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.
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Well, I sure as heck don¹t remember it. All of my knowledge rests on
what witnesses said. It was just a little over a mile from my house on
December 17, 2013. That means it was also just a tenth of a mile from my
sister¹s house. That turned out to be a stroke of luck for me. As I
went past her house, she was just pulling out of the driveway and thought
to herself ³That looks like David going by.²
Well, just a little further down the road, there was a car sitting dead
still signaling their desire to make a left turn and obviously waiting
for me to pass. There was also someone else pulling up behind that car
and also desiring to make a left turn into a driveway about 25 feet
closer than the drive for which the first car was sitting dead still. It
never occurred to the driver of the second car that there was a reason
for the first driver to be sitting and waiting.
The second driver went ahead and executed his left turn. The cops
measured the skid marks left by my Gold Wing at just 22 feet. I figure I
was going very close to the posted speed limit of 35 because that stretch
of road was well known to have police cars with radar units watching for
speeders. I was probably still doing around 30 when I struck the SUV
that turned in front of me. The impact threw me out of the boot I was
using to apply the brake. I¹m very glad I was wearing a high quality
helmet (Shoei) because my head struck the hardest part of the SUV (the
roof line over the passenger door) and that is where my story really
My brain continued traveling inside my head and slammed into the interior
wall of my skull. Something punched a hole about an inch around and at
least an inch deep in my right thigh. Got lucky there because it barely
missed the femoral artery. As I lay there, my luck actually changed. My
sister pulled up about 15 seconds after it happened and thought, ³I
wonder if David managed to get past here.² Well, I didn¹t. She is
trained as a Red Cross First Responder and immediately took action, when
she realized it was me. With people hollering at her not to touch me,
she straightened my airway and managed to restore my breathing somewhat.
She also called 911 and insisted that they send a helicopter and not a
standard ambulance. She then called my wife and let her know to get
there right away. The wife got there about the same time as the
helicopter and they told her to go straight to the hospital. It¹s only
about 20 minutes from the site of the accident but the chopper beat her
there and had me unloaded and in the ER before she got there.
I quit breathing at least once before getting to the ER, but good EMTs
and the attention of my sister made that a bit of a non-issue. At the ER
they decided that I had a broken leg (which they didn¹t even bother to
splint or treat since I wasn¹t moving) at least three cracked ribs and a
brain hemorrhage. While in the ICU (in a coma for several weeks), I had
a saddle embolism. They said I likely would have died if I wasn¹t
already in the hospital being watched for just such a problem. I already
had a history of embolisms due to DVTs in one leg. Lucky me. They had a
surgeon install a filter in me to prevent clots from getting that far in
the future. I also had a case of pneumonia caused by inhaling stuff I
should have been swallowing. My wife says listening to me trying to
breathe at that time was one of the worst periods in her life. They
sucked the fluids out of my lungs and eventually removed the breathing
tube for the first time in a little over two weeks. Of course, this is
all something else I was told about and for which I have no memory.
So, a little over three weeks after the wreck (I refuse to call it an
accident since the driver of the other vehicle could have avoided his
actions) I was transferred by ambulance to a hospital a little over 70
miles away that has a well-known brain injury ward. Also don¹t remember
that. I do remember insulting the nurses at that hospital and accusing
them of keeping me sick as a way of insuring job security. I was joking
but they didn¹t know that at the time. After I was there for about three
weeks one nurse told me ³I¹ve decided that you¹re a funny guy and it¹s
not the brain damage making you say the things you do.² I smiled and
almost choked on that one.
A month at the Brain Injury ward and they gave me permission to go to the
bathroom without a nurse watching. I still had to ask for permission and
they still liked to have a nurse in my room any time I got up to go, but
it was still a matter of celebration for me. It¹s funny the things that
we decide are worth celebrating. Things like being able to use a walker
to go to the bathroom and not a wheel chair. And finally, being able to
walk the 15 feet to the BR without a walker. I have to admit that having
the walker was a feeling of safety that I didn¹t usually give up, but it
was good to know it wasn¹t required.
Finally about 2.5 months after the wreck, HOME. I said goodbye to all
the nurses and PT folks that made it possible and got wheeled down to the
car. Let me tell you about that 70 mile ride home. It was horrifying.
I was suffering greatly from double vision. I¹m talking about the funny
stuff in movies where you see two people or two cars coming at you and
you have no way of knowing which is the real car. I kept closing one eye
so as to see only one car. The other thing I hadn¹t really considered
was that it had been more than two months since I could remember
traveling faster than a wheel chair. The ride home was quite the thrill.
After I got home there were many adjustments to be made. I could only
shower because sitting in a tub and being able to get back up was out of
the question. It only took making the attempt once in a dry tub to show
me that. Luckily, my shower was built with a seat for my wife to shave
her legs and that works great for taking a shower without standing up.
Using newly installed hand rails to get back up off the toilet was
another one. New ways of getting out of bed without falling down. A
different chair for watching TV and that is a lot easier to fall into and
climb out of. Life was just full of surprises.
Then, of course, PBA. I¹ve only recently seen ads on TV about that and I
know I would have chuckled over it before the wreck because I would not
have understood. Pseudo Bulbar AffectŠ if you don¹t know, it causes you
to find yourself laughing or, in my case, crying uncontrollably at the
silliest of causes. I found myself crying when I talked about never
being able to ride a motorcycle again, having problems relearning
ballroom dance, watching a sad moment in a TV show. Thank the Lord for
Neudexta. Use of this drug allows me to get through the day with no
uncontrollable episodes. When I felt the crying coming on, I would warn
my friends that it was about to happen and it was okay for them to help
laugh me out of it. I can only imagine how it would have affected
someone who was unable to laugh at themselves. Anyone reading this
should know that I would never laugh at them about this condition or any
of the problems associated with brain injuries; but I was, and am, able
to laugh at myself about just about anything. I firmly believe that the
best recovery possible from a TBI involves quite a bit of humor.
Here I am over a year later. I still have a multitude of problems. My
memory is not as good as before. My sense of balance sucks. I can¹t
remember a tenth of the dance moves that I knew before the wreck and my
feet feel like I¹m wearing ten pounds of lead booties on them. Maybe not
important to most of you but, if you¹re a ballroom dancer with more than
10 years of experience; you can imagine how I feel. I have a very
flighty temper now and it was always very tightly controlled. My
handwriting and printing are very sloppy and my printing was usual cause
for strangers to ask me if I was an engineer. In crowds, I find that my
world starts to tilt and rock. My feet and arms have burning and
freezing sensations running through them all the time. I start to wonder
if it will ever get much better and it is sometimes hard to remain
positive. But crying about your troubles never did anyone good.
I hope that writing this down will help someone to know that their
circumstances are not unique. We are not alone and; no matter how bad
things look, someone else has it a lot worse. Life is good.
Second Chance - TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor hopes to inspire
If you had a second chance at life, what would you do with it?
Randy Davis, a recently Honorably Discharged Soldier of the US Army Reserves, is living proof of triumphing over tragedy. Davis is a Survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, that almost claimed his life. He survived being shot in the head.
Randy recently completed an 8 year term of service in the US Army Reserves. He enlisted at 37 years old, going through Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Davis's journey of being a Survivor doesn't begin here however. Prior to enlisting as a US Soldier, Davis has been in and out of Law Enforcement and Private Security since the early 1990's. Davis has served as a Deputy Sheriff in Richmond, Virginia, as a Police Officer in Norfolk, VA, and then served as a Federal Police Officer in Colorado shortly after 9/11. The unusual thing about this career is that it has unfolded after Randy cheated Death.
