My name is Len. I have survived two major brain injuries that required surgery. Add to this several concussions. I will focus on the two injuries.
A little bit about Len
The first occurred 31 years ago. I was 14 years old when a friend and I snuck out of the house at 3am to be mischievous in our village in rural Nova Scotia. It would end in me falling 13 feet headfirst on to the concrete walkway of my high school.
I suffered a compound fracture of the eye orbit. The degree of contusions, lacerations and hematomas that I suffered I simple simply cannot remember. Two decades later, I was given a CT scan to examine a possible concussion.
I was told I had “significant scarring and dead tissue” on my frontal lobe.
When the injury first occurred, I was eventually taken to Moncton General for my first ever CT and the surgery that it was deemed absolutely necessary. The surgery was performed by Dr. Gorman, if memory serves. A couple months later I would return to be examined primarily for how I was healing. It would be my last medical meeting related directly to my head injury until I suffered my second some 25 years later. Years of confusion and struggles reside between the two.
The second injury occurred late at night, outside a bar in Calgary. Three men were harassing a young woman aggressively. I intervened. They turned their attention to me, and I did not fare well. I awoke the next day in Foothills Hospital. My injuries consisted of “a stable small right epidural hematoma, left temporal contusion, and scattered subarachnoid/subdural hemorrhage”. Thankfully the young lady was unscathed.
Over the next 6 months the neurology team at Foothills Hospital and the C.A.R. team (Community Accessible Rehabilitation) at Sheldon Chumir Hospital oversaw my recovery with a compassionate devotion that I will forever be grateful for.
Changes that occurred from the brain injuries
From the first trauma through to the second inclusively (it exasperated the situation), I have had significant trouble with risk assessment and emotional reactions. After the second, my ability to absorb and retain new information has suffered.
Thanks to the counselling and therapy under the C.A.R. I have developed the tools to navigate life better than expected.
I was able to return to my career in culinary nearly to the level I left. I was given the support needed through the therapists, doctors, friends, and family to continue to reclaim my life as I knew it. Well, to close enough proximity as to tone down the yearning for a time before.
Though the years of self-medicating something I didn’t understand after the first trauma are indeed regrettable, at least I can take comfort in now knowing that I was not cognitively aware of my situation and many of my misdeeds and mistakes were to some extent beyond the scope of my full control. I also draw great comfort from the knowledge that it could be so much worse.
A project I am working on
I am currently finishing a book about my life with TBI which will be self-published in early 2023. In it, I discuss my trials and triumphs. The process has been long and arduous, but also cathartic and helpful. It’s been a project that has improved my life. Admittedly, I am anxious about its release.
Advice to other survivors
There is a chapter about a simple sign I made to hang on my bedroom door. It read “Do The Things”. It is my mantra and my advice. Do the work to improve when and if you can; exercise both physically and mentally, maintain relationships, take time to enjoy life, and so on. Do the chores and errands when you can. Create and express. Listen keenly to your doctors and therapist, friends, and family.
Do all the little things that will in time improve the situation that you have found yourself in. It’s worth it. You are worth it.