A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) changed me and in some ways defined who I am over the last 11 years. Eleven years ago, I was doing what most 15 and 16 year olds do, have a summer job. I had a pretty sweet one, picking strawberries on Wolfe Island. Let me tell you! The sun and physical challenges of working 8:00 am to noon Monday to Friday is just what kids need. I biked 13km to work and 13km home from work. It was great fun; I was a huge fan of the morning work. That way, I had the afternoon to hang out with friends…. anyways…
So when July 5, 2002 rolled around it was just another day of picking berries and sunshine. I was doing like I always did…hustling like hell to make the Wolfe Island ferry. Well, that day was different. When I was right around the midway point to the ferry, there is a sweet short cut through the cricket field of City Park in Kingston. There is a T intersection between this walk/bike path and Bagot Street. The car did not see me crossing this path and I did not see the car. We collided. I flew 30 feet off of my bike and landed on the back of my head (was not wearing a helmet). I didn’t break any bones in my arms, legs, neck but really did a number on my skull. Luckily, I was less than a kilometer away from the Kingston General Hospital. The medical staff put me under in a medically induced coma so that brain was not overwhelmed (helps reduce blood flow to the brain). I was sent to surgery for a craniotomy to stop the bleeding and repair the fracture. I have a pretty gnarly scar from my left ear to the middle of my skull and goes to the end of my hair line. After being in a coma for 4 days, the neurosurgeon felt that I was stable enough to breathe on my own. The medical staff warned my mom that I would not be the same when I woke up. Things were going to be really different from that day on.
Damn right. It was a huge life change for me. I went from being a pretty normal 16 year old to being surrounded by rehab people. I had an OT, Psychologist, lifestyle coach, tutors, case manager, the list goes on… All of this was really new to me and I was not really accepting of it for a long time.
How did it affect me? I am sometimes overwhelmed by cognitive fatigue. Straight up, I am flat out mentally exhausted from school work at times. My injury was to the frontal lobe, the problem solving and decision-making area of the brain. I have had to spend a heap of time working on how to break down problems so as to not just see them as black and white. Also, because the tbi happened in my mid teen years, it really changed my rate of maturity. I learned that the brain gets “stuck” at the time of the tbi. I was unable to feel empathy for a lot of years after the accident because empathy is an emotion that is developed for males around age 16-18. For a long time, I could only see the world as I could feel it. And, for the most part, that was only from my perspective. I have “grown up,” I have spent many years working hard to develop the parts of my brain that needed to be focused on. One of the best things I did was to take out the bad and add in the good. I had to take out all of the toxins (prescription drugs, alcohol and weed to numb the pain, and crappy foods). I discovered that lifestyle improvements sped up the rate of recovery and helped connect the neurological pathways quicker. I started to bike more, run more, eat cleaner, drink less, stop smoking, get off the medications, and clean up my social behaviours.
Wow, that that was a bit heavy. I guess what I am trying to show and get across is, everyone can be their best. They just need to accept their weakness and work on those to help them achieve their excellence. Self-discovery is an amazing part of living and we all have different journeys, paths, experiences and trials. Define yourself by your improvements rather than the set backs. Go for yours!
Thanks for giving this blog a read. We will talk running next week. My training is almost back in full swing, so the James Hardon beard is back! Training beards are hilarious… or so I think.