Going back to 1984, Randy was a high school Junior living in SanDiego, CA. He had recently left his native Virginia to live with his father and stepmother. Growing up in rural Virginia had Randy growing up hunting and target shooting and planning on a Military career after High School. But fate stepped in to redirect him.
November 3rd, 1984 began as many warm autumn Southern California days do, beautiful. Randy had gone target shooting with some schoolmates in the afternoon, not knowing what was about to transpire. Randy had been roaming the forests, thickets, and woods of his native Virginia for years. He had already been in California for a few months and this was an opportunity for him to go target shooting and have fun. He didn't know his new schoolmates were novices when it came to firearms.
Randy and several new schoolmates went to a canyon area in northern SanDiego, set up some targets and plinked until sundown. After firing several rounds into targets, the lads called it a night. Randy wanted to enjoy the wooded night air for a few moments, separating from the group briefly. The other teens had returned to the pickup truck that had ferried them out to the desert. About 100 yards away, Randy was climbing out of the canyon when one of the lads pulled the trigger on his .22 rifle, several times.
Randy describes what happened next, "I heard the gunshot and a fraction of a second later my head snapped back. The pain was excruciating and I tumbled over an embankment. I was howling in pain as I cradled my broken face, feeling blood pouring between my fingers."
Randy remembers looking up in the moonlight and seeing blood spurt from a hole somewhere on the right side of his face. It turns out the first bullet entered 1/4" from the right corner of his right eye, burrowing through bone, tissue, and brain matter. It came to rest in the right temporal lobe of his brain. A second bullet grazed the left side of Randy's head, just taking a chunk of flesh with it as it sped by at 1,300 feet per second.
Randy remained conscious and crawled his way up the embankment, as he describes like something out of an old western. He staggered toward the headlights and found 4 other scared teenagers who rushed him to the local trauma center in Escondido, CA. The battle to survive continued on that mad dash to the emergency room.
"I had been reading survival manuals and military history, planning on a Military career. Suddenly I find myself in the back of a pickup, one arm wrapped around the roll bar and the other hand held against my gushing head wound. I had a moment of clarity going through First Aid stuff I'd learned over my short 16 years. I realized I needed a bandage to control the external bleeding and pulled an old handkerchief from my back pocket. Then I remember thinking, 'OK I'm going into shock, what do I do for that? Oh yeah, elevate feet, head, and stay warm.' I staggered into the Trauma center at Palomar Memorial Hospital, fully conscious, covered in mud and blood, with a bullet in my brain, but ALIVE."
The survival ordeals of Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, are not just limited to what happens at the scene of the injury but also continues once the patient is in medical care. Randy had stopped the external bleeding but was still bleeding inside the skull, intracranial, which puts pressure on the brain with nowhere for fluids to go. Emergency brain surgery was performed to remove the bullet and damaged brain matter. No one knew what the outcome would be and at 16 years old, Randy had to go into oblivion, not knowing if he would survive the surgery or not. However several hours later, God allowed Randy to return and begin starting a 2nd chance at life.
He had a depressed skull fracture from the impact of the bullet, and now has a large dent and a question marked shaped scar on the right side of his head from surgery. The psychological and emotional aftermath of this incident was off the scales. As for the rate of the severity of Randy's injuries, one Doctor described his injury as, “catastrophic." At 16 years old, Randy was dealing with PTSD that was ranked off the charts as well. It would consume many years of his post-injury existence.
According to Randy,"I did my own research years later and came across a published study by the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, into TBI. The study said 'Firearm related Traumatic Brain Injuries,TBI, result in a 9:10 death ratio.' So I'm 1:10 that survived, pretty slim odds of survival."
When he turned 18, Randy went to Army recruiters, still wishing to serve his country. After telling the recruiters about his shooting, he was told, “YOU CAN'T EVEN BE DRAFTED!" So Randy wandered, lost for years, not being able to do what he wanted to do since he was a child, serve his country. Randy worked many dead end jobs over the years, still dealing with PTSD and not having any resources. Until he found the National Head Injury Foundation, now the Brain Injury Association of America, www.BIAUSA.ORG, and found people who understood TBI.
With proper therapy and resources, Randy moved forward in life, going back to college, earning an Associate’s Degree in Administration of Justice, magna cum laude. Randy took a job doing Security at a Nabisco factory in Richmond, VA.
Randy pursued a career in Law Enforcement seeing it as a way to still serve his Country. This was several years after the shooting and Randy's relentless pursuit of normalcy. Randy had to teach his brain to work harder and had to fail in some things in life as well in his recovery from an almost fatal shooting.
He spent almost 10 years actively wearing a law enforcement uniform of some kind, both in Virginia and Colorado. But it wasn't enough, and Randy wouldn't stop until he finished something he'd started years before.
In 2005, Randy enlisted, and was accepted, into the US Army Reserves. "I was 16 years old when I got shot, then 20 years later, I'm shipping off for Basic Training!!" He went through the Army Engineer Heavy Equipment Operator School at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri to do something other than Security/Police work. Randy drove trucks and heavy equipment and managed to complete 8 years of service in the Army without being shot again.
November of 2013 marked his 29th Anniversary of surviving being shot in the head. He spent the day at his Army Unit in Denver, CO, being grateful. "I have to look at each day as a grace from God. Every day I'm still here, I've been given a second chance at life."
Now Randy works in Industrial Security in Northern Colorado. "I read a story in a local paper in the early 1990's about another TBI survivor. That lead me to find the support and resources I needed to move forward in life. I want to return the favor," Davis says. "The incidents and statistics of TBI are staggering, yet public awareness is virtually nil. I want to be a face for Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI. For other TBI Survivors, don't let anyone tell you you can't do something.
Story of Persevering with Multiple Brain Injuries to Authorship
A serious brain injury in 1992 and four subsequent concussions left me with a brain that had great difficulty with reading, writing and other challenging symptoms. Eighteen years of early childhood teaching and training of others, using a drama/play for learning technique, I developed, inadvertently, provided for my brain development, healing and learning too. The dramatic play I was engaged in, apparently was just as essential for brain healing as it is for brain development in youth! Also, just like one of the messages in my newly published book, is that when we focus outside ourselves in service to others, we heal, grow and find our wholeness! At a certain point in my healing, my brain was able to write more consistently, including poetry- which took my cognition to a higher level. In 2011, I felt compelled to write a story combining fiction and reality to teach about the beauty of the tribe in Africa, I had stayed with since we had provided them with clean water, who had inspired me. I pondered it, for quite a while, on long walks and in the quiet home, I had created, for minimal sensory input for my brain function and healing. One day it poured out of me. It felt quite miraculous to me, remembering a time when Newsweek was read to me, after my initial brain injury. The story was laid out in prose to begin with but I decided to offer the powerful magic of rhyme to youth, just as it had helped me.
I had two concussions actually during the four year production process of creating my children’s book. In 2013, I sustained a serious concussion. This cut dramatically into the production process of the illustrations for the book. Then book’s completion was in serious question once again when last June 2014, I sustained my fifth concussion. I was nearing the finish line with Beaver’s Pond Press. We had some more re-working of text and the design phase, to lay out the text of the book to still complete. All work was halted for a time, including fundraising. I focused on healing, not pushing against the symptoms, listening to what my brain and body needed to heal. I had motivation too, since I have a son to love and a book I wanted to share, with messages that are bigger than me. I had an eight week recovery period. The book “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope” was miraculously launched in early November 2014! It is about empathy, shared humanity- that we are the human family and that we are connected to all, including the endangered cheetah. It is also about perseverance!
