It was the first Saturday in April of 1989, and I had pestered my parents to let me go out—only to the video store, or the grocery, or something. Their acquiescence would come to haunt them for many years to come.
Rain had just started falling, and because I only had my driver’s license for five months, I did not instinctively know that the roads would be slicker than it had been raining for hours. See, the oil and grease—along with the dust, dirt, pollen, etc.—was still on the surface of the road.
Anyway, I decided I would take a small detour and get a taste of adrenaline at this intersection I had been shown by a friend.
Long story cut short, I lost control of the car and careened down an embankment into a tree—but years later, I learned it may not have been a tree.
The police and an ambulance were called to the scene to extricate me from the wreckage. (Of this I have no recollection.) The police report stated, based on the skid marks, that I must have been travelling 70 to 75 mph when I left the road.
I was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where the staff called my parents. I imagine that they fished my wallet out of my pants and removed my license to know where I lived.
Vanderbilt is about 20 minutes from where we lived, but within only about 10 minutes, my parents walked into the ER.
My mother has since told me that I was in surgery for about 6-8 hours for the doctors to remove the two epidural hematomas (aka blood clots on the brain). And for the next four weeks, I would look something like the Borg (from Star Trek, the Next Generation). I had feeding tubes running into my nose and down my esophagus, a gauge with which the hospital staff could monitor the pressure on my brain.
I lay there in PICU, unresponsive, for the coming month. I spent four weeks in a coma, during which time the doctors didn’t know if I’d ever be able to take care of myself. (At least that’s what they told my parents.) After being comatose for a month, my muscles had begun to atrophy (get smaller from inactivity), and I had gone from a lean 125 lbs. to an emaciated 80 lbs.
Yes, I suffered a closed head injury as a result of an automobile wreck. I sustained two subdural hematomas (aka blood-clots) on the left side of my brain, which permanently impaired my ability to compute numbers in my head.
During the first four weeks after my wreck, I lost the ability to walk, talk, swallow, and even to hold my urine. As I emerged from my long “sleep,” I quickly realized I couldn’t do what I had, only weeks earlier, been able to do without even a second thought.
It was the grace of God, and the loving support and unwavering patience and kindness of my family that brought me through and now allows me to serve as a beacon of hope for others who are in a similar situation or have family members who have suffered some sort of head trauma, either from an accident, multiple concussions, or a stroke.
What I plan to relay to readers in this blog, are stories of pain—some of which still make me wonder, “What the Hell was I thinking?”—and stories of triumph and hope. From years in neuro rehab, I feel that though I don’t have an M.D., a Ph.D., or other letters behind my name, I’m an expert about what Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivors commonly experience.
I welcome whatever comments, questions, and personal experiences you’d like to share.
Recently, I found a website which is incredibly helpful in furthering my recovery. What I’ve read on it has truly hit home and reminded me of certain events of the last 20 years.
I have realized that the reason God brought me through my automobile wreck with a head injury and nothing more — as if the head injury wasn’t enough — was to provide hope and show others who are going through what I have gone through that they can make it and lead an active, productive life.
For 2010, I plan to write more often than I have in recent months, so hopefully you will be engaged by my posts.