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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

 
From the Huffington Post: Most traumatic brain injuries result in damage to the brain because the brain ricochets inside the skull during the impact of an accident. Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), also called "closed head injury" or "post-concussion syndrome," is a condition where an individual suffers a mild concussion, whiplash or blow to the head, and subsequently develops symptoms such as recurring head pain, cognitive difficulties, emotional and personality changes, hypersensitivity to light or sound, nerve damage, memory difficulties, etc.

Every couple has their "how'd you meet?" story. Ours is particularly useful because it offers both the story and a casual reminder that I actually did get a film made at one point in my illustrious career...This film, from a screenplay I co-wrote (with Patricia Royce) called "To Cross the Rubicon," was being produced in Seattle, and at some point early in the process I went to the company office and met the company attorney, Pete Wilke, Esq. Not long after, Mr. Wilke, Esq. negotiated my contract for the film, we fell in love, and on Oct. 1, 1990 we drove to the courthouse in Mount Vernon, Washington, where Judge Gerald Mullen postponed his lunch to solemnly don a long black robe, and in the company of our two witnesses, court secretary Pam Green and jovial bailiff Harold Johnson, we took our vows. I remember wondering if the whole courthouse/elopement scenario would feel generic and unemotional, but when Judge Mullen said, "The union into which you two are now about to enter is the closest and tenderest into which a human being can come," I was a goner.

We moved from Seattle into my L.A. apartment. I got pregnant. We moved into a bigger house. He passed the California Bar. We had our son. We shared time with his daughter. We struggled with our careers, wrestled with money, had good times and bad. Work. Marriage. Schools. Careers. Playgrounds. Families. College. Parenthood. Life.

Three years ago Pete was in his car, stopped at a crosswalk waiting for a couple of pedestrians to make their way across the street, when a distracted driver smashed into him from behind at about 25 miles an hour with no attempt to brake. Pete's head had been turned slightly to the right; the impact was stunning, and amongst other injuries, his right frontal lobe sustained damage. "MTBI," they called it -- mild traumatic brain injury. Mild because he can still walk and talk. The impact on his life, however, was anything but. In fact, nothing has been the same since.

This is a man who rarely took an aspirin. A man who hiked down the Grand Canyon almost every year and trekked through the Montana wilderness pheasant hunting every fall. A man for whom music, theater, singing and the whole gamut of sensual, creative and aural pleasures was deeply appreciated. A man who longboarded down the Strand with his teenage son and played softball with his band of buddies. Who, even after being hit by a car as a pedestrian and breaking all sorts of bones and body parts years before, had healed quickly enough that a walking trip through Spain was doable only a year later. That kind of man. The man before MTBI.

In the three years since, Pete's world has been about ERs, hospital visits, neurology treatments, pain management, ear/hearing care, and pharmaceutical assistance for a myriad of injuries and symptoms including painful ear nerve damage, considerable hearing loss, 24/7 tinnitus, excruciating head pain, cognitive challenges, persistent startle reflex, loss of certain emotional components, etc. Though the cognitive struggles have improved significantly, allowing him to continue and rebuild his law practice (which suffered in the first year after the injury), and though the extreme nature of the head pain has subsided enough on a day-to-day basis that he's once again able to enjoy many aspects of his life, the landscape of his existence -- and ours as a couple, a family -- has changed significantly.

He has to wear hearing aids now and cannot hear well enough inside his head to sing or play guitar, yet he can no longer go to clubs to listen to music because the volume is intolerable; the same with movies and sporting events. Softball is out, hunting is a thing of the past, and travel became challenging. Activities with our son in the two years before college were mostly nonexistent. Sometimes Pete could barely tolerate talking, and silence became a big part of our lives. Laughter? Not so much.

Keep reading. I highly recommend it.

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