Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Want to be Somebody

“I want to be somebody”… is one phrase that sums up my thoughts regarding my purpose in life following my injury. I have found my need. As the Community Relations Ambassador to Meridian Neuroscience I was able to put the family of a survivor of a traumatic brain injury at ease as they start the beginning stages of a recovery from a devastating brain injury. I helped to ensure that they understood that recovery is not a black or white issue. Recovery is gradual and it takes an extremely long time. I think it is important to convey that recovery may not be 100%. The objective should be to achieve the best recovery possible.

I take comfort in knowing that I have a different level of credibility than the team of physicians and specialists that are caring for patients. While the prognosis of a DAI (diffuse axonal injury) is horrifying; the family took comfort in knowing that my thoughts and advice came from personal experience. I was able to put their minds at ease by ensuring that they understood that their relative was not in pain. I told them that the pain was felt by them and not by their relative.

I feel my story of surviving this injury is coming full circle. Earlier in my recovery, I longed for the day that I could put this injury far from my consciousness. I can recognize that it is a sign of self fulfillment and growth that I was able to look at my recovery as an asset. Life and recovery is a work in progress. It was a sign of evolution for me to relate to my recovery as a positive.

It is enlightening for me to observe that while I graduated college with honors, what really makes me unique is my recovery from a DAI injury. While I was happy that I graduated with honors, there are many other graduates who achieved the same thing. This injury has given me a niche. Certainly, not a niche I would have chosen, but none the less it is here and I am living it. The look on the faces of that family that I comforted last week was a look of gratitude. I know they were happy to have somebody cast a ray of light onto the devastation that their family was enduring.

To know that my experience had a positive impact on the family meant that I am where I need to be. Helping to put their minds at ease was beyond fulfilling for me. Giving can grant far more pleasure than receiving. I could not have been happier with my first patient contact. It was an incredible experience to know that my experience possessed such a great value to the family. I questioned myself, regarding what I said to the family and if I was helpful to them. Thankfully the email that I received from the family completely put my anxieties at rest.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Adapting to the Long Race

Adapting is a life skill that all people need to have a grasp of. Someone recovering from a life altering injury certainly needs to understand that life is an ongoing journey that is very complicated. Prior to my injury I thought I had a grasp of the “race”. Life does not always proceed as planned. A reassessment of one’s goals, strengths and value must always be evaluated. One particular quote that I found that best coincides with the changes in life following a traumatic brain injury is from Walter Elliot “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Depending on where one is in their journey of life depends on where they are in his or her adaptation. On one of my first days I visited with a family at the Regional Trauma Center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center who had a young family member who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. This visit proved to me that speaking to families about my experiences can give them hope. I embodied and represented a level of recovery that every family hopes for. My meeting with that family was as therapeutic for me as it was for them. I felt needed and valued as I comforted and shared some of my experiences and stories from my family’s experience in the ICU. I helped to ensure that the family understood that their comforting and soothing words were indeed beneficial. What I have come to understand is that being able to affect one’s psyche is more valuable than any object I could purchase. There is no price tag or dollar amount that a person could put on peace of mind. The race for me has switched terrains in that it is not all about the almighty dollar. The race for me has switched direction towards a more meaningful path. I now sleep better at night knowing that I am providing a service to families that was not available to me or my family. The most fascinating part of my visit with the family was that my mere presence is what provided the most value. I now feel that I possess a value that far exceeds anything I would have had prior to my accident.