Making a Difference #12: Erroll

Six years after a car wreck, Erroll teaches elementary school PE. "I'm probably the most positive person you'll ever meet."

[♪mellow music♪] [male speaker] I just finished graduating college three weeks prior to my accident. In college I had played college basketball. I lived in Georgetown, which is close to Austin, a beautiful city. I was in great physical condition. He was in ICU in a coma, and we were not given any information that was encouraging. It looked pretty grim from the get-go. The first memories I have are not exact. The way my memory works now, I can't just pinpoint a certain time and place. If I had to think real hard, I don't remember the emergency hospital at all. I don't remember being there. Our lives were turned upside down. We slept on the ICU waiting room, we never left the hospital and talked to different doctors that were repairing different parts of his body and just waited--waited and waited. I was reborn again. That's how I see it. I went from a baby who was brainstorming in the hospital and throwing fits and ripping tubes out and just trying to kick and hit everything like a baby that matures into an adult. At that time, he was totally a zombie. He was not talking, not eating on his own, he was in diapers-- and, believe me, putting diapers on someone 6'4" is not easy-- and he slept about two hours a night. He was very agitated all of the time. [Erroll] Have a good day! >>[Jan] Bye, Erroll. >>[Erroll] Bye. [door closes] [Jan] So I think there's a real lack of public awareness. A lot of people with brain injury would be quite functional if there was an understanding of what these people have to deal with, because Erroll is able to make the correct decisions; he just needs a little more time to get to them. And he's fortunate that he is to a level that if you look at him visually, there's nothing that would be off-putting that goes on with him. But it took him two years to get a job as a teacher after he was certified, and he went through many, many interviews before he was convincingly hireable. [children reciting Pledge of Allegiance] [Jan] Even this far out--six and a half years out after--he has been able to go back to work, which was a major milestone. First graders, you're going to have five at one time... [female speaker] Because of his short-term memory, he needs to sometimes be reminded of some things. ...have time for them. And then the second half can just go to the playground. You don't really notice that initially because when you see him out with the students, he knows every single one of their names. Once you get to know him, you're crazy about him because he's such a great, great guy and he has such an enthusiasm for life and he loves working with our students and they love him. Morning. Good morning. Buenos dias. >>[child] Why do you have a camera? Buenos dias. [Jan] He has very, very limited short-term memory. [♪upbeat counting song playing♪] His short-term memory has not come back. If you ask him today what he had for lunch yesterday, it would be difficult for him to recall that. Setting up a file system, keeping files--and we've gotten Erroll to do that now-- he has to keep everything in files or else he can't find anything. So both in his personal life and at school that's been a big thing: to teach him how to be organized. And it made us get organized. [chuckles] Memory. Memory is by far the most challenging. My desk is covered with Post-it Notes because there are so many things I need to remember to do. [whistle blows] [clapping] Keep your feet together. They're using teamwork to not fall. Do that for about five seconds. Very nice. Very nice. Good job. Thank you, boys and girls. Stand, one foot out, one foot out and you dip down as low as you can go. Oh! Too low, too low. And you dip back up, okay? You got it? Good job, Matthew. Perfect. Whoo! [whistle blows] [taps on microphone] [whistle blows] [tap on microphone] Okay. We have to do this gymnastics stuff very carefully because it is very dangerous and we can easily get hurt. One person on the mat at a time. One person on the balance beam at a time, okay? That was perfect. [children chattering] And your feet come up. See? [children chattering] Oh, hey! Give me five! That was awesome! You did it one hand. That was good. The future is as undefined and unprojected now as it was when they first said, "Okay, he's going to live." We never know how far he'll go. Whether or not he can meet someone and get married and have a normal life and have children and live on his own, we can't say at this point. We can say that he continues to move toward that goal, which he says is one of his goals, but there's no way to know. [♪upbeat music♪] [Erroll] I can take whatever life gives me because I'm still here and God has blessed me to continue living. So I'm probably the most positive person you'll ever meet. [children chattering] [♪♪] [Erroll to children] 360. You get on it, you bounce around... See if you can jump around all the way. 360. [whistle blows] Breathe, breathe, breathe, b-b-b-b-breathe. Walk and sit. We did very well, boys and girls. [♪♪]
Posted on BrainLine April 8, 2011.

Produced by Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council.