The Worst Way to Start a Story

(Note: I wrote this on July 1st, soon after I came home from about 2 months in the hospital.)

On May 6th, 2020, I had my life change.

I was on a roof, trying to rescue my cat. As it happens, I might have helped her. She’s alive and her cute self, but I don’t remember how everything happened. I fell off the roof and hit the pavement. I’m guessing it was 15-20 feet up, and it doesn’t look like it was an easy drop. 

For inventory purposes, here’s a quick list of oops: 

  • 5ish cranial fractures, especially on the right side of my head.

  • Broken jaw.

  • The brain bleed damaged my right optic nerve, and I’m blind on the right side but my right eye is healthy.

  • Broken shoulder blade.

  • 8 or 9 broken ribs.

  • Broken pelvis and tailbone.

  • Both wrists broke, with the right being an open fracture where I had a bone poking through my skin.

  • With the cranial fractures, I got a TBI (traumatic brain injury) in the right temporal lobe. 

Tiffany was home when I had the accident, but didn’t know it had happened right away. A woman walking past says she thought somebody had thrown a dummy off the roof and quickly called 911. I’m grateful I was found and that the EMTs came and took me to the hospital. 

My poor wife Tiffany saw me on the ground and was there when I was hauled away. She was really heavily involved with the hospital and did an amazing job dealing with such a terrible thing for us. It took about a week for me to have a visitor, due to COVID restrictions at the hospital, and I wasn’t even awake during that period. The charge nurse told Tiffany when she was finally allowed to visit me that I wasn’t going to ever wake up. And if I did, it would be a year and a half before I got out of the hospital. That’s some fucking terrible emotional intelligence and awful overstepping of authority. The people who saved my life made sure at that same time I would be able to wake up and recover. 

I woke up in the hospital a few days after I arrived. I tried to escape and they found me crawling in the hall so they got me back to my bed.

I don’t remember much of that, and it’s all like remembering a dream I had a while back. Later, I pulled out a feeding tube I had down my nose. I remember the feeling of pulling it out, and that is just not pleasant. 

But I got through that and they also removed a breathing tube which was not looking so good. They had prepped me for a tracheotomy because of breathing issues but decided not to. Thankfully.

After a few weeks, I was transferred from the trauma recovery unit to an inpatient rehab facility. I was there for a couple more weeks and it was time to be sent home. While I was there, I got a bunch of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Trust me, I didn’t enjoy yet more hospital living. But so many of the people who worked with me were just wonderful and dedicated and wanted me to get better.

I was discharged to go home towards the end of June. My wonderful, loving sweet darling brought me home and has looked out for me since then. I’m a lucky guy to be married to such a strong, loving person. I love her immensely, and we’ve got a ton of years ahead of us. That’s my promise.

I’m going to turn 52 next month, and I feel incredibly fortunate that I’m going to celebrate my birthday soon. I think the biggest gift I’ve received is that I’m still me. This isn’t an easy existence for me, but the essence of me hasn’t gone away and I’m the same soul I am. 

Being me right now sucks. I’m sure things are going to turn out ok for me, and it’s happening someday soon. I’m on 2 major tracks: one is getting all the broken stuff in my body fixed. That’s a handful of surgeries and several doctors away, I’m guessing. Track two is digging out of the hole where my brain is right now. I’m living in a fog, and it’s like I was given some really strong drugs which interfere with my cognition and my ability to interact with the world. Believe me, I can see it happening and want to work this out. I have the capability and mental capacity to get back to where I was, but I need to figure out what has to happen for me to succeed. It’s going to happen. I’m committed and determined.

The big motivating pieces for me are two people. I married Tiffany a year ago, and I’ve often called her my “North Star” who guides me as I navigate life. Not to get mushy, I deeply love her and am going to grow old with her and that’s a vision of life I will cling to.

The second person is Amara, my wonderful little girl. She is 11, and lives most of the time with her mother, who divorced me a few years ago. Amara has autism, which is pretty severe and makes things really hard for her.  We normally spend a lot of time together, and being her dad is one of the most rewarding experiences I can imagine. I’m not leaving her to fend for herself – I’ll be looking out for her and taking care of her for the rest of my life. It’s just way too soon for me to stop, and she’s my child. I’ll be her dad for the rest of my days, and I’m not going to short-change her.

That’s a lot to cover, but I’m barely 2 months in after my TBI. I’ve got a big hill to climb, and I’m going to keep working on myself until that’s enough. There’s more I’ll focus on, and I’m fundamentally a results-oriented person. I know my story doesn’t line up with the experiences of so many TBI sufferers, and I respect that not every story follows the same path. I’m optimistic, and will try my best to return to a regular life as soon as I can. There’s just so much living I need to do, and don’t want to be held back by myself. Wish me luck!

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