of rest in order to keep up with my job.

The pain in my head was like a black shroud descending and overtaking everything – I took extra-strength Tylenol every four hours around the clock. By mid-January I felt I was at a standstill with my recovery and I started to research (despite the pain) ways to improve my recovery. Then I had an important realization – what does the brain need to heal, I asked myself – protein!

I found an article online about taking certain amino acids to help with concussion-induced impairment and tried a good quality protein supplement with BCAA’s from the local vitamin store. I took ½ the dose recommended for body builders, 4 scoops (about 20 cc each) over the course of a day. The response was an immediate relief from pain which lasted longer and worked better than Tylenol. Initially I would awake in the night for an extra scoop to help with the pain. I’ve also added brain-friendly fats like avocados and goat cheese to my diet. Meditation has also been very helpful. 

Within 2.5 months of starting the protein supplement, my life is now manageable. I am starting back into my doctoral research (with some pain around thinking/remembering, but taking it slowly) and my overall pain level is reduced by 1/3 to ½  of what it was initially. If I have a really busy day at work, I still need to practice stillness the next day – but I am feeling much better. I know that I still need more time to recover, but I am encouraged and want to share the effectiveness of this treatment with others. 
Sincerely,
 
Lucinda

Caregiver Witness Cheerleader and Coach- Standing Beside Our Loved Ones

Posted On - Thursday, May 01, 2014
Caregivers, Witnesses, Cheerleaders, Coaches: Standing beside our loved ones with TBI

I am the Significant Other (S.O.), and mother, to my daughter Talbot who was hit by a car while crossing the street in front of her university over three years ago. She suffers from severe Traumatic Brain Injury as a result. She initially spent over 6 months in the hospital recovering from her injuries which were almost exclusively to her brain. She was attending a university in Northern California and roughly 6 hours after I learned of the accident, I left our home in CT and boarded a flight from New York’s JFK Airport for San Jose. She had already had one surgery to remove the sub-dural hematoma on the left side of her brain which included a craniectomy to relieve the swelling of her brain just hours after arriving at the hospital. A little over 24 hours after I arrived, they operated on the right side of the brain for similar bleeding issues, and another craniectomy was performed. Injuries to both sides of the brain, occur in very small percentages in the overall spectrum of head trauma. They are among the most severe types of brain injury. 

What I didn’t know then about brain injury and being a primary care giver, I know a whole lot more about now. For me, there was a stance I took from the get go that I was going to fight for her. I think that came not so much from me, but from her. It wasn’t that she could communicate that to me, in fact it has taken over 3 years in her recovery for her to convey any emotions at all. Rather it was a fight I took on for her, because of her, instead of her, without her. When the neurosurgeon approached me a few hours after I arrived, trying to explain how grave her condition was, I knew he was trying to warn me, to tell me it was bad, really bad. I said the first thing that came into my head, you don’t know Talbot.

That early stance has been my pillar during this 3+ year rehab journey and I daresay essential to me as her S.O. - significant other, primary caregiver, mother, and coach. Early on someone said to me they didn’t want to give me false hope. I immediately corrected them. There is no false hope, I countered, only HOPE. 

If HOPE could be a power energy drink, I would be the spokesperson and chief salesperson for the product launch. Without it, I would be lost, bereft and rudderless. As I walk alongside my daughter’s journey which included learning to breathe on her own, swallow, cough, chew, sit, stand, walk and, as of late, ski, ride horses and complete the NYC Marathon this past year, I am the historical scribe but also not so silent, cheerleader and slinger of hope messages. Even when she was undergoing multiple surgeries, I would sing ‘fight songs’ in her ear as they wheeled her into the OR.

What I was in no way prepared for, (and boy that list is long), is the extent of the commitment. I don’t mean like, overtime required, or wish I could take a break, but I mean that none of that is an option. I am not begrudging the commitment, not at all. That’s not it.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I kept saying this is my first rodeo and I would learn as I go. And that couldn’t be more true. I am learning along the way to be her coach, her S.O., and a mother again to my now adult daughter, now 24, over 3 and a half years after her tragic accident. What I know now, and have to swallow whole, is that I have to learn what she is learning in her rehab — about the extent of her injuries, the deficits she has suffered, the strategies she needs to use to overcome them and the acceptance that will hopefully come (soon) after she mourns her previous life and reframes a new one. She has been at NYU/Rusk Brain Injury Day Treatment program in NYC since last March, and they have warmly and brilliantly teased out miraculous results making some of the aforementioned successes possible. Her journey has been jagged, long and strident. Where she is now, is thousands of miles away from January 21,2011. I stand along side her in awe and wonder as she continues to blaze this trail to recovery.

Friends?