The cheetah in the story represents the plight of anyone but a dear friend suggested to me, “you are the cheetah!” Upon deep reflection, I realized he was right. The cheetah represents me persevering with multiple brain injuries. In having served youth through, Jelly Beans Creative Learning, I inadvertently, experienced cognitive improvements, brain healing and discovered my wholeness. In not self- absorbing but giving, loving and helping others, this connection gave me a feeling of being complete. “Connection provides us with a sense of our wholeness.” This is a line from the last page of “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope.”
In the dedication of the book I included “To others with Brain Injury-may this book give you hope to persevere!” In the acknowledgment pages I wrote-“I want to share that I am grateful for every aspect of my life, both easy and difficult, since it provided me with strength and the introspective mind that led me to write. I truly believe that challenges are a tremendous gift if we choose to harness what can be learned from them. I believe that the heart that gave me the desire to write and share comes directly from all of that. I loved the opportunity the share the magic of rhyme for brain healing and development with others. It was a gift to get to share! It felt like a miracle too, since I struggled for many years with reading and writing following Brain Injuries.”
Sending Appreciation and GREAT JOY, HOPE and LOVE SissyMarySue
Wendy Muhlhauser-Author SissyMarySue
“Empowering youth with empathy to spring into compassionate action!”
Let me introduce myself, I Karl Moritz am now ‘Born Again’ but not in a religious way but rather as a TBI Survivor. I think that only a TBI survivor could truly possible understand this because as being ‘Born Again’, one must learn how to start Life all over again, learning and developing one’s self and how to do almost everything all over again. Some learnings are easy and some are difficult. My ‘Born Again’ story started June 29th 2010.
A little into my history; I started bicycling to and from work in 1999 because I wanted to do something good for myself and the environment. I have been cycling to and from work for the past thirteen years at an average distance of about forty miles round trip a day. On the same course that I have been cycling from Nike World Headquarters to SE Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon. On the way home at approximately the eighteen mile mark, I was traveling south on my bike on S.E. Ladd’s Ave. I just passed a small traffic round-about and a Honda Odyssey struck me head on at 25-30 mile per hour by at approximately 5:10 pm. The only witness was the a twenty-five year old male drive who reported to the police that I was headed South while he was headed North and my bike handle bars began to shack and I just fell off my bike and was struck head on and dragged underneath the car for thirty feet. At the initial impact my helmet, back pack and a shoe was knocked from my body.
I no longer call it an accident but rather a ‘Life change’. I fractured my spine in seven, my scull in three and my right leg in four locations, broke my hip and had thirteen titanium screws set in to hold it all back together, had plastic surgery to attach part of my left ear back to my skull. All this trauma, I ended up with a Server TBI as I was in a Coma for thirty two days. Because I was in a coma for that period of time, my TBI was scored at a Server level. There are three scores of a TBI Mild, Moderate and Server and pending on the Glasgow scale. Okay, and I do have very sincere doughts’ what the only witness told the Police what really happened in this accident. I also have to accept that the truth may never be known what REALLY Happened?
Peddling forwards; since my life change I have completed thirteen Bicycle Century event rides. Three of those century rides were on the exact same bike that was in my life changing event. That’s why I find fought in the driver’s statement to Police that I just fell off?!? And this maybe my personal take, but there has been absolutely no communication between the Drive to me or to my family.
When I was initially released from the hospital after three months my nurse told me that I was actually being released early. And she thought that was that I took good care of myself. I initially that it was because I have been a vegetarian for half my life. I did some research and found out that riding a bicycle is in the Top Three Physical Activities that promotes cognition development. This is because you are asking your brain to multi task in many aspect; perception, balance attention, memory & working memory, judgment & evaluation, reasoning.
So now I’m on a “Feed your body, Feed Brain” self-prescribed regiment. This includes Diet (including herbs), Meditation, Brain Training with Luminosity, attending TBI support group meetings, Temp working in my prior field and bicycle riding ten miles a day. (Exercise and diet are important factors in promoting healthy neuronal functioning and therefore healthy brain functioning).
Being creative and loving bicycles. I decided to begin were I left off at by building a bike. Open and read this link to my bike build story. https://plus.google.com/115893960526187521638/posts/fshDszRMV2L
TBI and the accident cost me a lot! It cost me the loss of my House because while I was in a coma I couldn’t make house payments so I had to sign a Foreclosure paper work. My job (Profession) that I was in for half my life and for the past nine years as a Senior Tech. Designer at Nike. I know the path as I have traveled it before and working to achieve as many of my losses as I can.
A TBI survivors advise; Push yourself every day to learn something new and repeat daily, feed your body and your mind daily!
I want to tell you my story, so you never have your own story to tell.
My name is Jeremy Buschmohle. On July 29, 1997, I was a happy 20 year old college student attending Central Michigan University and was home for the summer. My life was great. I had a summer job working at Print Max, a printing company. I was even making money. There was nothing I could complain about on July 29, 1997.
I could never have imagined what would happen on July 30. I was supposed to go out with my really good friend, Matt, but the plans fell through. So another friend, Prince, came over with his car and he asked me to hang out with him. I was the type of person who would rather hang out then stay home and do nothing. And so I made a fateful decision. I knew he had a suspended license but that didn't matter to me. I was twenty and invincible. Since he had a really fast Mustang 5.0 that he had souped up to be able to drive to a drag strip to race other cars, I let him drive his car when we decided to go out. I liked the speed as much as he did. And I never thought anything could happen to me or hurt me. Remember, I was 20 years old and invincible.
But I was very wrong...almost dead wrong. What happened next, changed... my... life forever.
Our destination was a parking lot on Maple and Lahser where everyone hung out. That parking lot is only two miles from my home. We never made it. Less than half a mile from that parking lot we crashed. My then buddy got behind a few slow moving cars and got impatient. He decided to pass them all illegally. He drove into the opposite direction lane. As we were passing he saw a car coming directly at us. There was no way to get back into our lane. The line of cars he had been trying to pass was way too long.
So he thought the next best move was to turn the wheel and take the car off the road. But that didn't work. The driver of the oncoming car had the same idea. Our car was skidding off the road. His car hit the front passenger door causing our car to flip over horizontally a couple of times. I hit my head on the windshield, then the dashboard and then the side window. The car was a 1986. It had no passenger air bags. What stopped my head was the dashboard. The dashboard was my airbag. When his car came to a stop it was on its side with the passenger side on the bottom.
In case you're wondering, I was wearing my seatbelt. And this was no ordinary seatbelt. It was a racing harness designed to protect my lap and shoulders. But the only working part protected my lap. The rest of me was left free to fly around inside the car.
After the impact and the car came to a dead stop. Prince was able to climb out of his window. He thought he smelled a gas leak and was scared the car would explode. Lucky for me there was a sun roof in his car. And he pulled me out through it.
Now, what I just told you is what other people told me. I was unconscious. I have no memory of what happened on my own. I believe God sent an angel disguised as a doctor because he told my friend how to care for me until the ambulance arrived.
From what I was told I was in bad shape. The EMT's, or emergency medical technicians, had to perform an onsite tracheotomy. They had to make sure I could breathe. Once they did that the ambulance took me to the ER at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital. Fortunately, I was taken to one of the top trauma centers in the U.S.A.
But sometimes even being in a top rated hospital doesn't solve the problem just because you are there. A priest was called in that first night to give me last rites. As you can tell by my being here, I didn't need them. I hope there isn't an expiration date on being given last rites. I'm putting them in lay away for, hopefully, much later in life.
And so I lived. But that didn't mean I just walked out of the hospital. Now the work began. More hard work than I had ever imagined I would have to do in my whole life. I was in a coma for two and a half weeks. Now this is important to know. The longer the coma the harder and longer the rehab. My rehab in the hospital lasted from the day of the accident until December. Five months. And this was only the beginning of my rehab.
