Update/edit: This was first written in January of 2011. I’ve left it mostly intact, but fixed extra sentence spacing (woe be it to me to do something so felonious in this day and age) and changed a few words here and there. Obviously, I didn’t write as much about it in the last six years as I thought I would. I was too busy Living. But that doesn’t mean nothing happened, or that I’m no longer affected by the impact on that sunny, September morning. I did eventually remember the doctor’s name who helped me, but when I went and looked him up to send him a note of gratitude, I found his obituary instead. I’m especially glad I was able to thank him when I did. That was a valuable lesson in itself, and one that is almost another story but not quite. While I no longer hold it as true where Ancestors are concerned, basically the Lesson is this:
Give flowers to the Living, for the Dead no longer need them.
Blessings to All. You are not Alone.
I am looking through some old journals tonight to find a particular poem I was trying to remember for a friend. I’m trying not to get caught caught up in the entries, but one caught my eye and reminded me of one reason I had started this blog in the first place.
I was in a car accident in 1995. Among other things, I got? received? (suffered doesn’t feel right, although some of it was painful) … how about this… am still learning to live with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI from now on.) Yeah, still. Because it doesn’t stop, at least it hasn’t for me, and from my understanding never really does for most of us who have had one.
Oh, sure it can get better, if someone realizes you have one, and if you get the right kind of help. I was lucky. I was aware enough to know something was wrong, because from the outside? A laceration on my skull was the only indicator something was wrong. My other injuries took precedence for the overworked doctors who tended me that night. I don’t really blame them that I had to keep insisting there was something they were overlooking. It went beyond the vertigo that lasted for three months. The sense of disorientation was not just from shock. Something was deeply and inherently wrong. I had to bypass one amazingly rude and condescending doctor, whose only saving grace was that he put me in touch with the neuro-psychologist who eventually determined just how bad things were and what we might be able to do about it. At the risk of sounding dramatic, he saved me. I wish I could remember his name.
Where the TBI occurs in the brain changes the experience, and the degree that one is affected, obviously. For me, the injury just missed the sections in my brain that govern sight and hearing, and damaged the sections governing memory retention and retrieval, on the left side just above my ear, for those that know something about brain anatomy. After several cognitive tests, he found a way to tell me something I could have understood in a heart-beat before: neural synapses were severed and needed to be re-built. He used this analogy to help me understand: there had been a train wreck in my brain. The train tracks that carried the locomotive that allowed me to go to each stop where information was stored had been destroyed. The engine had no way to get to what it needed. All my memories, all my intelligence, all my abilities were still there. I just couldn’t get to a large portion of them. We had to re-build the tracks, and we had an 18-month window to get the most benefit out of the work he suggested I do to make this happen.
Before the accident, I had a phenomenal memory and a keen intellect. I was proud of it, and it was easy for me to do so many things, things that are no longer as simple for me to do. Those abilities, and the person I had known myself to be for 39 years became severely impaired in the less than 10 seconds it took my head to slam forward into the airbag and back against the headrest.
The journal that I mention at the beginning of this post was written barely a year after the accident. In it, it mentions many things, but among them it mentions that a friend came to live with us for a while that year. I did not even remember that she had; what other lost information will I find in re-reading those now ‘ancient’ journals? One more thing that I am once again grateful for, to the doctor who believed me when I said something was wrong, and took the time to investigate and help me. It was at his suggestion that I keep a journal to help me remember things. One thing that I DO remember, is that while I may not remember his name, I know that I saw him several years later, and because of his dedication to at least this patient, I was able to tell him thank you in person for helping me. I was so grateful to be able to do that.
I have been drawn to write something before about my experience, but never got around to it. I think it’s time. It took me several post-it-notes and a search for something unrelated to help me to remember to do so, but if any of my words can help those who have gone through this, are just now going through it, or if it can help those that love them to understand something about TBIs then I must do so.
I’ll be adding to my story, although I can’t promise it will be in any particular order. If nothing else, the best Gift of my traumatic brain injury was the realization that There Is Only Now. And now seems like it’s the perfect time after all.