No Accident

No Accident

It’s a rare moment of reflection in our otherwise chaotic lives when I gaze at my husband, sitting across from me on our dinner date, and ask, “Do you ever wonder about that time?”

As much as we can avoid it, TC and I don’t reminisce about those early months of TBI. And it’s not just because those months were filled with doctors, various surgeries, and colossal uncertainty. In our case, there was a parallel story unfolding during that time – a story that involved detectives, press conferences, nosy reporters, U.S. Attorneys, and the introduction to three young men whose life stories now intersect our own.
My husband’s brain injury was no accident. It was the deliberate choice of a few men on a quest for quick cash and a smartphone. During those 84 days I sat at the hospital at TC’s bedside, I found it difficult enough to process the fact that my husband suffered a severe head injury. Integrating that new reality with the idea that the whole travesty was completely avoidable, an act of selfishness and shocking disregard for life, was an impossible task at the time. 

In some ways, it’s still impossible. I rarely speak the names of the three men who nearly murdered my husband and there are several reasons why. The first is my belief that these particular humans don’t deserve the time or cellular energy required to utter their names. Instead, I’ll choose to save those breaths for myself. The second is that their names induce immediate nausea. The sound delivers me right back to the minutes I spent testifying in court, sitting feet away from their chairs and wondering how on earth the footsteps of my life led me to this kairotic moment. Thirdly, these are not names I want adopted into the lexicon of my family’s daily vocabulary. One day we will sit down with our son and we will tell him everything he needs to know on this topic, but it’s my great hope that when that day arrives he’ll walk away from the conversation only mildly piqued, his mind primarily concerned with other important boy thoughts.
Under the surface, however, there’s a deeper hesitation involved with discussing these three individuals. It’s an underlying sense of tremendous violation. They are the only ones on this planet with a clear recollection of my husband’s final minutes before he was changed forever. The events of that night are among the few memories I can’t help TC reconstruct and we must both live with unanswered questions about exactly what transpired. There is also the disturbing knowledge that after taking TC’s belongings and beating him with a baseball bat, the young men jumped into their getaway vehicle, switched on his phone, and were greeted by a home screen photo of six-month-old Jack, propped up on our couch in a blue and white striped onesie. Our baby. 

Without our consent, these strangers’ eyes fell privy to the inside world of our little family as we once were: simple, happy, hopeful. Later, one of the men would remark that after seeing Jack’s photo, he felt “a little bad.” But that slight feeling of guilt did not compel him to fess up, even after he was arrested hours later for a separate assault. These young men spent that very same night in prison, while my husband remained out in the street, slowly dying for nearly eight full hours.
I remember being asked once if I’d arrived at forgiveness and the uncomplicated, satisfying answer to that question would be yes. But “yes” is not my truth. The truth is that, at the moment, I am unconcerned about forgiveness. Now that we have survived that very dark period, my chief concern is living — living for myself, living for my family, living the happiest, fullest lives we can during our time on this planet. And, for now, forgiveness is not essential to that happiness.

TC’s brain injury was avoidable, but so are the years and years we could potentially spend dwelling on its source. There are tidbits to the story that if obsessed about, I imagine I’d be pulling my hair out for decades to come. As a mother I remain greatly appalled by the behavior of these young men’s families. The lack of personal responsibility or remorse for the situation will always be beyond my understanding.

When you are the victim of a violent crime, or caregiver to a victim, there is naturally anger involved. For TC and me, this anger presents itself intensely but infrequently. We have learned to detect its presence, the rumbling beneath the surface, warning us to step away from the present moment and find solitude and space. We have seen how ugly this anger can make us, unrecognizable to the other, a couple foreign to the one we were for the seven years before the assault, and it’s not a reality we care to experience often. But these moments are not completely inescapable. The anger, the regret, and the pain of missing who we were — all of these live in a dark well that we work hard to side-step every day. Occasionally we fall in, surrendering to the darkness momentarily, but when we reach the bottom of that dark place, it is the two of us there together. My husband and me. And that’s enough.