From the moment I was in the coma my life as I had known it was on pause. Then when I woke up from the coma it was on rewind, while everybody else's was on play.
I basically had to relearn how to do to everything to take care of myself. I had to learn to walk, talk, eat, go to the bathroom, shower, dress, shave, brush my teeth, and comb my hair among everything else we all take for granted.
So I had my first rehab schedule while I stayed in the hospital. But it wasn't over just because I was finally discharged. The first place I went after leaving the hospital was home to my parents. While I lived there I went to outpatient rehab to continue what began while I was in the hospital.
I lived at my parents' for five years. But I was a grown man now who had never had the opportunity to live on my own. I had never paid my own bills, did my own laundry, or cooked my own meals. I didn't know how to do these things. So it was important for me to live more independently. But I couldn't do it alone.
You might be wondering why, after five years of working in rehab, I still needed more rehab. and assistance from other people. Well, I still had major memory problems. I still did things that were unsafe because if I was doing one thing and got distracted I wouldn't remember to go back to what I was doing. I still had trouble remembering and following directions. My life was similar to the the movie Fifty First Dates. Each morning when I woke up I didn't remember what happened yesterday or how to make it through the new day. New things and unexpected things threw me. Somebody had to help me get through the day.
My first move out of my parents' house took me to a semi-independent apartment where I got help learning the skills for daily living. I got help cooking, cleaning, scheduling my day, learning how to take medication on my own, and everything else people do automatically in the day.
I lived there for a while but it was too far away from my family and friends. Still not ready to be able to live without assistance I moved to another semi-independent apartment closer to the people I care about and who care about me.
In order for me to relearn what I could do before the accident and learn what I had never known how to do I met therapists. I met physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech/language pathologists. I met psychologists. I met doctors and more doctors. My life revolved around either having a therapy appointment or going to a doctor's office.
For the therapists to help me some of them had to hurt me. P.T., or Physical therapy is really physical torture or pain and torture. Occupational therapy, or OT, became known as Over Time. I was tired and ready to quit for the day. They weren't and pushed me. Speech/Language Pathologists didn't wear me out physically so my energy for OT and PT therapy might return. But after Speech/Language sessions I was sometimes so mentally exhausted that just thinking hurt.
And the hurt was much deeper than just on the surface. I hurt inside. My heart and my brain hurt. I needed an outlet to express the pain I was feeling about what happened to me. And who better to talk to than someone professionally trained to help me through it. So I started seeing a psychologist. Someone I could talk to who could help me deal with all the feelings I had. Feelings about myself, the guy who was driving the car, and how I would live the rest of my life.
Therapy was my new full time job. A job I never applied for and didn't get paid in money to do. My paycheck was recovery. Most jobs are 40 hours a week. The job of recovery never ends. It is a job I never wanted but a job I have to keep doing because I still struggle with daily living.
Everyday is hard. I wasn't able to drive for the first eight years after my accident. That's how badly I was injured. Then, I rejoiced when I did get my driving privileges back.
But, who would have expected that out of the blue, I would begin to have seizures after all those years. And my one independent activity was taken from me until medication was found to control the seizures.
Thankfully, they are now controlled with the medication and that allows me to drive again. And I can do this without assistance from anyone else. But I can only drive to familiar places. If I go someplace unfamiliar my dad has to plot the route in my GPS or I don't know where I might end up.
I work hard. For instance, I work hard to remember what I need to remember and still get assistance from others to do that. I work hard to cook myself a meal and even then I need somebody near me just to make sure I make safe choices and do not burn down the neighborhood. I work hard to make sure my apartment stays clean and I need somebody to help make sure it is clean.
I work hard at my job. Even my job is about rehab and recovery. I work at a sheltered workshop where I am known as the activity facilitator. My rehab program calls for me to plan activities and interact with other traumatically brain injured people. I am both a client and a mentor.
Life can be so challenging that I live in an apartment and get help from the staff who understands traumatic brain injury and how it affects me. But I am not always there.
On weekends I go home to my family. I can't say enough about how wonderful my family is for me and to me. I am so lucky that they have stuck by me since day one. This road that I am traveling would be much bumpier without them.
I wanted to be a regular person with a 9-5 job earning a living but I had to learn that those dreams are probably never going to happen. All because of my limitations from the accident I can probably never work a 40 hour work week because I don't have enough energy to do this. My body and my brain get tired. It's been a hard adjustment.
I am so fortunate to be surrounded by my caring and loving family and friends along with my supportive and encouraging rehab team. How do I handle it? As Joseph Campbell said "we must be ready to get rid of the life we planned so we can live the life that's waiting for us." I am doing my best to do this.
There's a post script to the story. You are probably wondering what happened to Prince. Accidents, crashes, and injuries don't only break up bodies, they break up friendships too. Prince and I, as you might have guessed, are no longer friends.
I told you that the dashboard served as my airbag. Prince was luckier. He had the real one to protect him. He walked away without any injuries.
But he went to jail because of what happened. He didn't have a license because he had already had too many points and had lost it. He was driving on a suspended license when the crash happened. He was out in six months for good behavior.
We don't keep in touch but every so often I run into him. It's not easy when this happens. I will always be reminded of that day. I carry the scars. But, I'm friendly when we bump into each other because my faith in God tells me to forgive him.
Hello, my name is Ryan Alex. On May 12th 2001 (Mother's Day) at the age of 16 I experienced a severe tbi. I wrecked a motorcycle doing (from what the police said) anywhere from 75-120mph head on into a ford f-550 service truck. I was in a severe coma for 3 1/2 weeks and literally died 4 times throughout the initial hours/days in the hospital.
I was in the hospital for approximately 4 months total. Including the inpatient rehabilitation center. I had to learn EVERYTHING down to tieing my shoes but for some reason maintained a two year college level reading ability....i have a hard time remembering much of anything before that wreck happened to me, except for triggers that once in awhile t bring back memories. sometimes I wonder if they are actual or fabricated by my brain. Because a lot of times my friends or family don't even remember them happening.
I personally lived through this life altering event. I had a girlfriend at the time of the accident that dumped me soon after because "I wasn't the same person as before the wreck" I lost ALOT of "friends" because they weren't sure how to act around me, or other various reasons they all came up with. I suffered from severe depression for years. If I don't wake up in the morning with something hurting......something is wrong....I've also been through 16 major surgeries involving bones I've broken ( getting hardware installed and removed) and that is not counting all of the cosmetic surgeries I have had to endure.
I can't even begin to explain how frustrating life in and of itself became after my bike smashed into that truck. I felt like nobody understood me, like I was going to be alone my whole life afterwords, because in my mind...I was some freak and I hated myself for being who I was. I could never see that I was still me due to the fact that coming out of that coma. I didn't even know who I was or who I was supposed to be. I tried so hard to be the Ryan I knew. A lot about me did change, and I hated it. I hated it so much that I tried to end it all for myself twice (unsuccessfully). I just couldn't handle being so "different" and I didn't stop to think...how "different" could I be when I had absolutely no idea who I even was before the mishap.
I cried for God, I plead with him, I screamed at the sky in tears many a night trying to figure out my purpose. But in all reality of the situation. I never had taken a step back to look at things and realize that maybe, just maybe. My purpose wasn't in my hands at all.
It is now 9-22-14 and I am still here to tell you that recovery has been very long and difficult...I still struggle with anger/temper issues as well as impulsive decisions I make without thinking things all the way through before I move forward with the decision. I am a single father at the age of 28 raising a beautiful 8 year old son, I have an associates degree and am working a job that brings in enough money to comfortably get my family by from year to year. Now, with that. I am by no means trying to brag or flaunt about my success but rather provide inspiration to victims of tbi and families of tbi victims showing them that everything can work out to be ok.
