Do you watch the show Survivor? It is a popular reality television game show in which contestants face endurance tasks that challenge their reality and survival. Through my eyes, every person who suffers a brain injury is a survivor. Every single day they face inconceivable challenges testing their endurance, strength, problem solving, and/or willpower. Their flight is real and does not end like a reality show. They are the real survivors!
This section “Personal Stories” is dedicated to all these wonderful individuals I meet with everyday, whose stories need to be heard and understood!
One of the most powerful tools to feel understood is to hear from other people in similar circumstances.
Whether you are someone who has sustained a TBI, a caregiver, or someone who is just learning about TBI for the first time, these stories can help you understand the anonymities of brain injury and the resiliency and humility of the human spirit.
an accomplished police officer end up feeling like a homeless person?
Two years have passed since Joe’s accident. One day, Joe unexpectedly discovers his uniform, the one he wore dutifully for 15 years, as a proud and accomplished member of the New York Police force. Without giving it too much thought, Joe slips into his uniform. He discards the dark sheet that has been covering the full-length mirror behind his bedroom door and stares at the reflection of the police officer in front of him.
“The person staring at me in the mirror is a stranger…. I’m seeing a different person- a whole different Joe…. Since my accident, I don’t know who I am anymore?”
If you or I were meeting Joe on the street, in uniform, we would undoubtedly presume that Joe is just fine. We cannot visibly see or grasp the emotional turmoil and cognitive deficits that Joe lives with every waking moment of his day.
Joe’s entire world changed in one split second. Like Joe, there are so many individuals who find themselves in this situation. Whether it is a police officer who tragically caught a bullet, a construction worker who fell off a bridge, a dancer who was brutally attacked, a football player or a successful business CEO that suffered a stroke. >> Read more
Pam’s reality changed in an instant when she was hit by a car in the parking lot of the school where she taught English for 13 years.
I met Pam four years after her accident. Pam suffered damage to her frontal lobes, an area of the brain primarily involved in behavioral control. As a result, she became impulsive, irritable, angry and impatient. These emotional problems were compounded by cognitive problems, commonly associated with brain injury. She was never able to return to work.
Until I met her, she had never been appropriately assessed or treated for her brain injury.
I am always amazed by the vast number of individuals that I meet who “fall through the cracks” and never get the support they so desperately need.
By the time I met Pam, she had lost almost everything she had worked so hard to build. She was extremely anxious, depressed and suicidal. She was, in fact, living in a shelter, isolated from her family and friends whom she gradually alienated.
“After my injury I was obsessed with wanting to get back to teaching- to my old life… I still get furious when I remember how cruel people treated me after so many years…”
I realized that something was not “right”, but I couldn’t quite figure it out and I did not want to discuss “it” with anyone. >> Read more
I am grateful everyday that I encounter extraordinary individuals like john…
Here is John’s story in his own words….
I can relate to Joe. My name is John. I am 41 years old. I was injured in a car accident 4 years ago.
Before my injury, I loved my job in law enforcement and was engaged to a wonderful partner. I felt fulfilled, appreciated and happy.
After my accident, my whole world fell apart. I could not return to my previous life. My police background was no longer second nature to me. I went from someone who represented authority and safety to being fearful, lost and alone.
As the years go by, I seem to get even worse. I have no motivation and am no longer inspired by anything.
I experience constant headaches and neurofatigue that restrain me like a prisoner.
I am frequently disoriented and overwhelmed.
No one hears me anymore.
Like Joe, I look normal. I can laugh with you. I feel like a stranger when I am with my “old” friends and family. I play along with them, ignoring my invisible head injury, pretending to be what everyone else expects. I find myself hiding my true feelings of being ashamed and weak.
My name is Ron. I was a bus operator for 10 years. I would like to share my stroke experience with you.
On September of 2011, while driving my normal bus route, I realized that something was not quite right. The traffic lights ahead were blurry and “doubling up”. At first, I removed my sunglasses thinking my shades may be messing with my vision. Things deteriorated quickly to the point that I could barely see anything at all.
Intuitively, I put the emergency brakes on and pulled the bus over to the side.
I was feeling very weak and frightened. I didn’t know what was wrong with me? I remember that my words were “dragging” and not coming out right. I had a medicine taste in my mouth. My lips felt like they had needles in them. The whole left side of my body could not move. I was in and out of consciousness.
X-ray revealed that I had a blood clot in my brain. I was given some type of injection to dissolve the blood clot, so I would not require brain surgery. The doctors also discovered that the blood clot originated in my left leg. They also found that I have a heart murmur (whole in my heart).>> Read more
On January 8, 2013, I was fortunate to meet Craig Sears, who is a “VOICE” for Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors. Craig’s passion and commitment to this cause are impossible to put into words. Craig plays an important role in the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation. To learn about this wonderful conference and The National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan (PABI Plan) read my last post.
Craig is a compelling voice for all brain injury survivors. He has dedicated his life to fighting for TBI survivors and advocating for their rights. He wants to make sure that no one goes through what he endured.
Craig suffered a TBI when he was thrown from his motorcycle when he was twenty years old.
Patrick Donohue, Founder od The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, with Sarah Jane and Craig Sears
To listen to Craig tell his story in his own words click below:
This is the story of Craig, as he wanted it to be published.
If you are wondering why the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation and friends are devoting day and night to help children and young adults who suffer from the #1 leading cause of death and disability, please take just 5 minutes out and read my story then share your thoughts with as many people as you can.