Every 21 Seconds: The Story of 8 Survivors of TBI

The story of 8 survivors of traumatic brain injury.

[♪suspenseful music♪] [male speaker] I crash into thick glass. This is my life. The first day of my new life. I am the 5.3 million people in the United States living with traumatic brain injury. I am no longer a son, a daughter, a husband or a wife. I am no longer the old me. I have a lost identity. Every 21 seconds someone in the United States suffers a traumatic brain injury. By the time you finish watching this film, another 100 people will join this silent epidemic. [♪♪] How will I find this person deep inside who cannot speak as I did, who must pause to think? How can I slow the world so I can hear the difference between the screeching truck brakes and the whispers of kindness, the difference between the music and the noise? How will I walk with my gait, incontinence in Poise? [female speaker] The story began for me when a drunk driver pummeled through his third red light in Philadelphia in 1993. The story continued for the next year as I repeatedly got lost only blocks from my apartment. Then it continued when I decided I would not abandon myself. I would let requited innocence fall into my arms, embrace the space that was not empty with despair and anger. I tried to participate in the afterlife of life and not lose my sense of ground by being, remaining grounded. One can actually live in the world even when the bright lights and cold temperatures of rebirth become unbearable. I walked alone for years embarrassed that I had become a suffering body, for the elation in my soul wants to run. And then I discovered there are others exactly like me, only very different. This is the story of 8 of the 5.3 million. This is our story. My name is Laura Napier. I'm the filmmaker. And for the last 12 years, I've been living with traumatic brain injury. [♪mellow music♪] [male speaker] I was 15 years old. I was out partying with some friends, and that evening I took a ride in my dad's Corvette. I was hit by a drunk driver and flew out of the car 137 feet on pavement. My name is Joe Anaya. I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico, 25 years old. It could also be what you see, like what you see from your perspective. You mean of this place? >>Yeah. So if you would see in the cell, what would strike you if you were looking at the prison? [♪mellow music continues♪] The only way I could put it is to feel like I was house-sitting in me, that this wasn't really me, that this was a place I stayed at. And it was a great place and all and had nice things, but it really wasn't mine. I didn't feel connected to it. My name is Bryan Patterson. I'm 38. I'm about to turn 38. I was 29 when I got assaulted. And from that assault I was in a coma for about a month. [♪♪] You paint, right? You went to school for painting and stuff. So I just wanted you to tell us about your paintings. They're really beautiful and interesting. I just paint because I can't remember anything. That's why I paint. My name is Jessica Guttman. My roommate from boarding school was driving, and I guess she hit a tree. And then my spleen busted--burst and my brain burst. [♪♪] I need to show people that okay, maybe I can't do my job. I'm not physically disabled. I can walk. I can talk. I decided that I would walk from the very spot where they found me laying in Deming during my injury to Chimayo to the Santuario, 360 miles. My name is Joe Zamora. [♪♪] [female speaker] I had finally decided that I was just developing Alzheimer's or that I was just going crazy. I'm Barbara Zamora. I had just gotten off a city bus and was walking along the sidewalk to get to the corner. The sidewalk had buckled up. There had been a big crack in it and then it had buckled up. And I was striding. I used to stride all the time when I walked. And I wasn't looking down. Until I hurt myself, I never looked down when I walked. I hit that and I went flying through the air at about three feet off the ground and then realized that I was going down and going to smash my face, so I decided to see if I could turn in midair and came down on this side of my head first. [♪♪] [female speaker] There's a misconception that children who are shaken and suffer a traumatic brain injury because of being shaken, that it's always done by this monstrous child abuser. And usually it's someone who has never hurt a child ever in their life. It's a moment in time. She was injured by her birth mother's boyfriend through shaken baby syndrome. I'm Cathy Salazar, and this is my daughter Chloe Grace Salazar. [♪♪] I can't distinguish between one or the other--the head injury or the PTSD. The PTSD can be cured, but the head injury it's going to take-- I mean, it'll take a while for me to distinguish the difference between both of them. [female speaker] PTSD is, for the layman, post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm Charlie Gallegos. I was a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard. [♪♪] [female speaker] First it was thick gray fog. Then it started to lift and hover like cataracts. Then it was now, and now is sort of like white. But you stand out, and everybody sees you stand out. And you know you will never fit in. You have been where no one else has, and you wonder if you'll ever fit in again because you have been where no one else has and it makes you feel insignificant.
Posted on BrainLine November 24, 2008.

From Every 21 Seconds or Why I Scream at the Refrigerator. © Laura Napier Productions 2005. Used with permission. All rights reserved. For more information, go to Doug Claybourne’s Website, and to Aquarius Productions for information on this video.