Brain Injury Survivor Stories

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fast and Fearless by Joseph Schmidt

In every person’s life there are times in which one’s life takes a turning point. These events can stimulate changes for the better or the worse; in either case they shape the rest of that person’s life. Although they may vary in importance and frequency, they equally shape us into the unique individuals that we are. The most profound of these experiences are often traumatic incidents which occur early in life, in childhood. Such is the event that has shaped my own life and made me much of the person I am today; a cruel trick of fate that victimized my siblings and me early in our lifetime.
I still remember that deceivingly tranquil spring day; I remember playing on the swing set in the warm Wyoming sun while a faint breeze made the chartreuse canopy of leaves above applaud at the beautiful green carpet of grass which had sprung from the ice of a bitter winter. My mind has photographed the yellow-brown wheatgrass that grew by the creek across the street and the tinkle of the shimmering water flowing in between stones shaped by the endless flow. I still can hear the rumble of my mother’s motorcycle and the sound of her voice telling us that she would be back in 30 minutes and the smell of exhaust and leather that accompanied her. The deceiving images of a seemingly perfect day.

I wish I could forget the memories of pain that still haunt me; I wish that my mind was not programmed to archive the most painful events in life. I remember five hours of waiting for her to return; the worried look on my brother’s faces as we sat on the clapboard porch swing, ears straining to hear the guttural drone of her Yamaha. I recall the jeering sound of the phone ringing and the electric pulses in my body as I rushed to pick it up and the sound of a dry, emotionless voice telling me that there had been an accident. I can still see the faces of my 8 and 4 year old brother’s faces marred with pain and grief as alkaline streaks poured down their faces. I can still feel the lump of dismay in my stomach when I realized that we were three small boys alone in a huge city with our only real parent dying on an operating table a few miles away. I remember the confusion, the hurt, the hate, and the sadness that overwhelmed my life for three years to come. The sight of a broken body that once called itself “Mother” and the will to live in a woman who saw her sons’ lives fall apart while she ran a gauntlet of bone grafts, prosthetic joints, and reconstructive surgery.

My mother’s memories would differ very greatly from mine if you asked her about March 4th 2000. She has no memory of that date nor of any day for nearly two months after that. Her day was much like mine in many ways. She woke up early and took her sons to the park to play and while she jogged along the encircling asphalt path. Upon return home she mounted her charcoal motorcycle, told her three boys she would be back in a half hour and headed for the tanning salon.

My mother was almost half way to the salon when providence turned perfidious. While crossing one of the many frontage roads laced between the rows of puce, boxlike downtown buildings a drunk driver in a Nissan pickup ran a stop sign and pulled out in front of her. The consequences were devastating. My mother hit the truck dead center at 40 mph. She was catapulted 15 feet into the air and her crushed and crumpled motorcycle still bears the five-inch-deep impression where she landed on her pelvis. The damage done to her motorcycle gave the impression that it had been put in a car compacter, but it was trivial compared to the damage done to my mother’s body.

My mother shattered 70% of her right arm; her wrist and elbow were reduced to splinters on impact. She also crushed both of her knees, her pelvis, and her right eye socket pulverizing both bone and flesh. Yet to look at her you are not able to discern this in her face, she has no scarring, and did not have her head cracked open. She remained in a coma for three weeks after her accident and sustained a brain injury that, still after 7 years, has not healed fully. Countless different hospitals in four different states still have not been able to repair the damage that was done. However, what was at one time a hopeless case has become an amazing recovery and my mother has almost returned to the person she once was.

My mother’s arm, and legs still bear the scars of countless surgeries and lacerations that resulted from the accident but these are the only things that distinguish her from any other 40-year-old single mother externally. But her skin hides a fused wrist, a metal elbow, two prosthetic knees, and countless bone grafts. Her mobility is severely limited and her arm is very delicate. However, she lives with her injuries and performs most of the functions of daily life. Without observing her for some time it is impossible to tell she is disabled at all.

But those who knew her still see the change in her and her three sons internally. My mother is no longer the picturesque parent she once was; nor are my brothers and I the sweet little boys we once were. Although my little brother was largely unaffected by the ordeal because of his young age at the time, my twin and I bear the emotional scars of two young boys who watched their mother die and come back to life incomplete.

Our family has been brought together by the pain that we have endured together. I am inseparable from my brothers and, although rocky at times, I have a newfound appreciation for the relationship that I have with my mother. We all make sure that before anyone goes anywhere they know how much we love them because you may not get that chance later on.

As my mother continues to heal psychologically and physiologically most of the stressful burdens that I have born have been lifted although I still have to mediate when stresses of life come upon us. My mother has now achieved an associate’s degree a paralegal certification, and is currently working on her political science degree/pre law and they are accelerated courses that are only allowed 8 weeks of time to complete, Now she is begging the journey to piece together what is left of her life. Motorcycles have always fascinated her and still continue to; she now owns a Yamaha Virago- the same bike that almost took her life and I also ride motorcycles.

I have a newfound respect for motorcycles and I realize that longevity is not guaranteed but I do not live in fear. We have a family saying- “There are two types of riders- those that have and those that will.” This has been only too true in my mother’s case and I know that if I continue to ride it will be true for me eventually too. However, I realize that I will die inevitably and that death is just the next step in life. I choose to live my life to the fullest and I do not let any fear get in the way of my own motorcycling. I believe that it is not the length of time that we are put on this earth that is most important but rather what we do with the time that is given to us. Neither I nor my mother allow ourselves to feel anxiety or fear because of our past experiences- we are fast and we are fearless.

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Author: Lisa Moss
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Categories: Brain Injury BiosNumber of views: 1064

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