Headway Gauteng

Living with TBI

This excerpt about TBI comes from the website TBI Hope and Inspiration and is by David A Grant who is a brain injury survivor and author. Here TBI stands for “To Be Inspired”. It gives good advice as to how a TBI Survivor can adjust to a new way of living.

“• How do you view life now, compared to your view before the injury?

Common to many TBI survivors, my “emotional filter” was compromised when I was hurt. I am about to share something that would have shocked me even a year ago. There are some changes in my life since my TBI I have come to LOVE. My pace has slowed. No longer do I run from one task to another to another, ad infinitum. I feel like I am able to savour life at a level I have never known before.

Often now, while Sarah and I are out and about, I see her in front of me, looking back, waiting for me, as I take a bit longer than I might have, to experience wildflowers on a hike, or to watch children just playing. Life has become much more immersive.

I’m more inclined to really share what is in my heart, holding back nothing. I laugh more heartily than I ever have and cry more deeply. My compassion for other human suffering has increased one hundredfold. If I happen to see someone who looks like they might have some sort of life challenge, I often wonder if they experienced a TBI. In one respect, I am able to view the “bigger picture” in ways I never thought possible and experience a level of profound spirituality now that often takes me by surprise.

• What is the best thing you did for yourself after the injury that helped you to move forward?

There are actually two things that stand head and shoulders above all else.

The first “best thing” that has offered the most help to me as I embrace my new post-TBI life was to get involved with a local support group. I speak about my first support group meeting in my book, Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury. By spending regular time with other survivors, I have ended the feeling of apartness from the world at large. In my case, we have a monthly support group at a local rehab hospital. We also have get-togethers in between our regular meetings.

The meetings at the hospital are wonderful as we get together, and those of us who have embraced solutions to best live this new life are able to share with newer members. The less formal meetings have occurred in members’ homes, at local restaurants and more. And we have more fun than humanly possible. Think about it for a moment—a bunch of disinhibited folks getting together. Oh, the fun we have!

The other “best thing” that has helped me to move forward is something that has come to me over time. As I move forward in this new life, the scope of how large traumatic brain injury is still stuns me. 1.7 million Americans a year sustain a TBI. Yet, TBI was virtually unknown to me before my accident. This is common with many survivors.

Called America’s silent epidemic, I have made it a big part of my life’s mission to end the silence. Though difficult at times, I am open and candid about the fact that I have a TBI. From local press coverage of my book to being open in my social circles, I am up-front about having a brain injury. I was recently called a TBI advocate. Mulling the concept for a couple of days, I have come to see that as an apt description.

By being open about my own TBI, and showing others that life, albeit different, can be rebuilt after a TBI, I am able to offer real hope to other survivors. What higher life purpose can I ever have hoped for than to be of service to others facing the same challenges? Not that it takes away all the challenges I face daily as a TBI survivor, but it does create a new sense of purpose to it all.

• What advice would you give to people coping with brain injury and to their family caregivers?

Simple! Life can be recreated after a TBI. Not the life you might have been familiar with, but a meaningful life, where you have something to offer someone, some way to help others. This is part of the new reality possible in a post TBI life.

I have met the most amazing people I never knew existed since my accident. People who have had hardships that dwarf my own experience, yet who have found a way not only to survive, but to thrive.”

I was interested to read how David finds solace from being a member of a Support Group, as this is one of the main functions of Headway Gauteng. Yes, we do run Activity/Therapy Days which is of course a very important and necessary part of our organisation. However, we started off as a small group of families, each with a brain injured loved one in our midst, who got together to support each other through this life shattering event, and we are proud to be able to continue with this invaluable service.