Around 11pm, about two hours into my shift, I was getting some pickle juice from the walk-in cooler in the back and as I was walking back, to the bar, was when it hit me suddenly.
A little bit about Brogan
My name is Brogan, and I am a 31-year-old ABI survivor from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I was 30 years old working as a bartender at the time in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. On Thursday, October 20th, 2022 I had gone into work like any other day feeling completely normal. Around 11pm, about two hours into my shift, I was getting some pickle juice from the walk-in cooler and as I was walking back, it hit me suddenly.
I experienced dizziness, cold sweats, and the worst headache you could imagine. I told the other bartender who I was working with that I had to go sit down because something didn’t feel right. As I sat on a ledge in the back storage room, my headache only felt like it was getting worse, and I was becoming more and more nauseous. One of my coworkers had brought me water and suggested I go to the bathroom. I went into the employee bathroom, and after vomiting a few times, I took the bar towel out of my back pocket to use as a makeshift pillow as I laid down on the bathroom floor being overcome with incredible pain. I was getting weaker, more tired, and starting to fade out of consciousness when the paramedics that my coworkers had called showed up.
That was the last thing I remember seeing until Friday afternoon.
A CT scan showed that I had had a severe spontaneous intraparenchymal hemorrhage in my right temporal lobe. The hemorrhage extended into my lateral, third, and fourth ventricles and caused a 7mm midline shift of my brain. After seeing the results of the CT scan, the Neurosurgeons placed an EVD by drilling into my skull and running a catheter through the ventricles to drain out the blood and lower my intracranial pressure. The next 9 days, I was confined to a bed in the ICU while my brain was slowly drained of blood. I was tested and studied by just about everyone. The doctors couldn’t believe that I had not only survived, but that I had somehow retained the majority of my neurological abilities. I was able to walk, form complete sentences, and move independently all with an 8 by 3 cm area of brain loss in my right temporal lobe.
As ecstatic as everyone else had seemed to be about my surviving, I knew I wasn’t the same person. The hardest part came after leaving the hospital.
My recovery and identity challenges
The hemorrhage resulted in vision loss in the upper left quadrants of both of my eyes, I developed a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia (face blindness), anterograde amnesia, and mild aphasia when it came to my abilities to recall certain words.
For the next few months, I was living in a dreamworld. That is still the only way I’m able to describe it.
Nothing felt real and people didn’t look like themselves. I would look around and not remember how I got there or the conversations I just had. I felt so lost and so alone because I didn’t know what the future held for me and I knew there wasn’t anyone around me that understood what I was going through. I knew I would sound crazy if I even tried to describe what it felt like inside my mind so I never did.
I began speech therapy once a week for the next few months, and just like the doctors, the therapists told me how great I was doing and how lucky I was. I am very grateful for my outcome as I know it could have been much, much worse, but I still wasn’t the same person I was before and I didn’t feel “fine” like I kept being told. I just wanted to be me again and not this tired, confused, slower, forgetful version of me.
What was lacking from my recovery
For months all I wanted was closure. After countless MRIs, CT scans and angiograms, the root cause of the event was never found. There was never a recovery process outlined by the neurologists or neurosurgeons, because they admitted they didn’t know for sure what my recovery could look like since the brain is such a complicated organ. Everything was just so open-ended. I found the only answers I was going to get were ones I was going to have to find on my own and through organizations like SameYou and reading the stories of others.
I’m now writing this 7 months later and I have come a long way from the terrifying dreamworld my amnesia had been forcing me to navigate. I have the support of amazing people around me in my family who traveled hours to stay by my side in the hospital, and the friends and old coworkers at the bar that saved my life by calling an ambulance when they did. I’ve since started a new job. I couldn’t have asked for a better family of people helping me to learn all about the new me on a daily basis. They have all been so patient and understanding of my journey that it has given me a renewed feeling of hope. I still have a long way to go in my recovery, but the support of those around me is my biggest motivator.
My hobbies include golfing and attending concerts and music festivals. I have been able to make it back out on the golf course, but I am taking my time with returning to the music venues.
My advice to other survivors
The advice I would give other survivors navigating a journey similar to mine is don’t lose your confidence. So many times I’ve questioned myself and my abilities because of my brain injury, but the old you is still in there and they are just as sharp as ever. Trust them and the answers they send you by listening to your gut.