With my personal tbi, I had what you would call a subduralhematoma with my brain hemoraging (bleeding) inside my skull with no room to expand due to it being a closed head Injury. The doctors put a drain into my scull to relieve the preasure until swelling and bleeding subsided. I still have a large problem relatively often with my short term memory but it has improved over the years and I am still at high risk for having seizures. (Haven't had one yet) but in closing, If you are a victim of a tbi or family of a victim of a tbi (traumatic brain injury) reading this comment. DONT LOSE HOPE!!! DONT GIVE UP!!!! PERSEVERE THROUGH IT!!! It may not be the end all be all! Everything happens for a reason!!! You may never understand why,so don't even bother wasting your breath asking yourself that over and over and over. Just see it through. I hope everything works out for you as it has for myself.....and don't ever doubt the ability you posess to see it through to the end. If you do,say a prayer! I will say one with you! I'm sorry you have to/are going through this. Either way you look at things...it will all work out. God bless you!
This is my truth. I have an injury that you cannot see or even begin to imagine. How I’ve learned to manage on this planet is my story to share with others and a gift to you. I will take you on a spiritual and personal healing journey - all done without a brain working properly. My story includes how I managed to not give up my role as a Mom, to have a boyfriend, and to even be an Infinite Being in the world today. I share how I struggled to feel whole and complete as me with this injury and feel worthy as me. This is my story.
On a rainy work day in 2003, April Fool’s day, I drove my son to Montessori school not knowing or expecting what was coming my way. Whip lash so severe I broke teeth. The head shattered dramatically. The other car hadn’t even put on its brake to stop. We weren’t moving when the impact happened. All I could do is look around, and see if my son was okay. I asked the woman to please refrain from cursing. In shock, I took my son to school, and went to work. A few hours later my body seemed to be shutting down on me. Systems were not working, so I had to leave. That day, I had no idea I wouldn’t ever be back as me again.
So that people could understand what I was experiencing, I would tell people that I couldn’t explain where recipes. For at least a year, the doctors could not explain what was happening. My spouse at the time grew angrier with the increased responsibility for home and child which fell to him. My body was in terrible pain from head to toe. I could not care for me or my 3-year-old, Isak. It wasn’t till I met a doctor who explained that I had Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, that I began to make any sense of what was happening. My full-time job now was to fix me, to get me back. Or so I thought.
In 2004 my husband left. I felt terrified about how I’d make it. I didn’t know that I needed him to go, for me to experience less stress. I had outside help to clean and to play with Isak all the time. At one point I sat on the kitchen floor with the pots all around me, and cried praying for a recipe to come back to me. The steps to make a single dish had left me. How was I to survive I’d cry. I’d continue to try to get me back with speech, occupational, and physical therapy multiples time a week. I’d see a vision therapist. I tried vocation rehabilitation. I tried all of these and more, hoping to get myself ready to be work again. Yet life had another plan.
Two years later, 2005, I got the okay to try to back to work. But another accident happened! Isak and I were on our way to the Zoo, and the tire undercarriage of another car shot like a rocket at my driver’s side door. What was God trying to tell me? Had I done something wrong, or got off track? What else did I need to deal with that I hadn’t before? The parts I’d tried to hide? I went to a psychic who saw these crashes as wake up calls for me. I really felt like I was being punished.
The possible time for recovery after the first injury was 9 to 12 years. After the second injury, doctors couldn’t predict recovery at all. Self esteem and confidence were difficult to feel, when I felt I lived with nothing to give. I started to find my value in being a Mother: my purpose was to be here for Isak. I knew that I had personal strength. I’d overcome in the worst of times during childhood. As a child I’d dealt with invisible injuries that no one wants to know about, and I’ had pulled myself up when my inner light went out. Now I’d get the chance to turn it back on once again.
Physical movement impaired my functioning. Stimulation hurt. Slow registration my life became a practice of remaining at peace and free, no matter what life brought me. I had a teacher who taught me I still had value doing nothing. We’d work on Presence once a week. He suggested I try energy
medicine. It is in energy medicine that I learned to be clear and present for humanity. What I didn’t know is that my intuition too had grown and I heard messages loudly. The outer world posed lots of challenges for me, yet guided, I always had God looking out for me. Then one day I saw a photo of Byron Katie in a local paper. Her book lay at the office of my teacher. One sentence in Loving What Is changed this life that I live. I no longer had a decision to make that I had faith in the impulses I get every day. Thus began my guided life, and I went from disabled to enabled in a blink of an eye.
I now live with an inner security that everything is fine. Not that it’s anything like the majority of persons’ lives, but this is mine. I wake when I do. I get ready when it feels I’ve got the energy to. One doctor described me having ¼ of the 4 energy stores that most humans have. So I’ve become hyper aware of what is at risk of draining me, when I have no energy to spare. Emotional reactions, visual overstimulation, and audio sensitivity can all lead me to a place of needing to recover for hours, days and weeks, depending on how badly I’ve gone over my threshold.
Physical activity too can take the whole thing. I struggle talking too. You can imagine that my worst challenges are grocery stores of any kind. I’ve shopped with my Mom recently, but before that had groceries delivered. At age 43, how bizarre it is to have to live in a constant state of looking out for myself.
Yet, I can see the gift in this for me. Not ever able to hurry lest I become impaired immediately, has me going at ease, and it’s lovely. How abundant I feel, when I hold space for humanity, and they love my level of understanding. Nine years of cloistered living has given me time to review my life and to return me back to myself another time.
I’ve attempted to get Social Security for 7 years, but haven’t. I’ve been denied twice. From the perspective of the government Higher Authority, I’m seen as “normal” looking. They assume that I am normal by what they see. I can’t prove it, so why could they believe me, humans ask me. Would
space age looking glasses make me more believable to those judging? I looked like a frog with the glasses I was given to help me. The doctor learned from me that periphery is seen not only by looking up and around, but also by facing the ground. He sees me as a poster child for this. Great, science is still learning about the brain. Having to exist on Food Stamps only has made life remaining faithful very important.
My eyes are impaired at night. I don’t drive on interstates most of the time. I try it randomly, and wish I hadn’t given my brain’s slow response to visual stimuli. I made the mistake of insisting on getting to see the Chopra Center, so I drove to it with 6 lanes of traffic. I put my own life at risk, because I didn’t have the motor skills to drive with the needed speed and accuracy. Those closest to me have had to learn my needs. They all forget at times, but it’s up to me to speak up and to advocate for my needs. My Mom now notices noisy places, and doesn’t mind alternative suggestions. My son questions me, not believing me completely. Yet he also sees I’m doing my very best to meet all his needs. His playful nature was a bit challenging at earlier ages, but we’re making life great as we go moment to moment. My boyfriend was kind most of the time, yet he was not wired to catch subtle clues, so I suffered unknowingly trying to keep up with the one I loved.
I don’t feel pain when I should. I get bruised, burnt or even lose toe nails from not getting sensory registration on time. I have to be extra careful or not cook if I’m over my threshold. I can be physically shaky. When I am, I should not work with knives or drive. My issues can be highly inconvenient for some, but I try to remember that is their problem, not mine. Apologies for lack of tolerance and compassion come occasionally. I get to love me just as I am right now, even if my caring for me bothers another human being. I can no longer appease another by sacrificing myself, my energy, or my time. Having a brain injury has led me to treat myself better. My landlady is supportive: she tries to not judge how I spend my life. She does her best to not assume I should be trying something to improve myself. Day after day for 8 years I’ve been living here, mostly alone, mostly indoors.
