Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Living with a traumatic brain injury

On January 4, 2018 my mom fell and hit her head. The biggest problem is that no one knew she fell... and no one knew she hit her head. I called her the night of her fall but she had been coming down with a cold so she just told me she was tired. The next day I called again and it was evident something was wrong.

Our good friend, and pastor, Mike Barnes went to her home. She was lucid and he called an ambulance. She went to the local hospital in Big Bear Lake and six hours later was medical-evacuated by helicopter to UCLA Medical center. I beat my mom to the hospital and was the one who signed for her to have life saving brain surgery. My sister flew out and my wife sat by my side as I wondered what would happen to my mom. It was a tense time.

Today I can write about the experience with more perspective. It has been just over three months since my mom fell. She regularly goes to doctor appointments, takes long naps and continues with speech therapy (she graduated from physical and occupational therapy).

At this stage in her healing my mom is unable to return to unassisted living. We felt like the best solution was to have her live with us. She has been with us for over two months now and has progressed greatly. She no longer needs a walker to get around. Her surgery was a success. There is no more fluid in her brain. Her speech is about 80% back to normal.

When you look at this picture you can't tell anything happened to my mom. Unlike breaking an arm or leg, my mom never got a cast. She didn't have pins put in her arm to help it heal. For people who have a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) you can't tell they have been hurt. This has been one of the biggest eye openers for me. She never had a cast on her head to let the rest of the people in society know something happened.

She smiles all the time (ok, most of the time). She can tie her shoes, feed herself and preform most of the tasks you and I can preform. She may never drive a car again. She is terrified to fly again. She is scared that someone at the store will bump her and she will fall down. She has irrational fears that we get the privilege of seeing her overcome with the help of God.

My mom graduated from college and taught school for almost thirty years. She is a bight woman and a hard worker. When she left the hospital she could barely read. She began reading Dr. Seuss books with my kids. She humbled herself and checked out second grade reading level books. She sat on the couch and asked us what words meant; it was tough to see but encouraging. She just finished her first novel (at her reading level). She has grown but it has taken time.

This whole situation, as painful as it is, has taught us the value of life again. God is a life giver. People with a TBI have it tough. My mom gets very tired at night. Her speech is less understandable as the day wears on. Regularly she looks at me to help her finish a sentence, just like a younger sibling would look to their older sibling for help. She is growing and God continues to help her make small advancements.

With all this said, you might walk by a person today who had a TBI. You might pass them in the store or they could be sitting in the car next to you (hopefully not driving yet). You might not be able to tell the person had a brain injury. They may look normal on the outside but on the inside they have experienced a very difficult injury.


Anonymous said...

Neil words can not express how floored and amazed I am at the love you and your family have for God and each other. I am honored to be connected as family. You are a living breathing physical witness to the power and testimony to God's glory. You live the principals of the Word and it shines in your outreach. It's real it's raw it's educational it's biblical it's a modern living gospel set in real time with real people and real issues challenges defeats and victories. Your a beautiful man Neil Benson and I am a huge fan!
Love you all...

bigbearmom said...

I am so thankful that your Mom has the family she does. God bless you for taking her in and caring for her.
It's been three months and look at the improvements. In a year I bet she will be the Irene I've always known. Please give her my love and a hug.

Unknown said...

Neal, thank you for sharing this. As someone who worked with adults with TBI (and one of my best friends became TBI), it is a very difficult road to walk for everyone involved. I love Irene greatly and am so encouraged that she is doing so much better. I'm not surprised that she jumped right in to work hard; that's who she is! Thank you for stepping in and helping her so much. Not all children would do what you have done; I know that God is blessing you for it. Please give her our love. We wish she was closer; y'all live in one of my favorite towns and I'd love to be close enough to come visit.