Thinking ...

Anna-Theresa Coskie, BrainLine
Thinking ...

A sister reflects on her brother’s brain injury and how it has changed her life.

When he was 13, Paul Coskie was hit by a car when riding his bike with friends. He sustained a severe brain injury. Life for his family — his parents and his now seven brothers and sisters — changed forever. Here, one of his sisters — Anna-Theresa, age 16, seven years after her brother’s injury — talks about how his injury continues to affect her today.

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It’s weird how one can live through something understanding enough, but not understanding completely. It’s weird when you reach an age where you are actually conscious of what happened to you, where you are smarter and more experienced than you were, and have the ability to really think about what you went through when you were 9 years old — and what you continue to go through today.

Sometimes I feel as if Paul got in his accident yesterday. When I was 9, when he was hurt, I knew he was on the verge of dying. But now … now I go back to the first day I saw him. The wires, the beeping, the bandages, the nurses, the doctors, the sadness ... I relive it every day. And at 16, I say “Wow, what the hell did I go through? Why am I still going through it so many years later?”

I listen to my best friend say she wants to be a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit because there is “a lot of action,” and I want to cry or hit her, or both. It’s as though I visited Paul yesterday in that ICU hospital room. That was not exciting, that was not action, that was real life — and real death. I yell at my friend, “Have you ever been to the ICU? Do you understand that it is not fun and exciting and full of action? It's about real people.” She tells me to calm down.

Does no one get it?

Do I even get it?

I guess not. I guess it’s one of those things that will be in the back of my head until the day I die. I’ll never get those images out of my head. I’ll never make these feelings go away. But why do they have to intensify now, during the most important year of my high school career?

I can’t live my life the way I want to. I am slowly shutting down. I am slowly shutting people out. I am slowly shutting myself out. I am giving up on everything, the people around me, and myself. And I don’t know how to stop. It’s something that I’ve always done, subconsciously, and I haven’t realized it until now.

Brother gets hit by car. Brother suffers from traumatic brain injury. Family falls apart. Girl studies to keep her mind off life. Girl makes honor roll. Girl is amazing. Brother strives to get better.

Girl turns 16. Girl realizes traumatic brain injury changes everything. Girl feels lost. Girl feels crazy. Girl is depressed. Girl blocks out studying to focus on self. Girl doesn’t make honor roll. Girl is failing. Nothing, and no one, gets better. Girl needs a helping hand.

I need to stop doing this. I need to move on. I need to live. I need to focus on what I need to do to get better. I need to have opportunity. I need to watch the news, write my research paper, and study for the AP test. I need to read my history book and write the papers on what happened in this country years and years ago. I need to write my chemistry paper and take the notes and do my best to understand the chemical reactions that make life happen. I need to learn how to pass a math test. I need to realize that learning a foreign language will help me someday. I need to do well in school because I need to get the heck out of Upton, Massachusetts. I need to get far away from this town, and its memories, and a high school where no one cares.

This is what I need to do. But it’s what I can’t do. My body is tired, my brain is tired. I don’t have the mental capacity to think beyond the emotions and thoughts that are constantly buzzing through my brain. And if I’m lucky, I can maybe concentrate on something for five minutes.

What have I become?

Who am I?

Who am I going to be?

Will Paul ever get better?

Will I?

Written exclusively for BrainLine by Anna-Theresa Coskie.

Click here to see Dixie Coskie's site

Posted on BrainLine April 4, 2014.

Comments (6)

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As I read articles like these it is very emotional for me! I too had an older brother with a traumatic brain injury. I was 24 when his accident occurred and him 27. My brother went on to be with the Lord nearly a year after his wreck. But even today those images of him and the wreckage are scorched into my brain. The cries of my momma when the Dr. told us of the severity of his condition, are forever engraved in my mind. All the pain, heartbreak, tears, and sadness that has came with it, still remains. My heart goes out to you because I too know what it's like to have my world turned upside down by TBI. God bless y'all! I will pray for you!
I don't think it has anything to do with the age of someone but when one finally grasps the situation it can be overwhelming. For some, they seem to grasp immediately. Others, it may take days, weeks, months, or in my case...years. And when I finally grasped the reality of things, it was overwhelming. I was 21 when my husband had his TBI. I am now 41 and overwhelmed with the understanding I have. The wealth of understanding I have can be crippling because it just seems to be all at once, I get it. And it can be frustrating that no one else does. But I have to remind myself that others need their time too. As well as the fact that others may never get it as long as they are not directly impacted by it. Just as my lack of understanding needed grace, so does others'. It's frustrating though, because it is very real but it tends to get minimized or dismissed.
I was so move deeply moved by Ann's story, as further elaborated by her mom. My children have gone through hell as they watch me struggle through my second major traumatic brain injury. To make their struggle worse, during my struggle, they watched their mother fight through Breast cancer. The struggle has changed our family as we cling to each other. Anna and family, I hope that you all are able to continue to. Move forward with the same brilliance as expressed in your article. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Chris Jay, NY
My life in the same way just started at 15 not 9!
Life isn't fair especially to the siblings of the hurt person! The family knows ur there but the injured person is so close to death that that's there thought ! They know ur ok but in the end you all are just as hurt as the person who is hurt! The problem is how do your parents divide there time when time is the one thing they don't have enough of it to do judges us to to anyone ! You know they lov you but it's not the priority for them there trying to save the hurt one but in the end all are hurt beyond Even the best of intentions it just isn't fair ! I'm so sorry you have to go thru all this I've been in the side ur brother is in its hard to know the right way to do anything that won't affect everyone! All I can say is don't give up on your self you are important to everyone especially your self !
Hi Anna-Theresa, There is a saying that goes "Everything Happens for a Reason" and if you look at it in that perspective, maybe you need to spend more time with your brother now. Learn from him. Something must be calling for you to be by his side. Life is the best education. And when the time is right, maybe your calling will be in physical therapy, or occupational therapy, or speech therapy, or neurology. There are a lot of medical personnel that venture into those fields after they personally experience life altering situations and have learned and grown from those experiences to eventually help others. For now, do what YOU need to do, and if that is take some time to think and process this and be with your brother, than you do that. When the time is right, your path will change again and you will feel much better knowing that you have taken the time now to do what you needed to do.