I’m working to become more powerful than ever before, stepping out for the resources to come, even if I risk you judging. I’ve been told repeatedly that my life story is not easy to hear. My Mom even asked what person would want to hear about my life, given that society hasn’t wanted to speak of such things until now. But we’re in a time of no more secrets. Why can’t I be just as proud of what I overcame as anyone else who’s made her way? I believe in Integrity, Honesty and Total Transparency, and I’ve committed to following my knowing. With God holding my hand I pour on to the page the horrible ways I felt about abuse, abandonment, and an affair. Each time I’d have to work my way back to feeling right with God when I felt undeserving. Like I told you, I’d overcome this obstacle once before; I have dealt with invisible injury hidden within. I was born for Greatness; this hidden stuff won’t be pushed down any more. I pray to understand which for qualities I need to embody Peace and Freedom in the midst of what’s happening. Compassion, Love, Abundance usually come up, yet I know what I really want more is Purity. See what it takes to get me that… Grace.
How would you live without a brain to help out? I’ve learned to trust in the unknown, the uncertain and the fearless aspect of us. I chose to completely surrender to God my life and to follow the unseen feelings I receive. I wake each day not knowing what’s happening. I leap only when I feel the “go” impulse pounding. The unimaginable synchronicity is only possible when I listen. I trust that all my needs are met. The chaotic state ends and arrows of hate don’t get in. The God of me cares about life, the living, and deeply loves everything. Already perfect, nothing to fix, to get, to improve. It’s Fear or Bliss. I chose Bliss.
By Cheryl Rask
I never told anybody about my motorcycle accident in 1985 that left me permanently disabled. I never told anybody because it almost crushed my psyche and my spirit and made me feel ashamed.
The accident affected most of my cognitive functions. It stifled my personality, and my ability to express myself. My potential for growth and development was interrupted. I suffered a permanent disability after I hit a Safeway shopping cart on February 2, 1985. The cart was left in the middle of Bay Street one night, while I was driving 30- 40 mph without a helmet in San Francisco’s Marina District two miles from the Fort Mason Youth Hostel .
I suffered a contrecoup injury to my brain when I hit the shopping cart. This is when the brain richochets off the opposite side of the skull upon impact with a surface. The left side of my body became paralyzed. I sustained multiple skull fractures and significant damage to the sensory and cognitive areas of my brain after it bounced inside my inside my skull like a pinball on impact with the curb at Bay and Laguna. I was knocked unconscious and was comatose for 3 weeks. My memory was erased from the night of my accident back to August 1984.
The impact of my head against the curb hindered the cerebral spinal fluid the brain floats in. The fluid cushions the brain when a person falls or bumps their head. Fortunately, the speech and language areas in my cerebrum, in the upper part of my skull, were unimpaired.
Unfortunately, the curb at Bay and Laguna streets left a small hole in my cranium after my left brow struck the curb. I landed on my stomach that now has a faint red vertical scar. A Good Samaritan parked in a red van, who spoke little English and could habla Espanol, saw the accident. He phoned 911 from a Chevron station at the corner of Bay and Laguna, where I landed.
An ambulance took me to San Francisco General Hospital, where I was strapped to a gurney and immediately given a CAT scan of the brain, which is a detailed x-ray. Immediate medical attention was necessary in a case like mine, because I sustained head injuries and would have died if the ambulance had not arrived as soon as it did.
When the doctors first examined me when I arrived at San Francisco General, they thought I was bleeding internally and cut my stomach open after the CAT scan was taken.
I was taken to the operating room after the CAT Scan where my neurosurgeon Dr. Griffith Harsh (who was a big fan of Star Trek) looked at my supine form, scratched his forehead and said ‘’He’s dead, Jim, but we have the technology to effect repairs on this biological unit and put in some overtime.’’
The other neurosurgeon, an aspiring singer, picked up a scalpel looked at Dr. Harsh and began to sing a line from Mack the Knife ‘you know this sharp blade has such teeth dear, and it shows its pearly whites.’’ The neurosurgeons used a cement cutter and various Black and Decker power tools to make five hours worth of repairs to my brain.
They cut open my skull and evacuated the area of my brain that was bleeding because a subdural hematoma was forming on an area of my brain that swelled up. They wanted to prevent my brain from swelling up so blood clots would not form- YIKES! I spent one month in intensive care in a comatose state, without a map.
When I came out of my coma at San Francisco General Hospital on February 21, I was transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital in the morning on February 22nd where I lived for 3 1/2 months until my discharge in May. I was placed in a private room on the 4th floor which is the area at St. Mary’s where patients are rehabilitated from serious injuries- like strokes, and head injuries. I received intensive rehabilitation in physical, speech and occupational therapy. My room faced the hospital parking lot across from Golden Gate Park next to Stanyan Street.
I remember sitting on my bed the morning of my transfer. I began staring at my new living environment. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. White walls to the left and right and a blank television screen. The most exciting thing about the room was the window which I stared out and watched traffic. Where are all my books?
I began to feel claustrophobic. Most of the space in my room was taken up by the bathroom. There was a sign on the wall outside my room above the door which had a picture of a human body in the act of falling down, arms and legs making flailing motions. The sign alerted nurses and hospital staff that the patient in the room had balance problems. I didn’t have the balance skills to walk to the bathroom without falling down. I had to push a red button on the side of my electric bed to call the nursing station and have a nurse escort me to it. I felt like a small child dependent on the needs of others to perform basic functions. I became filled with feelings of frustration and helplessness. My disability was something I was aware of but couldn’t see or control.
Music became important. Whenever I felt uncomfortable during my therapy sessions lines from songs I liked would pop into my mental jukebox Where do I go from here to a better state than this?” popped into my mental jukebox as I was sitting on my bed waiting to begin my therapies on my 1st day at St. Mary’s.
My thoughts were interrupted when my primary care nurse Karen, one of several I had at the hospital walked into my room. She asked me what I wanted to eat for breakfast. When I saw her I thought ROOM SERVICE! I was really hungry after being in a coma. I looked at her and placed my order. “I’ll have eggs Florentine with bacon and a glass of orange juice, can you also bring me the New York Times,I want to keep abreast of current events, I have a lot of catching up to do.’’
By the look on her face I realized I was in the wrong restaurant. They didn’t serve Continental cuisine here. I settled for 2 scrambled eggs, a bowl of Wheaties, and glass of Minute Made orange juice made from concentrate. When I had realized what happened after regaining consciousness, it felt like someone had played a cruel joke on me.
My daily life fell onto a routine after I was admitted. My therapies would begin after I got dressed and had breakfast. My day would begin with speech therapy, then physical therapy followed by occupational therapy. I would usually wake up at about 7am and use the bathroom. Karen would come in and ask me “ Do you feel like having a bowel movement, I need to give you a suppository?” That was the1st time I’d ever heard the words bowel and suppository mentioned in the same sentence together in my life. When Karen took out a latex glove and slid each finger into the glove, I instinctively knew what to do, bend over in a most undignified position.Then she would insert the suppository, a drug delivery system made of plastic that was shaped like a bullet into my rear end.
The suppository contained a stool softener. After removing the suppository I would brush my teeth and step back into my room where clothes were laid out on the bed. My occupational therapist Jolee would come in after Karen left and help me dress.
I had limited use of the left side of my body and getting dressed became a challenge. I put my clothes on one side at a time, beginning with the left pant leg then my right pant leg then my left sock and right sock. I would put my left arm in a t-shirt 1st then push my right arm through the other hole. I usually wore a t-shirt or sweat shirt over my pants while I was at St. Mary’s. A shirt with buttons became a spatial issue, since the parietal area which allows the brain to recognize form and shape was impaired. I had difficulty lining up the buttons so both sides of my shirt matched. Getting dressed was time consuming. The easy part was putting my shoes on. They had velcro straps not laces.
