The Lingering Effects of Brain Injury

David Grant: The Lingering Effects of Brain Injury

In a few short months, the anniversary of my brain injury will be here again. In late fall, I’ll be marking the seventh anniversary of the accident that not only changed me forever, but that has affected the lives of all who know me.

I can’t believe that I’m coming up on seven years out. I can use one of those standard clichés like “My, how time flies,” but brain injury anniversaries aren’t like traditional anniversary celebrations. There are no balloons, no streamers and certainly no cheering. On a few of my TBI anniversaries, we did buy a cake. For a couple of years, my wife Sarah and I celebrated the fact that I’m still alive. Not everyone who gets t-boned by a car lives to tell the tale.

As time continues to pass, my perspectives change, and my insight deepens. In the last couple of weeks, I have a couple of stark reminders that those closest to me are still paying a heavy emotional price for all that has come to pass.

Sometimes I forget that those close to me still hurt. In the reflection of their inner pain, I see my injury for what it really is. My injury is a lifelong condition that, though easier to live with as the years pass, will always cause angst to those I love.

I can’t begin to tell you the heartache that makes me feel.

My dad and I have a very special relationship these days. We are both survivors. You already know what I’ve survived. My dad wasn’t hit by a car; he survived cancer. We make quite a pair. While Sarah is my best friend, my dad is my second best friend. We talk almost every day.

We spoke just yesterday, and he was asking me about my newest literary project, a children’s fantasy book that I am writing that has nothing to do with brain injury (though I did slip in a reference to a concussion). I started rattling on about my project, my excitement building over the course of the next few minutes.

Without even thinking, I shared something not possible a few years ago.

“Dad, had it not been for my accident, I wouldn’t have a career as a writer and book producer.” I went on to tell him that in one respect, my brain injury has had some very positive effects on my life.

In two ticks of a clock, the tone of our entire conversation changed. It got dead silent on the other end of the line. You could have heard a pin drop. I kept my mouth shut – not easy for a guy like me. I could hear him contemplating the implication what I had just said.

“David, I’m not there yet,” he said with heavy emotion in his voice.

His pain was real. It was palpable. And it was difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that almost seven years later, he still carries the amount of pain that he does.

Brain injury never really ends.

This was the second of a one-two reality punch. Just a week prior, I was out somewhere with Sarah. I was having what I call a “bad brain day.” I still get them, though not as often. They are days defined by slow cognitive processing, word finding issues, st-st-stuttering, and repeating myself. They often happen the day after I’ve pushed myself too hard.

I’m going to paraphrase here, but she said something like, “Everything goes fine for a while, and then I get these reminders that you still have ‘stuff.’”

It was a bittersweet moment—sweet because we can have time pass where we both forget about my brain injury, even if for a short time. And bitter, because it still rears its ugly head, making an unasked for appearance, reminding me again of the pain Sarah still carries.

I am not the person I was a year ago. Both personally and professionally, I can do and be more than I was capable of in the past. But like my shadow follows me on a sunny day, I will forever be bound to my brain injury.

It is my hope that as more time passes, it becomes easier on those closest to me.

Comments (21)

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Found this post while contemplating today being the sixth anniversary of my husband's accident. Thanks for your words and the recognition that the celebrations and struggles are intermingled (bitter and sweet - at times a mix of the two) for those of us who experience these milestones.

My oldest son who's 18 had gotten into a skateboarding accident and hit his head hard. This is day 4 in the hospital. The Drs have him in an induced coma until his brain isn't swollen. It's so hard to see my baby like this but I leave it all in the Lord's hands!
I am reading up on these types of injuries and I am so glad I found this! Thank u and pray for my son Franklin Jr. please!

My 15 year old son had a tramatic brain injury 2 years ago.He is now 17 . It involved the frontal lobe of his brain and his skull was cracked from one ear to the other. He is doing really well now but never wants to talk about the crash or the brain injury. Why is that?

Denial is part of the healing/grieving process. For the first three conscious days after my accident, I couldn't accept that I was in a real hospital. Thought it was some kind of elaborate practical joke. Give him time to fully accept what has happened. After some time he should be able to talk about it.

I had a TBI 5 weeks ago at work. I hit my head after a collision while driving an equipment. Basically what I have had is an underlying sense of unsteadiness that never goes away, at least yet. Also I have episodic headaches. By reading the testimonials here I feel I am not alone and I get surprised at how resilient we all can be. Every and each testimonial here teaches me and help me look at my life and situation in a deeper perspective. I am still having a hard time to cope with this situation and I do not know if it will get better, get worse or stay the same. I want to thank all of you and say I will keep in touch here.

I was in a "simple" rear-end car crash. I was hit while sitting at a stop sign. Exactly one month later, I was hit again, waiting for idiots driving through their green arrow which eventually turned to a green light for me but I had to stop for the selfish idiots who thought their time was more important than mine. While waiting, another idiot with a cell-phone (texting and not watching the traffic) plowed into my car from at least two full car lengths with his foot on the gas. Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (Post-concussive syndrome), that was my diagnosis. It's only been since March 14 and then again on April 14, 2017. I had absolutely NO IDEA what happens with a TMI and I'm a retired RN. I'm wondering if anyone else has had a MILD TMI who can help me out with a question: How long is this going to last? I'm still having RANDOM dizzy days. Today is day 3 of a brain flare-up. I can actually hear movement of any kind of fan with my eyes! It's so weird! What is going on?

