Dear Traumatic Brain Injury,
You came into our home almost three years ago and decided to enter with no invitation, no introduction, and no preparation for your never-ending presence. I have since learned that this is how you operate; you just show up in some series of unexpected events. There is no protocol for when you arrive. One moment we don’t have any clue of your existence and the next you are all we know, and it feels as if knowing you has been eternal.
Thanksgiving Eve of 2012, we did not know your name, and we were not well acquainted enough to recognize your face. You waltzed in silently and escorted my bright, strong, beautiful, full of life, 21-year-old son down a flight of stairs in his home, where he was supposed to be safe. You all but destroyed him.
A fall down thirteen stairs in close to thirteen seconds would forever alter the person we knew and loved, the person we ultimately needed. Our introductions to you were made with words like devastating, coma, brain bleeds, fractures, skull plates, swelling and the most horrific words of them all, “He may not survive.”
In that first night, within those initial moments, you stole many of our hopes, dreams, and chances at the things we used to take for granted. In place of them you gave challenges, frustrations, and endless new maps to navigate.
You would also bring out something else in us: unyielding fight, determination, and hope.
I still remember the first time I saw Taylor’s eyes after you entered his brain. Your cracks, unimaginable bumps, breaks and bruises had an effect on him that caught me unprepared. I searched for my son, but instead found a person who was void of Taylor’s light, his spark, and the love that connected us. Where was our Taylor and would he ever return? I knew none of this was going to be easy, and yet I was thankfully unaware of just how grueling it would become.
Together, our family would spend months in the ICU, inpatient rehab, and endless days of physical, cognitive, occupational and speech therapies. In the beginning, all of the therapies were sponsored by specialists, but as time moved on, and insurance approval grew slim, creativity was forced in charting the continued course. All the while, missing my son, I tried to explain to people that even though Taylor was here, so was something else that had taken so much of him, and that would be you, Traumatic Brain Injury.
I have hated you since the day we met. You have made me sadder than I ever imagined. You have made me weaker and more exhausted than I ever conceived. You have made me angry and bitter, and you have taken not only bits and pieces of the son I love so very much but huge parts of my own heart as well. In reality, you have taken something from every single person in our family. You have changed the course of our lives, and we are still adjusting.
After nearly three years, I still find myself trying to make peace with you. I have screamed at you, and at times you produced an endless flow of tears that left my face raw with irritation from how many have fallen. You have brought me to my knees, and yet made me stand taller than I ever thought I could. I have felt your defeat and agony, and I have felt the victories that come from witnessing the powerful implications of a recovery that takes place one moment at a time.
I have grown as a mother, as an advocate, and as a person. I have learned how to work with what I cannot change or fix. I have learned that letting go of some expectations of our survivor and ourselves is not only crucial but also necessary. I have learned that I really don’t have to be afraid of you, traumatic brain injury, because at the end of each day, you may have taken us for another wild ride, but we have been victorious.
How do I accept your unwanted and unwelcome presence? I try to work with you, and not against you. I remain certain that you are not stronger than the force of love, family, and friends that encircle us. I try my best to work within the parameters that you have set while knowing that there is a fierce fire within us that is greater than the devastation you brought.
Dear traumatic brain injury, you have made my sons, my husband and myself, warriors, and I believe that in the end, we will be better human beings because you are here.