Most people think of veteran’s when they think of brain trauma or NFL players who have had serious concussions from supposed years of playing football. There are approximately 5.3 million Americans who are living with Traumatic Brain Injury-related disabilities according to the Brain Injury Association of America.
I know because I am one of those 5.3 million Americans. It was 2002 and I was pregnant. I was about 36-37 weeks pregnant (what does that mean – you deliver at 40 weeks – you can deliver a baby as early as 36-37 weeks and a doctor should not let you go over 42 weeks). I did not expect it, but went to the restroom in the middle of the night – saw some things in the toilet I did not think was unusual because that’s what you expect when you are about ready to deliver. We rushed to the hospital, we waited some time – but this was my first pregnancy so I wasn’t sure. We finally went in, I was hooked up to every kind of machine you can imagine. I won’t go into the details, mostly because I don’t remember some of them, but also because I wanted to get to my point. They could not hear the heartbeat of our son, but they had to get him out.
I woke up some time later and discovered that it had been about a week. I was in a doctor induced coma for 3 days, then later I could hear some voices and then thought I saw people that were not there and believed some of what I thought were dreams were not real. My saint of a husband had to go through and tell me most of what I had missed while I laid in bed unsure if I would even be able to walk.
He was told that they weren’t sure if I would make it – I was 28 years-old. Then they said I might be a vegetable. He was told again to check with social security because they didn’t think I would be able to work. When I first went the incredible Brain Injury Rehab Center here near Orlando, Florida, they asked me question to see what I could say or even understand. They showed me a photo of a boat on a lake with people on the shore – some fishing and others at the edge of it. I was told to describe it and all if could say was “boat.” I cannot tell you how frustrated I was at myself. Seeing a picture and knowing what you see but you can’t speak and you can’t even know what or why it happened.
Friends of mine said they were so surprised that I didn’t get mad at God. I just said later that I was too busy trying to get better than to worry about who to blame. They had us on a schedule that made me exhausted every day and all I wanted to do – especially later in the day – was just sleep. Then, at the end of the day, I had visiting hours. No one could see me during the day – which was fine, but trying to let people know I was tired – I just couldn’t do that – since they were driving that distance to visit.
It may not sound like it, but it really was exhausting – especially having to get up early to eat and get ready for the day. I think I should write a book about it. Looking back – it was a good experience, but at the time and for the months and even years after it was not. However, God has a plan for everything.
I met some of the best people in medicine – nurses, therapists, assistants, trainers, you name it. I would even try to go back to visit when and if I could – just the nicest people you could imagine because, let’s face it, they had a really hard job, too.
I just hope that people realize that brain injuries are not just for military people, or even accident victims. It includes so many people – even people who have experienced strokes and multiple sclerosis – I think they would be surprised. Take a moment and remember our military – one of the hardest volunteer jobs – but also remember that every person you meet is fighting a battle. Some can be seen, but most are internal battles – too many too list.