Posted On - Friday, April 25, 2014
"Friends?"

If you want to completely frustrate and anger someone who has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, then tell us that we are faking, or making a big deal out of it, or that we should get over it, or it's all in our heads. Let me tell you something: it is all in our heads, it's a Brain Injury, dummy!!! And just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not real to us.

Usually, especially given our frequent anger issues and our low frustration threshold, our first response to comments like these might be to start stomping and snorting like a race horse in his stall just before post time. However, rather than resolve anything, our reactions often serve to drive people away and drive ourselves crazy. Behind the outward anger and frustration, these comments make us feel exasperated, hopeless, full of self doubt and ultimately lead to us questioning ourselves. In these situations we feel backed into a corner, unable to rationally respond, and just want to explode. Trouble is, when we get upset like that, nothing is resolved.

What is really going on here? The issue here is not that other people are stupid or don't care, it's that other people absolutely cannot comprehend the enormity of what has happened to our brain. That's all. Simple. They have no frame of reference that allows them to even begin to understand what has happened, nor should they be expected to, given where they are coming from, and that is something we need to understand. Even when it is explained to them, they cannot understand. The end result is, other people don't understand us, and we don't understand them.

What makes it even harder is that it seems as though our closest friends have the hardest time adapting to the new us. This is very painful. Those of us who have had a Brain Injury have little patience and understanding for friends who question us or abandon us, and because they have done so at a time when we need them, we feel really hurt and angry. Right when we need them!! Why should we be understanding when we are the weakened ones? The last thing we knew these people were our friends and now it seems as though they are stabbing us in the back, and it's when we are at our weakest and need their support. This is hard to take because it almost seems like they are going out of their way to be bad people.

But let's think for a minute; why were you friends in the first place? A friendship is normally a two way street, meaning that both parties get something from the relationship. A relationship exists because it is mutually beneficial, not because it is good for one person and not good for the other. Nor is this a marriage where, "'til death do us part," and you're stuck with each, at least until you get divorced. This is a friendship, and although we like to idealize and romanticize what that friendship is and means, for it to continue, both parties are going to have to continue to get something from it, and it helps for both parties to be on the same wavelength.
You need the friends who care enough about you as a person to be of service, to go through the tough times as well as the good, and who are emotionally equipped for this type of situation. These type of friends are rare, and they are to be treasured. This does not make your other friends bad people. They are just being human, and may not be equipped to be a friend to you after your brain injury. The point is, you can't count on someone just because they have had the label "friend" in the past. Things have changed.

It's also important to look at how you are with your friends. This can be very hard because you're bound to have some sort of hard feelings towards them if they aren't there for you, but carrying around your anger and feelings of rejection is only going to hurt you in the long run. Feeling this way is just going to keep you stuck in the negative, and suck away the good, positive stuff you that you need to get better and live your life. Most of all, you don't want to get involved in the "blame game", and make it an "us versus them" kind of thing. While it might feel good to belittle other people because of the way they are treating you, it shows a distinct lack of power, and will leave you living in that powerless state.

This is tough, because you want to feel good and feel powerful, and sometimes being angry is the only way to fight back against the world. It's asking a lot of you at a time when you may not have a lot to give, but if you can find a way to move past the negative feelings these situations invariably bring, you will be able to direct your energies towards living your life in a more magnanimous and positive way. Being magnanimous, especially to those people who have hurt you without meaning to, will open up your life in ways you didn't think possible.
You can read more on my blog at www.tbisurvivor.com

Thank you.

Deep Personal Reflection

Posted On - Thursday, February 20, 2014
Deep, Personal Reflection
January 2014

As I reflect on my life 29 years ago, I realize how truly blessed I am.  It was that time when I was gifted to be in an altered state of consciousness for 2 1/2 months.  Being in a coma is what I imagine heaven to be like: no issues only Divine presence!  There was struggle through the way, but I mostly saw light in the midst.  

Now I am doing what I love, writing prayers and communing with God on a different, somewhat new level.  I also get to share my “gift,” my disability, with awesome Catholic Schools, their students and their teachers. The gift keeps on giving even further to amazing audiences!

In my personal life, there is my beautiful husband, Jim, who supports my endeavors and my love for Christ more than I could have ever dreamed; he shares that special love with me. How can I not be grateful for all that He has given me? A beautiful family, who I cherish with my life, a healthy attitude which has been my defender, a wonderful husband and quality life!  But most significantly, I am grateful for my intense relationship with the God who always was, who continues to be.

It is gratitude that lives on; gratitude that endures; gratitude that will see me through good times and hard times. Gratitude directs me toward the eternal light.  There is always something to be grateful for. 

