“The year was 1986. I was involved in a motorcycle wreck after a night of drinking. I only lived 3 blocks from the bar that I attended and thought that for sure I would not drink, because I was on the bike. Even though, I did end up having a few drinks. I did not expect that a friend would ask me for a ride to his girlfriend’s house. The streets were wet and the air was very cold. We took all the back streets and when we got to the neighborhood where I was going to drop him off, it was a nice hilly and curvy area and he said “let’s see how fast this thing will go”. With my judgement being affected by the alcohol I started on the journey which ended with me as a person with a disability from a traumatic brain injury.
We were going too fast for the road conditions, skidded through a stop sign, hit a curb and both of us flew off in different directions. I hit the only tree in the yard head first, leaving me immediately unconscious. I had hit the tree on my left temple area. My injuries included 2 skull fractures and damage to the brain stem. I also had a punctured lung.
I was in a coma that lasted 2 months but the after effects have lasted a life time. One of many of my life changing moments was when I had to be medically discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps during the time that I was in the coma.”
When I awoke from the coma I had to relearn everything that I had learned up to the age of 20. I was fitted with a full leg brace and taught how to walk with a cane. I had to retrain to become left handed as my right side was partially paralyzed. I also had double vision because of the impact with the tree and had two surgeries to attempt to repair my eyesight. Fortunately, I was 100% insured and received the best of medical care and was in rehabilitation for 2 ½ years to relearn how to live with my brain injury and be independent once again.
I was dealing with a balance problem and in 2011, I started falling more often. After a visit to the ER, I was diagnosed with leukemia and also the CAT scan showed something on my brain that had to come out.
I was taken by ambulance to the University Hospitals in Iowa City, Iowa and was in surgery the next morning to remove what was biopsied as a grouping of cancerous leukemia cells which was causing pressure on my brain and making me fall. That surgery even though it saved my life, left me with even more of a balance and motor dysfunction. Presently, I am in remission of the cancer.
Because of the constant falling, for safety reasons, it was medically determined that I should have someone around 24 hours. I have moved in with my mother and have 2 caregivers which help me with my everyday living skills. But I still fall and have received a punctured lung, an abrasion which required 24 stitches to close up, most recently, a broken collar bone, 7 broken ribs and many cuts and bruises. It was finally time to realize that for my own safety, I should be in a wheel chair.
My brain injury was 32 years ago and I still have ongoing medical needs as a result. I continue to get physical and occupational therapy. I also go to the gym a couple of times a week to help maintain my strength.