When my friend, Lisa fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury almost six years ago, those of us in her inner circle, including Lisa, were completely unfamiliar with the rabbit hole we were entering.
Eventually, as we learned to navigate the medical system, the caregiver system, and the devastating financial consequences of just such a trauma, many in the inner circle, including Lisa became less and less cognizant of the fact that she continued to suffer from a TBI and that the long term ramifications were unknown and ongoing.
Because Lisa is an extremely lucky gal and has brilliantly navigated these shark-infested waters of unknown medical complications, many people, even in the medical field, and including Lisa, would take for granted that months and years into this recovery she was just fine.
So we would go to her neurologist, or neurosurgeon and they would tell her that this recovery takes time. And she would say, “but i feel fine!” Then we would go to the grocery store and the price of oranges would be higher, or they would be out of her favorite toilet paper and she would tear up. And I would tell her, “it’s okay, it’s the brain injury.”
And so I told her, ” it’s okay to tell people you have a brain injury. In fact, when you are interviewed by Social Security, or your family doctor, you need to tell them that things like that just happened in the grocery store, and it takes you unaware. That’s the brain injury.”
We would be out with our friends, and Lisa would either just stop engaging or step out of the restaurant. The over stimulation was too much for her. At first, we all thought she was being rude, only interested in conversations that were about her, (because she always jokes that oh, this isn’t about me?), but then we realized, then SHE realized that she just had to go rest, her day was overwhelming her quickly and dangerously. She has to continuously protect herself from possible seizures. So again, we told her…just say you have a brain injury and it makes you take some actions that seem weird to others.
“Huh,” she said.
So for some time, we would be at a medical appointment for say, her wrist, or her toes which would not seem to be the stuff of a TBI. And Lisa would wax poetical with the nurse, who was just trying to get her vitals, about how she has a brain injury and this is how it happened and these symptoms she is here for may seem odd to you, but not to me, since I have a brain injury.
Or we would be in the drug store buying shampoo and vitamins and nothing of any medical significance and she would tell the clerk that it was so nice to be out on such a beautiful day, and you really appreciate those things once you’ve had a brain injury. To which the 16 year old clerk would respond with a look of panic.
Or in a coffee shop, she would tell the waitress that she probably should not have any more coffee, because she has a brain injury and she’s thinking that since certain things can cause seizures and over stimulation is one of them for her, that perhaps too much coffee isn’t a good thing. But it really hasn’t proven to be the case, so what the heck, fill up the cup. To which the waitress looks at me with the coffee pot poised in mid-air with a “what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-that-information?” kind of look. And I just shrug my shoulders.
Or at the hairdresser when she tells her about the 40 platinum coils in her brain that stopped the brain bleed after her TBI, not that it affects getting her haircut or anything. To which the hairdresser looks at me with scissors poised in mid-air and I just shrug my shoulders.
That day I realized perhaps my advice had been taken a bit too literally and said, “maybe you can STOP telling everyone you have a brain injury.”
To which Lisa replied, “huh.”
“You Just have to Laugh…………”
©2015 Cathy Sikorski