In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Week, bucketology interviewed Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor, David A. Grant. His story is compelling, insightful and honest. Enjoy.
Q: On November 11, 2010, your life was forever altered. What are some of the last memories you have prior to sustaining severe head injuries in a cycling accident?
A: Great question. For a long time, I deemed November 11, 2010 to be the day the “old” David died. As time passes, I try to look at this with new eyes. I try to see this now as the day the “new” David was born. Life with a brain injury is so much like living two lives in one.
I do recall that fated November day with stunning clarity. It was a warm day, warm late fall sun on my face and my favorite music on my MP3 player putting a smile on my face!
A: It was actually several weeks after my accident that I was diagnosed with a concussion. I was hurt pretty badly when I was struck by a car driven by a teenage driver.
Over the weeks after my accident, as my body started its slow crawl toward healing, it became quite apparent that all was not well upstairs! A trip to my neurologist found me diagnosed with Post Concussive Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My symptoms are those of a garden-variety brain injury survivor and include word-finding issues, heavy and unending “brain fog,” bouts of vertigo, easy and all too frequent overwhelming mental exhaustion and a nice compliment of PTSD symptoms that include avoidance of crowded places and more than occasional night terrors.
Q: What has been the most difficult part of your recovery?
A: This is a proverbial loaded question. None of it is easy. I am now walking through Year Four as a survivor and I feel like it’s FINALLY getting to be a bit more bearable.
By far, the most difficult time was the first year and a half. I found myself writing about the most difficult times as I walked through them. This became the basis for my book, Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury.
Q: Tell me some of the ways in which your brain injury has changed your life.
A: The most profound change is that I am now in tune with the suffering of other survivors. If someone tells me that they are a brain injury survivor, I already know more about them that most anyone in their life.
Survivors are drawn to, and connect with other survivors in a way that often defies description. In one respect, I am grateful for the experience. I use my own life, as it continues to unfold, as an example to others that a meaningful life after a brain injury is really possible.
Q: How have your loved ones had to adjust to your condition?
A: Traumatic brain injury is a family game-changer. When the teenage driver hit me, he indirectly hit my wife, my mom and dad, and my children. As a family, we have all had to adjust to the “new normal” of like after a brain injury. But the good news is that we are adjusting.
A: Another great question. There was an ease and fluidity of life before my brain injury. These days, simple tasks can be exhausting. Today, for example, I had a 90-minute conversation with a client. By the end of my call, I was so exhausted, I was close to seeing double. This never happened in my old life. Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful that I can still engage in many of the activities that I did before my injury. Things are just a bit harder.
Q: Robert Kennedy said, “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom…” What is the most powerful lesson you have learned from this ordeal?
A: I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that life is fragile and can change in a heartbeat. I’ve learned that the human relationships that make up our lives are the only thing of real and lasting value. I’ve come to learn that true friendships are to be treasured. I don’t take much for granted anymore. I see the world through the eyes of my Soul. That alone is a giant gift of my TBI.
Q: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
A: My mortgage? Just kidding. I have built my new life largely on the premise that helping others, to be of service to the human family, this defines a successful and meaningful life. There are people who have had an easier go of it because I have shared my journey. I get up, I suit up and I show up. People need to know that recovery is possible.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most misunderstood aspects of brain injuries?
A: That’s an easy question. Brain injury has been called an “invisible disability.” Like so many others, I look normal. After my accident, my bones mended, my bruises faded and folks mistakenly thought I was back to normal. But daily, though I look OK, I deal with the challenges of being a brain injury survivor. I am just like the 65 million other American’s who will start their day today as brain injury survivors.
Q: What advice would you give other Traumatic Brain Injury survivors?
A: First, recovery takes time. If you are in your first year or two, hold on for the ride. It’s like TBI Boot Camp. But it does get easier. I promise you. Secondly, I would recommend that survivors find a group. Either an online support group, or better still, a face-to-face support group, where they can be in the comfort and company of others who really understand.
About David A. Grant
David A. Grant is a freelance writer, public speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org (a PBS sponsored website) and Brain Injury Journey Magazine. He is also a columnist for HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter. The founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 7,000 members, David is the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury, a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor.
TBI Hope and Inspiration: https://www.facebook.com/TBIHopeandInspiration
David’s Official Book Website: http://www.metamorphosisbook.com
David’s Brain Injury Blog: http://surviving-brain-injury.blogspot.com/
David’s Brainline Blog: http://www.brainline.org/blogs/davidgrant/