Comments (6)

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I am so sorry for all you and your husband have had to go through. I think that this is the first survivor story I have read in the four years since my TBI that has been of a survivor who was the victim of a violent crime; so many others sustain TBIs from automobile accidents, war-related injuries, sports or recreation, falls, or other accidents; mine was no accident. I was physically assaulted four years ago by a male that I do not know, but have come to know through the excruciatingly long lawsuit that is still going on. I was 14 years old when this happened. 

Now, I am 18, and still struggle every day but am always working hard trying to learn to live with this. One of the most excruciating things I have to deal with, and I know will be life-long, is my severe post-traumatic stress disorder. It is hard to find a story of someone with both PTSD and TBI who wasn't in the military, so I find myself learning from many VA websites about the unique relationship of these two things together. It is so hard having to live every day knowing that this never had to happen. It was something that was done to me out of a senseless act of violence, and the fear I live with every day from PTSD is a constant reminder along with the lawsuit. 

You are so strong in caring for your husband and he is a very strong man. You are both survivors, and far stronger than you know. Don't feel like you need to ever give forgiveness, because deep down I don't see myself being able to do that anytime soon. But like you, I totally agree with the chief concern being living - for yourself and family, for your future and your place in the world and finding meaning and happiness in your lives with this component in your life. All the best to both of you. <3 



Are you me in another incarnation?  I read your posts and think she's me, we are each other.

January 25, 2014......My 19 year old son was the passenger in a horrific snowmobile accident.  He suffered multiple traumas and a frontal lobe TBI.  His TBI did not get a lot of attention those first few hours, days, weeks, months as it was a closed head injury and his other injuries were more immediately life threatening.   

Now that we/he has healed his body physically, the effects of his TBI are front and center.   

Thank you for writing and offering your voice as support.


Beautifully written.  Choosing to live above that dark well of despair takes a daily strength.  Thank you for giving others hope.  - G. Forest

Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that you and your family enjoy life. My daughter's accident was also avoidable. She was riding bikes with an older teen who decided to lead my daughter across the busiest road in the area instead of the bike paths. My daughter was told to "stay together". It should have been okay for her to trust the other teen. This was a 6 AM bike ride for recreation. There was no destination, no need to cross the road. My daughter was behind. Was she scared of being abandoned? Was her vision blocked? Was she just trusting and not worrying? I don't know. The last person to see my daughter (the one I raised so carefully and loved so much) never spoke to me or my family. Her family refused to allow or have their daughter show any remorse or comfort or support my daughter in any way. Their daughter "has plenty of other friends and would not benefit from supporting my daughter." They said my daughter traumatized their daughter. They accused me of harrassment when I sent a message to their daughter. They blamed my daughter for the crossing. My daughter had actually planned and routed a path on the computer. She had printed it out and asked my approval. She had the map with her. That route was miles from where they were. Still to them, their daughter is the victim. My daughter was 15. She is now 18 and still can't walk. She lost her precious youth. She was a great student and athlete. Her whole life is upside down. That family can't see that. It is amazing how cruel the world can be. I thank you for reading this. I understand the anger. I wish I could take the other teen to court. I want reformation. However, what I really want is my daughter's life and happy times for my family.

i am glad i stumbled on ur posts abby...u have made me understand im not husbands injury was his own foolishness...a night out drinking...and falling on the concrete...but i cant be angry at him for that he didnt plan to hit his head....2 rounds of tests and all they said was subdural mass or nothing they could c...hmmm but again he fell....4 mos ago...and i see a sginificant decline in his capabilites...and his reaction to me his wife whom he adored of 20 seems he forgot he loves me...and is not capable of understand my needs and wants...u said that and i finally understood its not his alone with him in this...not a soul in the world will care...because ppl r mean and blame him becus he drank...well everyone drinks...still he didnt deserve this and i didnt sign up for this...we have no diagnosis of anything its been 2 yrs since my whole life turned upside alone in this...dont even have him for support...he sits with the tv...or out for a walk...he is unrecognizable to me....and gone is my man...whom i completely relied on...i forced him to retire as his job was dangerous and i knew he wasnt right...and here we sit support in nyc

Another great piece, Abby. It was a 16 year old who forever changed our lives. I thought about him just a couple of weeks ago... and smiled. I smiled as I realized I'd not thought about him in over a year. Yes, anger and resentment are barriers to moving forward and healing. ~David A. Grant