Friday, September 14, 2012

My life after TBI

My life after TBI
by Chaplain Kathie
Wounded Times Blog
September 14, 2012

About 30 years ago research in Traumatic Brain Injury began. The problem for me is, mine happened almost 50 years ago. Back then, no one thought about what happened to the brain after head trauma.

When I was 4, my family went to a drive-in movie. Back then there were two play grounds. One for young kids like me and another for older kids. The older kids had better stuff to play with and a really high slide. My brothers were older, so they used to take me up the steps of the slide. I'd sit in their laps as they took turns holding me as we went down to the bottom. I was so happy!

I was also a trouble maker. One night I got away from them. I climbed the slide all by myself but when I reached the top, there was no one to hold onto me. I was frightened. I just sat at the top trying to figure out what to do when the kid behind me was tired of waiting. He pushed me. The problem is, he pushed too hard on my right side, so I fell over the left side of the slide. I hit the ground head first.

My oldest brother ran to me, picked me up and thought I was dead.

By the time I got out of the hospital, no one connected the fact that suddenly I couldn't talk right. I ended up seeing a speech therapist. That was really kind of funny considering my Mom sent me to Greek School at the same time. It wasn't bad enough I had a thick Massachusetts accent on top of all that. Anyway, I had a hard time learning what used to come easy.

Over the years, I had to teach my brain to deal with things my way. I could hang onto things that were really important but had to let go of things that were not. If I didn't need to know it anymore, it was gone.

This caused a lot of problems for me later in life.

I do a lot of writing but have a hard time spelling.  I used to wear out dictionaries. Now I thank God for spell check because I know what the word means but I can't remember how to spell it. Grammar is another problem for me. Is it "its" or is it "it's" or is it something else? Words matter to me so that's why often you'll read posts without much fill in them. I take things out because often they may be grammatically correct but a waste of time for the reader keeping them from getting the meat of the sentence.

I do a lot of writing about what is in the Bible. While I can remember what it says, I can't remember who wrote it. I have to Google a few lines of the passage to look it up. This takes a lot of time because I may not be able to remember the entire passage right, so I end up searching over and over again to find it.

While I can remember faces, I can't remember names. While I can remember emails, it is hard for me to remember the name of the person vs the email account. While I can remember stories of people I've exchanged emails with, that gets me into trouble when I haven't been in communication with them for a long time. I have to go back to read past emails to figure out what they are talking about. With hundreds of saved emails on different topics, that takes a lot of time.

Giving speeches gets me into trouble too. If I write a speech, I mess up delivering it. Sometimes I'll look at it as if it was the first time I saw it, so now I use index cards with points I want to make sure I address unless I have spent a lot of time on the topic. Usually that is when I'm talking about PTSD or military families. When I do a presentation on those topics, I usually don't need anything to remind me.

What this all boils down to is, if you have TBI, get help and don't end up like me. I had to adjust everything in my life because no one knew I needed help or why I needed it. Take advantage of all the experts learned over the years. Let them help you and know, there is nothing to be ashamed of. You have a lot of work to do, but believe me, it will be worth it.

The other thing I want to tell you is, don't lose hope. At 51 I went back to college for certification in Digital Media at Valencia College. Yep, technical certification and I finished 5 of them! I ended up with a 3.1 GPA. Considering when I graduated high school, communication was done with a typewriter, ink ribbons and white out, but I was going to classes with students growing up with computers, if I could do it, it proves anyone can. Just set your mind as "right" as possible and do it.

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