20 year anniversary of my brain day.
Oct. 18, 2023 will be the 20th year anniversary of my traumatic brain injury. Not saying that recovery has been a piece of cake, in fact the first year was everything except a piece cake. What I'm saying, is that recovery is an ongoing process.
On Oct. 18, 2003, when cleaning the gutters on my house, I fell off the ladder and spent the first month at HCMC, in a medically induced coma after a craniotomy surgery to reduce swelling in my brain. Second and third month were in two different hospitals to see how much therapy I may need. I don't remember anything about the first month, almost nothing about month two, I can kinda remember a little about month 3, but it's foggy.
On my 4th month (January 2004) I was discharged for the hospital and sent back home and started out-patient occupational & speech therapy at Courage Kenny. On my birthday in February 2004, I went back to HCMC and the doctors placed my bone back on my skull. In May 2004, I passed the driver assessment test and, without needing a volunteer driver, I began to try to restart my pre-injury job. Because of daily therapy sessions, I was only able to work 4 hours a week. I was able to reschedule therapy to afternoons sessions, 3 days instead of 5 days a week, and was able to add more hours at work if I felt ok after a good night sleep. 4 hours became 12 hrs, then 16 hrs, 20, 28 then 32 hours. Thankfully, the library I worked at, gave me all the time I needed. On October 1, 2004, I was able to stop therapy and started working full-time. Because of aphasia, and short-term memory, it wasn't exactly my pre-injury job, but close enough.
7 years later (2010) thinking there must be a reason I felt better than what the doctors told me, and my family, that "recovery is just a 1-2 year recovery process, what you get is all you get". I proved them wrong. I was still gaining. I found that the Mn. Brain Injury Alliance has a speaker bureau and became a member. Discovered that Courage Kenny had a brain injury support group. Went to a meeting, and thought why didn't I know about this group before, especially during my first year. Not only did I become a member, I am now a facilitator for the group as well.
Am I at 100% of the "old" me? Nope, I think I'm at 90-95%, and I can live like that: I still have short-term memory issues; aphasia comes & goes, especially when talking too fast or talking with multiple people at the same time; PTSD, depending on tasks being done (don't ask me to get on a ladder). All three of those "side effect" are the gifts that keeps on giving,
As long as I refuse to let my injury define me, as long as I keep moving forward, I will keep on recovering. People/sounds/lights could be a problem; going to grocery or department stores, sporting or musical events is always a gamble; when going into a restaurant, I look for and then ask, to sit at a table where I think I would be comfortable. This document has taken me 3 days to finish, because it takes a lot time to write, proofread, edit, proofread, rewrite, revise, and repeat. Moving foward means not letting myself be boxed in.
Regardless of how your injury happened, and find yourself, like I did, into a future you never planned or believed would happen, "we" need to stand up to face the world. Let time be a friend, measure your recovery as gains won not losses. Perhaps most importantly, refuse to let your injury define yourself. Let only yourself define who you are.