I learned how to compensate for the weakness on the left side. I put my right shoe on first since my right foot was stronger and was more flexible than my left. Then I would use a shoe horn to slide my left foot into my shoe. I stood in front of a mirror in my bathroom so I could see where to slide a belt through the loops when I wore pants.
The damage to the right side of my brain caused a whiplash motion when my head smashed against the curb, my brain was jerked forward against the inside of my skull. The impact caused a weakness to the left side of my body, a condition called hemiparesis. This affected my balance and coordination. I lacked the ability to use both my hands to dress myself. My fine motor skill movements i.e. using a fork and knife grabbing things like shoe laces and playing the guitar which I could do before my accident were also affected.
I looked down at my body the morning of my transfer. My left arm hung lame on my body, frozen to my side. I brushed my right hand over my forehead to brush the hair away, but there was none. My head was shaved, my hair grew back slowly. All I felt was beard stubble. I would not be able to play chess, write to my congressman, protest or play ping -pong.
I received physical therapy immediately after my transfer. My body had been inactive for 3 weeks while I was comatose. I was ready to feel the burn again and become AMERICA’S SKINNIEST AND MOST FLEXIBLE LOSER! The range of motion of the left side of my body was severely but not completely impaired. I had limited movement of my arms and legs. The hemiparesis had knocked the left and right sides my body out of sync.
To improve the weakness on my left side, one of the physical therapists named Ann put me through a variety of balance and stretching exercises in the gym area on a padded mattress in 4 West that was near the nursing station. The exercises were designed to stimulate the left side of my body. Ann stretched my left arm above my shoulder away from my body, a movement called abduction, a painful motion that made me think of a line from a Ray Charles song” Now baby listen baby don’t treat me this way cause I’ll be back on my feet someday.”’
The same therapy was done to my left leg. It was lifted up away from the surface where I was laying down and stretched, and my leg was flexed at my knee. She also had me do a quadruped, a balance exercise where I got down on my hands and knees . I put one arm straight out in front of me and lifted the opposite leg. I also had to balance on both legs, one at a time using a wall for support. My body felt it was being mistreated after my 1st physical therapy session. But, I reacquired the use of some basic motor skills from this kind of torture which became useful in my daily life in the hospital.
I relearned how to walk, and perform other basic functions at St. Mary’s, such as tying my shoes, eating, using my hands, paying my income taxes and balance a checkbook.
Before my discharge in May, my sister Nancy would come to the hospital every 2 weeks. We would meet in my room with my primary care doctor at the hospital, Dr. Stanley Yarnell and my therapists. Dr. Yarnell was head of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at he hospital. He was in charge of the team of therapists who were rehabilitating me. I would get a progress report from each of my therapists. Dr. Yarnell would give his prognosis. Due to the nature of my injury ,I made a speedier recovery than was usual for the kind of injury I suffered and I was eager for my release.
Dr. Yarnell explained to me and Nancy in layman terms that I suffered a closed head injury, when my head slammed against the curb and I sustained multiple skull fractures along with damage to the frontal area of my brain when it ricocheted off my skull in the frontal area along with the parietal area at the point of impact. Some of my brain tissue died from the impact. I also experienced something he called retrograde amnesia,. A condition where someone can’t remember things right before a traumatic injury occurred for a period of time. My injury affected my short and long term memory of events for a period of 8 months before the night of my accident. I could remember things that occurred in my life before August 1984 before the night of my accident.
My injury affected the speed at which my brain processed information and body could react to things I saw or felt. My physical therapist Ann mentioned to Dr. Yarnell that I experienced muscle fatigue which was a common symptom of a head injured person, I became tired easily during physical therapy after walking up and down stairs during our physical therapy sessions along with some of the balance or fine motor skill exercises we did . I learned how to walk independently without her assistance back to my room after 2 weeks of physical therapy. In the morning she would usually come to my room and escort me to the gym area.
My speech therapist told Dr. Yarnell that my language and vocabulary skills were excellent due to the nature of my injury but I had trouble grasping concepts and ideas. My occupational therapist mentioned that my motor skills were improving . I was able to get dressed without any assistance and could walk independently. The consensus from each of my therapists was I had made great strides in my recovery based on the nature of my injury but I still needed more therapy.
I made plans for life after my discharge from St. Mary’s. But my plans were put on hold after a visit by the clinical director of a transitional care facility in Berkeley. After my discharge, I wanted to go back and work as a waiter Scott’s Carriage House where I worked for 5 years and had so many friends. I wanted to live independently by myself again in an apartment.
1 month before my discharge I was given a series of neuropsychological tests by Jim Cole. He was the clinical director of a transitional care facility in Berkeley Jim Cole. Jim was the clinical director of The Bay Area Head Injury Recovery Center or BAHIRC as I called it. I still needed more therapy after my discharge according to Dr. Yarnell. Jim suggested to my sister Nancy, who was my primary caretaker that I live there after my release from St. Mary’s.
The transitional care facility in Berkeley was located near the University of California campus in Berkeley. The facility was a 2 story house located in a quiet neighborhood about 1 mile from campus. It was also conveniently located near Alta Bates Medical Center near downtown Berkeley. Jim gave me a series of neuropsychological tests. Each test had a different name. They were used to measure my cognitive skills in areas where my brain was injured the most in the frontal area which controls executive functions such as tracking and sequencing problem solving, and planning. He began the test by giving me the WECHLSER MEMORY SCALE. Jim read me a list of 12-15 words. I had to tell him as many words as I could remember from the list. Jim tested my ability to sequence, another executive function by giving me the WISCONSIN CARD SORTING TEST. He put some cards on the table in front of me which had pictures on them. I was supposed to put the cards back on the table so the cards showed a story from beginning to end.
Jim tested my spatial skills with THE REY OSTIERRIETH COMPLEX FIGURE DEMENTIA. For this test I was shown a picture that was drawn with different geometric shapes. I had to draw the picture from memory in free hand using a pencil on a blank piece of paper.The final test Jim gave was a test of my motor skills. I had to place little round metal pegs into holes on a piece of wood that resembled a cribbage board with my left and right hand.
Jim discussed the test results with Nancy and myself. He convinced Nancy and me that I should live at the transitional care facility where I would meet other people with similar injuries and most importantly receive the cognitive therapy from the staff so I could live independently.
At the time of the accident, I had everything going for me. I had the world in the palm of my hand. I was enrolled at San Francisco State University as a foreign language major. The French language and its culture were my area of emphasis and study. I also worked part-time as a waiter at Scott’s Seafood Grill and Bar, in downtown San Francisco at Embarcadero Center # 3. My goal at the time was to get a B.A. in French from San Francisco State. Then I was going to move to Montreal, Canada, the second largest French-speaking city in the world, where I would get a degree in journalism at McGill University, that has two campuses located in downtown Montreal. I would eventually move to Paris, France where I would foment revolution, teach the French American English and how to speak more eloquently with the proper use of the word ain’t and eliminate the use of bothersome contractions in such words as couldn’t, wouldn’t, haven’t, etc. I would also teach the French to stop being rude to us sometimes-ugly Americanos. I would continue where Napoleon Bonaparte had left off, before he was banished to Club Elba after his downfall at Waterloo in 1815.
My accident diminished the confidence and self-esteem I had. It left me feeling like a little man, and inferior as a person, due to the damage to my limbic system, where executive functions occur, like tracking and sequencing, I found it difficult to do things in order or succession like follow directions, a recipe or work out a math problem using rules, or a formula.
