In An Instant

I suffer in silence everyday. I show no physical signs of a serious illness, but it’s there deep in my brain. I have a traumatic brain injury.

December 23, 2009 was the day that changed my life forever. It was a cold morning, rain freezing overnight with icy roads in the early morning hours. I was excited for the day. It was the last day of classes before winter break. I was flying in the afternoon to Minneapolis, MN with my kids to celebrate Christmas with my family. I was excited for my lesson I prepared for my anatomy class. We had been covering skeletal system so I arranged with a local butcher to have some cow bones brought in for the students to study. The lesson was a great success and the student’s loved it. After class I packed up the bones and headed for the dumpster. I didn’t make it there.

The sky was a pretty blue color. Why am I looking at the sky laying on the ground. I panicked, is my hip ok? I had a hip replacement and immediately worried about it. A student witnessed what happened and caming running out to help me. I thought I was okay so I went back to finish my workday, my first big mistake. I should of gone to ER imnediately. I was not thinking clearly and was unable to make resonable decisions. The second big mistake was flying later that day to Minneapolis. I don’t know how flying affects brain injuries but I think it did something.

This event was the start of constant medical problems which still continues today. Nine months after the accident I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I was on heavy Parkinson’s medications for over two years until doctor’s realized they were wrong. It would be seven more years until I actually received the correct brain injury diagnosis. Then came years of serious heart complications. I was so busy fighting heart disease I didn’t realize my brain injury symptoms were increasing making my life harder to manage.

My brain injury has affected me in a significant way. I lost who I was, my personality changed, though I didn’t realize it. My friends noticed I was thinking, acting differently, they even asked if I was on drugs! I couldn’t understand or see what they saw and I still can’t today. I have problems with poor judgement, impulsiveness, memory problems, my speech and thought process are slow. I can no longer live alone, which is really hard for me. I enjoyed spending time alone doing whatever I want. I wear a lanyard with my keys on it so I know where they are because I would forget where I put them. I have reminder cards posted around the house, “lock the door,” “turn off the oven.” When you speak to me, be clear in your communication because I don’t pick up social cues. My thinking is simplified. When I wrote my book I designed the pages to be simple, not overwhelmed with information. I can’t have to much to look at on a page, my brain shuts down. I have to plan for brain naps. I shop for groceries online because going to the store is cognitively draining. I feel like I am on an island surrounded by people. Having a brain injury can be lonely and isolating,

I am learning to live with my new reality, but still mourn the life I lost. I try to find joy in everyday.

My message is be grateful for everyday, because life can change in an instant.

I’m sharing my story as this is brain awareness week. Do not take concussions or head injuries lightly.

Be kind to your mind.

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