I thank God for the sacred moments He and I share together.  My gazes toward Jesus in my prayer room are fixated with love, where I receive His Divine mercy.  I love you Lord Jesus; thank you for making me a vessel, one saved by grace.

In His powerful love,

Tessie
Advocate for Persons with Disabilities
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

A Long Road

Posted On - Friday, January 31, 2014
A Long Road 

For as long as I could remember, I was an athlete. That’s the way I liked it. In a way sports were what I thought defined me as a person. Unfortunately, when I was a sophomore in high school, I suffered four concussions in three weeks playing basketball. My first concussion that year occurred during a game, which I played through. I had the weekend off from practice, though so I thought I would be fine to play once the weekend was over. I was wrong. My next game was a few days later and the same thing happened only this time I was told to sit out for a week. Instead of listening, I sat out for four days and played again. My first game back was okay, but my second game back was very bad. I do not remember it, but I can go off of what I was told. After hitting my head during this game, I could not regain my balance, I could not see straight when I tried to shoot foul shots, and could not even sit up without falling over when I was waiting at the scorer’s table to get buzzed into the game. The trainer for the other team pulled me aside when she noticed this and didn’t let me go back into the game. She then called my parents who picked me up and took me to the doctor. At this point I was getting really tired of being told I had to sit out, so when my doctor said I had to sit out for two weeks after I became symptom free I knew I would have to find a way around it. Instead of waiting until my symptoms subsided, I was back to playing exactly two weeks after my doctor’s appointment. The game that I returned to was the last basketball game I would ever play. My last concussion that year happened when I banged the back of my head off of the court. I laid there for a few seconds, but was able to stand up on my own and walk myself to the trainer’s room before I fell down. I was brought home and to the emergency room the next day when my symptoms became to get much worse. They held me in the ER while I fought with them because they were “causing me to miss another basketball game”. I was a complete mess. 

At this point in time I had no idea the severity of my injury. In fact, I’m not sure anyone knew just how bad it was. I began going to a concussion center once every two weeks where I met a phenomenal doctor who has helped me tremendously. I was told I could not to take part in any kind of physical activity and had to monitor my symptoms. Every two weeks I had to take an ImPACT test on the computer. My scores at first were pretty terrible and since I didn’t have a baseline test for my results to be compared to, I had to retake the test until I reached average scores. By the beginning of my junior year, my ImPACT scores reached above average and I worked my way up to being cleared to do everything except play contact sports. I was so excited I practiced every chance I could to make sure I was ready for when I got cleared again. Then at one of my biweekly appointments, I got cleared! I cried. It was one of the best feelings I had ever had. 


However, that feeling didn’t last for long. During preseason of my junior year, I didn’t even hit my head, and every one of my symptoms came back. It was devastating and I was completely confused. When I told my doctor he told me to stop participating and we made an appointment at the concussion center as soon as we could. When I got to the office that day I knew something was wrong, my appointment was after hours and in a completely different office than I had ever been in. The appointment started with my doctor showing me a YouTube video clip of what was going on in my brain. He then explained that although my brain my had healed cognitively, it didn’t heal physically. I found out that I tore nerves in my brain, which caused scar tissue to form. Since I injured my brain so much and never really let it heal, it would never be able to reset itself again. This means that when I was running or doing sharp cuts on the floor (like you would do in basketball), my brain was moving more than it was supposed to and the scar tissue was hitting. He then told me that I would never be able to play sports again. So again, I cried. This time I cried for the rest of the appointment, I cried when I got home, I cried when I woke up, and I cried in school the next day. I felt like by losing my ability to play sports meant losing everything that I am. 

I was later sent to the neurology center at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Of course, I asked them if I could ever play sports again. When I did, they looked confused. They said, “Sweetheart, you need to just be happy that you are alive.” 

Throughout the next couple months my symptoms continued to get worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t even be in school and was home bound for the last four months of my junior year. Being home bound may have helped me physically, but emotionally it wrecked me. No longer was I just upset about just losing sports, but now I lost my friends, my freedom, and just the feeling of being like other kids my age. I fell into a depression and my health began to decrease because of it. 

By my senior year of high school I was cleared to go to school for half days. At this point in time my symptoms were still very bad and I struggled to complete normal, everyday tasks. However, I was allowed to workout as long as I didn’t jolt my brain too much, jump around, or take part in contact sports. So I practiced with my basketball team. Running around made me throw up because my brain was moving so much. Sometimes I would get sick multiple times a practice, but I didn’t care. Being part of practice at all meant everything to me. 

Just like my classmates at this point, I started looking at colleges. I was then told that I probably wouldn’t be able to go away to school since I couldn’t take care of myself then. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to handle the workload or even my symptoms. 