An example of my inability at sequencing occurred in one attempt at a simple shopping trip. My sister Nancy sent me to the store to buy a loaf of wheat bread, and a pint of nonfat milk. Something happened in my mind between the time she gave me the list and my tennis shoes hit the road. I came back 1 hour later with a loaf of bread and a Snickers Candy bar. She looked at me and shook her head in disbelief. I was equally successful as a cook as I was at running errands. Thank god for take out food or I would have poisoned myself and Nancy if I had to prepare a meal. A cook I am not. Dave Can’t Cook.
I was eager to do things and remake my life like it was pre-accident, but my social skills were rusty. Social skills are a higher function of the frontal lobe that develop and become manifest in a person’s behavior towards others. I remember going to some restaurants with Nancy where I would begin ordering when I got inside the door, without waiting for the hostess or host to seat me. This became personally embarrassing when the restaurant was crowded and people stared at me as if I were rude and uncouth, like some kind of barbarian, which I really am. I’M HUNGRY DAMNIT! My impaired cognitive abilities made it difficult for me to process and integrate information into my brain like a course lecture. Socially, it was difficult to have a conversation and stay focused on the subject. Simply put, a neurologist at St. Mary’s hospital explained to me in nonprofessional terms that tracking is literally the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time.
I enrolled at City College of San Francisco one year after my accident in 1986. I met with Hortensia Chang, who was the enabler counselor and director of Disabled Student services at City College. She informed me that I qualified for classroom accommodations under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. For all the courses I took in college until I received my Bachelors Degree, letters were sent to my instructors that described my disability and the accommodations I was entitled to i.e. tape record lectures, extra time to complete tests and assignments, and take tests in a distraction free environment by myself and a date with the instructor’s wife if she were good lookin’ and had money. (Heh, heh, heh)
I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University in 1995. I transferred there after taking enough classes at City College and College of Marin to qualify for admission to San Francisco State. I took courses there in English, Speech, the Social Sciences,Humanities and some literature courses that were prerequisites for my degree area.
When I received my Bachelors degree from San Francisco State, I felt a more meaningful satisfaction than I would have if I earned it before my accident occurred, when things came so easily to me.
It was difficult for me to relate to people socially after my accident because I had a hard time accepting the fact I might never relearn enough basic skills to work again or become exploited and work in a sweatshop making tennis shoes or clothing and be paid ten cents an hour by huge mega corporations like Nike or the Gap. I didn’t want to be like Mike.
Initially, my accident left me with a chip on my shoulder. I constantly feel like I always have to prove myself because I don’t look disabled, since my disability is invisible; no one can see it. I’m more articulate than the average person, except for the times I start drooling whenever I see an hourglass, or a picture of Pamela Anderson Lee pre or post-boob job. I have not changed much since my accident, give or take a few years of psychotherapy before and after my accident occurred. I remain basically the same person I ever was or (am). But I’ve persevered and modified my dream of living in Paris, France as a journalist. I’ve developed a personal philosophy after being told initially by doctors and therapists in the hospital and rehab. center that I’m permanently disabled: I will never give up!
Creative writing is something I have used to reinforce this philosophy. The writing classes I’ve taken served as an outlet in which the act of writing has helped me resolve personal issues and relieve the stress of being disabled.
I’ve worked a variety of volunteer jobs after my accident while taking college courses. The volunteer work I hoped would eventually lead to paid employment. I registered with San Francisco School Volunteers after my discharge from St. .Mary’s Hospital. With my academic background at San Francisco State in foreign Languages and English, my counselor at School Volunteers, Bruce Stengele suggested doing clerical work. I worked as a temporary volunteer at Friends of The San Francisco Public Library in 1986.Doing light clerical work; stuffing envelopes, filing papers etc. I worked at Friends in the morning. I also worked as a volunteer teacher’s aid in a bilingual Kindergarten class at a school located in the Haight Ashbury in the afternoon where the children spoke French and English.
I worked at Friends with enthusiasm. I sat behind a behind a desk. However, all I did was stuff about 1 or 200 envelopes. This activity left my tongue with a permanent curl and allowed me to talk to the 5 year olds at the Bilingual school at their level- like Sylvester the Cat from Bugs Bunny.
After I finished working at Friends and the bilingual school, I worked at St.Mary’s Hospital in the spring of 1987. I wanted to give something back to the hospital for rehabilitating me. I worked on fourth floor west, the rehabilitation ward, where I received rehabilitation as a patient. My job was to assist the physical therapists by filing different colored forms alphabetically. The forms were blue, yellow, and pink and contained patient info. These forms, I was instructed by a physical therapist, who was my supervisor were for new patients. The yellow forms were for patients receiving therapy who were transferred to 4 West from other floors. The pink were for patients who had mobility impairments- in wheelchairs using walkers, etc. This form was placed with the patient’s blue and yellow form in the same file. Gee whiz people, I have a head injury- cut me some slack!
Needless to say, my tenure on 4 west was a short one that lasted 1 week. I became confused as to where the colored forms were supposed to go. I mixed different colored forms together in the same file. I was transferred from four West to the mailroom, at the suggestion of a physical therapist. I delivered mail to patients and different departments. This turned out to be less stressful than filing colored forms. Now I only had 1 color, white to worry about. I began to look for different volunteer work while at the hospital. I became restless and bored sorting and delivering mail.
I met with Rosalind Henning, the director of Volunteer Services at the California Academy of Sciences in July 1987. I told her of my interest of being an elementary schoolteacher. Rosalind informed me about a volunteer position in the Discovery Room. The Discovery Room was an interactive room designed for elementary school children. The room was filled with natural science exhibits. it contained a replica of a human skeleton, and a closet filled with clothes from different countries that could be tried on, such as wooden shoes from Denmark, a sari from India, a Sun hat from China, etc.There was also a bookshelf filled with wooden discovery boxes that could be opened where children could use their natural senses, to learn about different aspects of science. My job in the room was to inform people about the exhibits, and record on a clipboard the number of people, usually school- age children and teachers who came in the room. I worked at the Academy of Sciences every Wednesday beginning in July 1987 in the afternoon from 1-4pm while I was enrolled at San Francisco State University.
I went to Europe for 1 month with my sister Nancy in 1993. I wanted to focus on my course work at San Francisco State and left the museum. The 7 years I spent at the Science Academy were enjoyable. I had control and responsibility of something, the Discovery Room for the 1st time since my release from the hospital and rehabilitation center.
In my spare time between volunteer jobs. I was searching for an activity or outlet that would help relieve the stress and frustration I experienced of being disabled. Creative writing is something I found to resolve personal issues and relieve the stress of being disabled.
I took creative writing courses at U.C.Berkeley Extension from 1997 -2001 after moving across the bay to Berkeley and some online writing courses through UCLA Extension. The writing courses had a therapeutic effect. I use writing as a way of achieving personal satisfaction. It’s something I’ve used to work out personal issues, writing about relationships with people I’ve met, childhood events, etc.
Now I want to become a famous and world-renowned writer of short stories hit the cocktail circuit, attend book signings, and appear on C-Span2.I’d also like to have my books made into successful blockbuster motion pictures that are made for prodigious amounts of money, and reviewed in the New York Times. Then I would develop a drinking problem like Ernest Hemingway, live a decadent lifestyle like Zelda and F. Scott did in Paris, suffer from depression like Sylvia Plath. Ultimately I’d like the short stories I will write become required reading in every English Class in America, Europe and every English-speaking city in the free world.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
"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.
BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
1608 Spring Hill Road, Suite 110 • Vienna, VA 22182 • Phone: 703-761-0750 • Fax: 703-761-0755 National Brain Injury Information Center (Brain Injury Information Only) 1-800-444-6443