I try my best to be positive in all my blog posts. If I were to sound like a victim, it would undermine the very reason I started this blog in the first place which is to do everything I can to encourage other TBI survivors and convince them there is hope even in the midst of tragedy and despair. That being said, I have to be as real as possible about our struggles. I do not want to sound like the people we meet who say “It’s just a bump on the head, shake it off and move on.” I’m also not shallow enough to think there are not people living with much more severe brain injuries than mine. I also don’t want it to sound like my recovery has been easy. It has been a struggle and probably will continue as long as I want to keep fighting. I love reading about the recovery of people like Bob Woodruff and Gabby Giffords and I know my issues and deficits are different and maybe not as bad as theirs but mine have been challenging enough to make me realize that anyone dealing with a TBI needs all the help they can get.
On May 14th 2008, my world shrunk and even now, over nine years later, I’m still discovering just how shrunken it is. Just this morning, we were going to pick up my father-in law’s car and wash it. I thought both of us had to go to get the car so one could drive ours back. It didn’t click that I could drive ours down and drive his back. Since the injury, I have great difficulty seeing even simple processes all the way through. I have no idea how many times Bonnie has compensated for my lack of foresight because it has probably become automatic for her. This is just one example of how my world has shrunk because of tbi.
While I am extremely thankful to still have the ability to drive, the experience of driving is much different than before my injury. Previously, I could actually observe things other than the road and traffic while driving but now, the highway requires my full attention. It’s not like I didn’t watch the road before but now even playing the license plate game proves to be quite difficult.
Another of my most frustrating deficits can best be described as out of sight out of mind.” Almost all tbi survivors have problems with what is commonly referred to as short-term memory. A more specific term is working memory which is defined as the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing. My working memory took a pretty serious hit from my tbi. One of my strengths was my ability to keep a lot of “balls in the air” which is a big part of a computer network engineer’s job. After the accident, my working memory shrunk to two or maybe three things on a good day especially early in the day. On bad days, which still do happen, I can handle only one thing and that is not guaranteed late in the day. “It’s after three” is a line we use a lot when I forget something late in the day. Early in my recovery, three o’clock was about the time I would start to shut down so we turned it into a running joke. We laugh about a lot of the things I forget as you can read in an earlier post Laughter: The best medicine. Even though the issues are not really funny, laughter has become a good coping mechanism for us.
Although my world was severely shrunken by my injury, it was not the end of the world. To be honest, a smaller world is not necessarily a bad thing, just different. Another factor is that with the introduction of modern technology, traumatic brain injury today is not as devastating as it was in years past. Smart phones, tablets and adaptive devices as well as far more accurate diagnosis give tbi survivors a much better chance for productive rewarding lives than those even as recent as the Vietnam era veterans.