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Ric Johnson

March 16, 2024
Ric Johnson

This year will be the 21st year of my fall from a ladder while cleaning gutters on my house. I understand that most people, unless there’s a survivor in their life, are pretty much clueless about life after a traumatic, or any other, brain injury. I know that because I was.

Year 1 is a blur, especially the first 10 months. Trying to remember daily “tasks” that I learned, before kindergarten, was either easy (toileting, dressing, bathing, etc.) or hard (speaking). During that first year those tasks take a toll, both mentally and physically.

Year 2-4, since anything during that first year was at a snail pace, these years were really trying to catch up. Things for family, or work, that I missed or couldn’t be involved with because of therapy sessions.
Long-term memory was perhaps the most important part of those 2 years. Remembering what I was able to do prior to my injury, and the steps needed to continue any and all tasks.

Years 5-12, was all about gaining. Motion, speed, short-time memory, speaking, going upward. Many steps taken forward, many steps going backwards. Many good days and many bad days. But many more pleasant, positive days, then “why did I get out of bed” days. 7 years trying to alert people about my condition, or lack of abilities, to follow through.

Year 13 to 17, great years. Became a member of a local TBI support group, a member of the Mn. Brain Injury Alliance Speaker Bureau, being interviewed for a local cable community program concerning brain injuries. And not to forget, wrote a few pieces for a great magazine.

Year 18 to the future. Recovery is a lifelong process. I really do believe that meeting other survivors is one of the important aspects of my recovery. The pandemic really screwed up 2020, but from 2021 – 2024, it seems better because I’m able to get out of the house and meet up with family, friends and members of the local support group where I am now also the facilitator.

Is that possible to think that since I started living though the “twilight zone” after a TBI, I can come back 100%? Who knows, I know I don’t know. It will still take a lot time… but everything has already taken a lot of time. Is there a key, or technique to keep me moving forward? Yes, to believe in myself to find a path about living through a life never planned. I officially retired from my profession on 2/2020, a month before COVID-19. I was ready to live an easy-going lifestyle: playing with my grandkids; fly fishing for trout; listening to live music; film photography and printing b&w photos in my darkroom; doing what I want to do, when I want too.

My life, as a retired person, is kind of easy going, but tasks or chores can really get in the way. Taking a walk about the park is not difficult but a nap at home may follow after. Mow the lawn? Sure, but how about tomorrow, I don’t have that type of energy today. Shopping at the grocery store means a list is necessary. Go online to search my local library catalog to reserve a title. Way too easy for me to get distracted in the catalog, so I have to write that title on a piece of paper next to the computer so I can remember and to reserve it. One thing I have learned in 21 years is that nothing is finished with just a quick step.

My rule of the day is to make sure, every day, that surviving a traumatic brain injury was not just a “roll of the dice”. Be my own advocate, and advocate for other survivors.

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