My situation is very similar. I was hit sitting at stop sign by two vehicles 2.5 yrs ago, suffered a mild TBI. It has changed my whole life and future career plans. I am not the same person. Things I excelled at are now challenging. Each person's TBI and recovery are different - no two are alike. I was told by my neurologist at this point my deficits are likely permanent although may be some little improvement but it will likely be at a very slow pace. 2 1/2 years later I still suffer from dizziness, not every day , like you mention it is random, often times with certain head movements. After the head injury I have also become hypersensitive to noise and brain is easily overstimulated. I carry earplugs in my purse if I need to go out. Still suffer from fatigue. On good days, I tend to over do it. Sleep patterns are dysfunctional but have improved but not quite the same as before the accident. I had headaches everyday after the accident for 3 months until I saw a neurologist that helped. I still get the migraines often and they get really bad for several days but I don't have them every single day. Feel free to email other questions or sharing mkl8_2000 at

I'd consider that overstimulation. I experienced that for many months after my TBI 10 years ago. I can't remember the specifics but even too many people talking in one room was too much for me which also made me feel anxious. I hate to say it but the length of time you continue to experience those symptoms is truly unknown. Ms. RN, you know how difficult it is to diagnose recovery periods with head injuries. It's not a muscle or skeletal. I wish I would've had suggestions at the time but trying out meditation may not be a bad idea. I've been doing that for several years and have found it to be helpful.

I suffered from a mild TBI almost 2 years ago and I am still having many problems. You have to get the right treatment. Not every concussion clinic is equal and not every concussion is the same.

TBI ... you only know it if you live it

A BIG amen to that John...........

13 years since my TBI from a car crash: head meets tree. I can't believe it has been that long ago but in some ways it's hard to remember life before. I still have cognitive, speech, balance and ptsd issues along with other small things. But I'm alive and a survivor.

Thank you for writing this. It's very interesting that the day you wrote it was the seven year anniversary of of my TBI. I, too, have changed a lot. There are dark days when I wish I didn't survive it, and then days when I'm grateful for it.

Thanks for sharing, I am 3 and a half years and it took me this long to find all of these groups, I do feel better as it goes along but sometimes I still want to give up so it is good to hear positive stories and I did realise the other week how some parts of my life have actually changed for the better. Thanks again xx

2 years 8 months on, I have come so far, so much has healed but there are days when I am reminded that it's still there. Today is a bad day. Slept most of it.

I was healing well but left with intense sensitivity to noise and have closed my open plan art studio - too much noise for me to cope with even with earphones ... was getting so ill --- and am forced back into healing mode yet again which is more quiet recuperation time for me BUT i accept that something new will emerge. I too have childrens stories that i have written ages ago. When i am rested then my own artwork can be added. New beginnings ... i will rise again . There IS more healing to be had. I know this. I have a passion for colour and texture... which hasn't been updated in ages. But my rainbow never dies.

Thank you so much for sharing. My husband Tom suffered a severe TBI @ 2 years ago. He does not seem to understand my ongoing periodic grief at losing who he was & the efforts I have made to love & accept who he is now. Thanks for taking the time to try to understand & explain what TBI does to loved ones as well as survivors. All the best to you & yours.

Thank you for this post and know that I love you with all my heart. I'm not the same Tom I was before my accident, but I am still the real me. I understand your grief and am so thankful for what you did to keep me alive and bring me back. I am 100% committed to you and our love.
My Savior loves me/us too.
Thank you for finding this great article and forwarding it to me!

I never think about a lifetime because your life can be over at anytime, so I take 'here one day gone with the next' literally. My 33 year old son was in a life threatening car accident last October and suffered a TBI (Diffuse Axonal) several internal injuries. (all healed) I was told he would never leave the hospital alive. GOD is so faithful! Although it's only been 9 months, time seems to stand still for me. I'm his mother, caregiver, and everything in between and the toll I could never even imagined my life know. Thank you for your encouragement and candid story. We have a very long journey and many more successes.

My anniversary is only 2 1/2 years and I get those days as well, even sometimes weeks. I have noticed that they may coincide with Barometric pressure changes as well as other incidents as well.

Thanks for sharing. Glad to know I am not alone!

Thanks for sharing. I'm almost 8 1/2 years from my accident and can sure relate to your article. There are so many positive things that have come out of my accident. I have a new hobby, many new friends, and I believe I will now finally be able to embark on another new chapter of my life. I will be taking a course on reflexology this fall and starting a new career at the age of 63.

We always celebrate the day my son came out of his 7 month coma. That is definitely a day to celebrate. We are coming up on 6 years, and although his deficits are much greater, we are very thankful he is alive and awake!