As an 18-year, 4 weeks in a coma, survivor of severe traumatic brain injury I feel that I am blessed to be here today! There are a number of things I have relearned, but there are a lot of things I still cannot do today that I wish I could. Some friends and family who have watched me over the years may say that my struggles have been unfortunate, disappointing, or even frustrating. Because I was a guy who felt I could accomplish most things when I put in extra effort, I had to learn to change my attitude. However, it took me a few years to accept that I was not going to return to my pre-morbid self. That was very hard. I wanted to make the best recovery and go back to living life!! So, I had to adjust my mindset, count my blessings, and keep it moving!!
TBI is a major cause of death and disability
While it has been extremely hard to accept what I cannot do. I had to adjust. I had to review some of the statistics of TBI and realize it is a blessing that I am still here! Life has not been a bouquet of roses. It sucks not moving as you did previously. BUT… I am not included in the statistic above, so I should live as I have been given a second chance. I do not waste time on things or people who don’t motivate me or allow me to accomplish my purpose. Yes it is weird… But if it is okay to say that I’m blessed to still be here, that also means that my life has purpose and I am still here on earth for a reason!! Initially, I was not sure how I fit in with my new normal. One has to make a conscious decision what they plan to do with their lives after TBI. I understand that this has been a horrible injury to live with, but you have to ask yourself… Do I want to be seen as a success story, or one who has nothing else to do but give up? When COVID got into full swing, I was not able to find a job. Instead, I felt that I was ironically not working and available to accomplish what I believe God wanted me to do. He wanted me to share my story of my accident and how I recovered, to help other people like me. Here is the thing… When I was in rehab, I saw previous patients who completed rehab. Unfortunately, none of them were doing what I saw for myself, because I wanted to be doing more. Was I being realistic as a patient going through rehab? Probably not, but I was not going to allow anyone to tell me how much I’d recover, especially after hearing from doctors that did not provide me with a more positive expectation.
A TBI may lead to short- or long-term health problems
Depending on the severity of the injury, those who get a TBI may face health problems that last a few days or the rest of their lives. For example, a person with a mild TBI or concussion may experience short-term symptoms and feel better within a couple of weeks or months. And a person with a moderate or severe TBI may have long-term or life-long effects from the injury.
I know from experience everyone is not guaranteed complete restoration. But if we can make a conscious effort to try to get better with ONE thing and stay focused on it. It can be something simple, like winking your left eye (if you are left side-hemi) or grabbing and holding a pen with your left hand, but it has to be something you aren’t doing now. While we are attempting to get better, one may experience mental, physical, and economic roadblocks that will hinder you. I encourage you to stay focused because the time spent rehabbing and practicing will be hard, have dead ends, but you can get better! For me, I knew that my life had purpose, so I refused to be thrown off-track by the many obstacles that came my way.
How well a person recovers from a moderate or severe TBI depends on multiple factors, such as:
- The health of the person before the injury
- Type and severity of the TBI
- Access to healthcare and specialized TBI care, and
- Family and other social support
Before my accident, I was playing basketball recreationally and I was bowling in two leagues during the week. I also was treated by the best rehab center in America, and I had a bunch of friends and family who supported me! However, I realized that in order for me to stay focused, I had to take the emphasis off of me, and focus on doing for others. I spent the majority of my post-TBI years trying to do things that were related to me. I have been working off and on with several different companies. I also know that working is not everything and it does not fulfill all of my expectations. I decided that it would be best to help others in their situations. This is why I stayed inside during the majority of 2020, writing a book on my experience and recovery from TBI. In the beginning of 2021, I began writing blog posts to go with my website. This was the change that worked for ME! I know that we are all different, and what works for me may not work for someone else. But I ask that you be flexible in your endeavors. Do what feels right to you. Help out when you can. Remember that you are a blessing and things could have been different. Recovery is not easy. God only gives us what He believes we can handle. If we can successfully adjust our attitudes, we might see that our complaints are small compared to others… I love great quotes, and the next to last line of Charles Swindoll’s Attitude speaks very loud to me. He says, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
I sustained a severe TBI, was comatose for 4 weeks, and paralyzed on the left side of my body. This is my 10%… How I decide to navigate life with my ‘new normal’ is the 90%. And so, it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes! I know it is harder to control your impulses post-TBI but make your best effort! Do not overwhelm yourself with thoughts and emotions… I’ve been there!
“Get the Facts About TBI | Concussion | Traumatic Brain Injury | CDC Injury Center.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html. Accessed 22 June 2021.