This is where my success story starts. I am now a junior at Marywood University studying Health and Physical Education. I am on track to graduate in May of 2015 and have been doing all of this while holding three jobs. It feels pretty amazing to prove people wrong.

Nothing about my life is easy, but I will not let people tell me I cannot do something because of my head (as long as it doesn’t threaten my health). Instead, I’ve learned ways to cope. My room is full of post-it notes which help me to remember everyday things like brushing my teeth, using deodorant, taking medications, and what I should bring to class. Sometimes I still forget, but for the most part I’m doing pretty well. The symptoms that I have at this point in my life are probably the symptoms that I will have for the rest of my life. These include a headache everyday, which I’ve had for the past four years, hallucinations, memory problems, poor concentration, light and noise sensitivity, and a few others. Sometimes my symptoms get unbearable, but I now know how to deal with them. In fact, most people that I know in my college town don’t even know about my head injury, which I think is a pretty big accomplishment in itself.

I wish that I had known how much this head injury would have affected me, but I didn’t. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t help others. My goal is to help young athletes to understand just how serious head injuries are. One game is not worth the rest of your life. My life is changed forever, but it might not be too late for someone else. It would be wonderful if one day I could wake up without a headache, but that probably isn’t realistic. So for now I’m just getting everything out of life that I can and enjoying every second. My injury might prevent me from doing some things, but it will never define who I am.



-Shannon Lyons









The Officer Really is Friendly

Posted On - Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Officer Really Is Friendly

John (not his real name) is a 37 years old African American male with a severe traumatic brain injury. His injury occurred as the result of an automobile accident when he was 16 years old and driving home from school.  After receiving several weeks of care at a major trauma center in Houston, he was transferred to the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR). Since the accident, he has completed degrees from both a community college and a state university. Twenty years post-accident, he holds down a full-time job at a state employment cent er as a resource room specialist.

John’s encounter with Officer Friendly was the result of an independent living issue.  John rented a small apartment in a large urban apartment complex. There were no special features to serve his particular disability needs. Apartment disability services tend to focus on physical issues. In John’s case, the problem was social screening.  His work with the public brought him into contact with all types of people, including predators.  For a period of time, John had permitted predators to move into his apartment and take over. Some were from the homeless community; others were seeking a place where they could launch illegal activities. Unfortunately, John was unable to say no to their intrusions and, in fact, left them in his apartment unsupervised during the day while he worked and paid all the bills.

John’s caregiver had grave concerns about this situation because the predators were total strangers with unknown histories of violence, drug use, or other criminality. She learned that they were stealing items from his apartment—television sets, telephones, and other electronics were favorites. They had also taken John to the bank to make withdrawals from his account. Occasionally, the caregiver, who was 71 years old, would make surprise visits during the day when John was at work and find and evict the intruders.  The unwanted visitors would leave without argument and wait until John returned from work, then move right back in.  After encountering a “house guest” engaged in an illegal activity, she realized that she would need outside assistance to handle the problem in the future.  A day or so later, the caregiver called the apartment and discovered that John was ill and had not been to work that day. John never missed work, so this escalated her concern. The caregiver responded that she would be there immediately and that the City Police Department had been alerted and would also be coming. Since the apartment was near to the caregiver and a regional police station, both the caregiver and Officer Friendly arrived at the apartment within minutes. By the time of their arrival, all the unwanted guests had disappeared as usual.  John met in the apartment with the caregiver, his dad, the officer, and  the apartment complex security officer . The latter explained that he worked for the complex and the authority of the complex stopped at the door to the apartment. Once a person was admitted into the apartment, it was the tenant’s problem, and the city police had to handle the situation.

After a half-hour of discussion, all agreed that John was unable to explain why he permitted strangers to move into his apartment and did not understand the dangers they posed. The city police officer who had participated patiently in the dialogue, recommended that John relinquish his apartment and move back home with his parents. The officer spoke in a quiet, steady voice and made the case that John’s present living conditions were on the verge of producing disastrous results for him and others he cared about.  He convinced John that at home with his parents he would not only be safer, but would have better control of his finances and other possessions. Although John loved his apartment dearly, he realized that he had lost control of his living environment and agreed to return to his parents’  home.  With the help of his parents, he completed the move by the next day. 
        The following are some of the positive skills displayed by the officer that may help other TBI survivors and their caregivers:
  • Non-threatening demeanor.  No gun was drawn.
  • Emphasis on problem-solving, not punishment.
  • Good listening skills and a calm speaking manner.
  • Willingness  to engage in dialogue with the TBI survivor.
  • Respectful approach to survivor’s needs.
A letter was sent to the appropriate office commending the officer for his excellent handling of the case. It is important to let the police know when their services have been effective.


 
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