Gray Matters: G. Gayle Kelley

"TBI does not change the fact that we are human beings. We have feelings. We are not second class citizens. We are different, but different does not mean worse." Hear more from G. Gayle Kelley who sustained a TBI after falling down some stairs at work.

As we said in the beginning of the program you sustained an injury when you fell on your way to work, but you've written a book, and you've come a long way as well. So will you share your story with us? Yes. I was on my way up the stairs in the stairwell at my original office in Cincinnati, and I always took the steps even though we had elevators. I was a runner, so I saw that as an opportunity to get a little extra exercise. And I was near the top step and my right foot slipped, and my shoe lodged there. And I remember spinning around with my laptop in one hand and a portable projector in the other. And those were extended before me, and that's the last thing that I remember. Later I was found unconscious on one of the landings in a pool of blood, and I can only imagine the horror on the other end of the line when my family received that call. Tell us about how you've come so very far? What limitations did you have after the accident? And tell us how you've been able to progress, even to the point of writing a book that shares your experience? [Gayle Kelley] I'm sorry to have to ask you to repeat that. That's okay. That's okay. The journey of coming as far as you have. Did you lose speech ability? Other motor skills that you found complicated to regain? Tell us about that. [Gayle Kelley] Yes. I broke some bones, and of course crushed my head, and I was very fortunate that I was only 20 minutes from the Head Trauma Center at the University of Cincinnati. So that was my first landing point, and from there I was moved to the care of my family doctors in my hometown, Dr. Beeson and Dr. McKinney, and they immediately saw that they needed more expertise. So they brought in, who I have to think is, one of the best brain doctors that can be found in the world. Otherwise, I think I would probably not be here today. So by getting in the right hands at the right time I was able to start coming out of a deep, dark hole that I didn't even know existed. So it's one of those odd things that you have to start getting better before you realize how bad you really are. Are you talking about depression as well? And all of the other emotional things that go along with the experience? I think I'm talking about everything that can be involved in a brain injury. Little did I know that my life would, at that point, change forever. And I was in and out of hospitals, doctor's offices, clinics, sleep clinics, pharmacies, and of course after that came the testing-- EEGs, EKGs, blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, spec's. It's a whole different routine, isn't it? Words that I cannot spell or pronounce, but you can see the extent of the testing that has to take place before treatment can be administered. And, of course, after those tests the treatment did start. The diagnosis and the treatment and, of course, that entailed medication and therapy. Therapy was physical, occupational, speech, cognitive, probably others that I don't even remember. But one of the things that I had to learn was that there is no cure, so I had to develop a technique to manage my deficits before I could move forward. TBI survivor does not change the fact that we are human beings, and we have feelings. We are not second-class citizens. We are perceived as different, but different does not mean worse.
Posted on BrainLine March 8, 2013.

Excerpted from "Gray Matters," Kentucky Educational Television. Used with permission. www.ket.org.