TBI Tale

Many of you still have questions about what happened four years ago and what I’ve gone through since the accident. I hope today’s post will answer them all. It is journal entry style and rather long; please bear with me while I bare it all…

May 15, 2006

It’s a crisp and sunny morning when I walk the steps up and into the office of my ‘vitamin’ doctor (holistic practitioner I see for anxiety and fatigue). I close the door and take my jacket off. Just then, I am pushed forward and fall. I think I’ve tripped on the carpet and look down. The next thing I know I’m on all fours with a TV set rolling off my shoulder and crashing on my left. People rush to help me. I’m shaking violently and crying. The doctor rushes in and tells me they’re calling an ambulance: I got hit on the head and they’re not taking any chances. I’m boarded up and sent to the nearby hospital. I wait 3 hours for tests and CT-scans that, thank God, all come back negative. The neurological exam is normal also: I can go home. There’s only one little problem: I’m suffering from severe vertigo. I can’t move my head without the room spinning on me. Drugged up and shaken I’m driven home by my husband who got the ‘dreaded’ phone call at work: “there’s been an accident.”. (I’ll learn later that the safety brackets holding the TV on its wall hadn’t been secured. Just my luck.) I get into bed and begin my recovery. It will be a couple of weeks, no more. After all, the neurologist says it’s only a mild concussion.

May 15, 2007

Five months of vertigo, plus severe migraines, nausea, and balance issues lead me to a vestibular therapist and a craniosacral expert at the end of the year. I use relaxation tapes to keep nighttime panic attacks at bay. I plod along and make progress fueled by inspirational books and prayers. I’ll get through this. The vestibular therapy helps: I soon can drive again and I do not get migraines anymore. Sheer will and determination see me going back to my old life. I decide not to pay attention to the way my brain reacts to loud noises; I choose to ignore the dizziness that returns on a frequent basis. I celebrate my first anniversary by planning a summer trek to Europe: Brussels to see my family, London for fun (I used to live there), Scotland for its lochs and Switzerland for its pure air and beauty. It’s not easy but I make it. I hike briefly assisted by my husband and daughter. I fill my lungs with the promise of better days and make the silent promise to return to the Alps when I’m healed and able to hike on my own. I feel confident that my positive attitude and my faith in the goodness of life will carry me through. And the neurologist maintains that I’m doing great.

May 15, 2008

I’m fed up with the whole thing: where’s the good news? I’ve reached a plateau where dizziness and on and off panic share the space with the rest of me. My niece, who is fighting colon cancer, is losing her battle. I’m losing my lawsuit against the good vitamin dr.: he’s not responsible because he did not install the TV. It’s too hard, too darned hard! In an attempt to lift up my spirit, I start Jin Shin Do sessions (body/mind acupressure) and take up writing. My panic attacks lessen and I’m able to join a Tai Chi class. From one form to another, my balance improves again. My friends are so enthusiastic about my first poems that I start a writers’ group to keep the momentum going. Life is flowing back into my veins. Yes! This is the end of the tunnel. I can feel it. Brand new energy prompts me to begin a Pilates routine. Indeed, no need to see the neurologist anymore.

May 15, 2009

A string of kidney stones sends me back to the hospital. The lithotripsy that follows leaves me weak and weary. I have it done the day before Thanksgiving. Just as well. It reminds me to be grateful for all that I have: a loving family and enough money to pay the medical bills and stay home to heal. In February my husband and I take the children to Disneyworld. Eager to see another side of Florida and real monsters I book an airboat ride on a nearby lake. Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, I’ll never forget you. I’m expecting a quiet water ride and am taken instead on a floating roller coaster. Thirty minutes of fast speed and sharp turns and my brain pays a high price. Upon our return home, I’m flat on my back again, prisoner of a fog that refuses to lift and that impairs my every attempt to get up. I just can’t believe it. This is not a tunnel, it’s a bottomless pit where my good thoughts crash head first (pun intended). My angels have let me down. I scream, I cry, I curse. The panic attacks return with a vengeance. I’m a disabled wreck. Time to make another appointment with the neurologist.

May 15, 2010

Two weeks to go till the 4th anniversary of the accident. My niece passed away last June. The grief of losing her has weighed heavily on my recovery. My disappointed hopes have not fully recovered. This is a long road: my worn out body does not tolerate any of the recommended treatments and my exhausted spirit is asking for comfort. I live day by day. A therapist is teaching me to release the traumas and to sail through the panic attacks (Somatic Experiencing) while craniosacral sessions help alleviate the fatigue, motion sickness, noise sensitivity, and dizziness. I’ve joined a support group and have come to understand that healing from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) takes years; that everyone is different; and that I have to be strong and never give up. Getting well requires more than sheer will and prayers: it demands a complete surrender to the brain’s tempo and the ability to accept it while remaining steady in the desire to heal.  My life is full of challenges yet it’s very joyful too. I’m not fighting this anymore. It will take as long as it takes. In the meantime, I’m alive; I’m a wife (to a very patient husband), a mother, a friend, a sister. I can breathe and love.  Not the same, no, but still capable of believing that life has good surprises in store for me (like my blog, Twitter, and my Internet friendships); still willing to fulfill that promise to go back to Switzerland one day soon. Regardless of the neurologist’s opinion.

Quick update in May 2011: Recovery is finally in sight. I’m much calmer and more active, savoring life and feeling love in and all around me. Here are the people that are holding my hand and prompting me gently towards wellness: Gary Blier at Advanced Cell Training (website by the same name and impressive FaceBook wall – if you suffer from any chronic issue, give it a shot) – Brad Yates, EFT wizard and magnificent coach (www.bradyates.net) – Laura Bruno, who recovered from a brain injury herself and is now guiding others towards a renewed sense of wellbeing. ( http://www.laurabruno.wordpress.com )

Maryse G. Copans © 2010

2 thoughts on “TBI Tale

  1. Tim Turner

    Hi Maryse

    I was reading your story about your Brain injury.
    I had my forst problem with my AVM on Aug. 20, 2003. I Was scubadiving in Cayuga Lake. I got down to 65 feet and discovered that I did not understand what my dive gage was telling me. I had only been down for about five minutes. I am sertified as a rescue diver.
    When I realised that somthing was not right I motioned to my Dive buddy to surface. When we got to the surface, he asked me what was wrong. I told him I thought I was dehydrated. So we stayed on the surface for another minutes. Then my right leg went numb. It was then that I called off the dive. We had three boats and five divers in the water.
    My Dive buddy drove the boat back and loaded the boat on the trailer for me. He put all our dive gear away.
    As my Dive buddy (Dom) was walking tward me with the last two tiedowns for the boat, I had a seizure in the parking lot. Dom hollered at two of the other divers and one of them saw Dom lowring me to the ground and dialed 911. The other divers thought it was dive related but it was an AVM that pulled blood away from my brain causeing a sezure.
    On Nov. 6, 2003 I had Gamma knife surgery. That started to shrink the AVM. Then on Aig 14, 2004 the AVM would not shrink any more so it broke. That was not a good thing.
    I ended up in the hospotal in ICU for a month.
    When I woke up, I realsied that it had been a long time but I did not know how long it had been. I did not see my wife (Wendy) and that scared me.
    Finally I asked my mother-in-law where Wendy was. She was sitting behind her mother. I did not see her there. When she stood up, I was so happy to see her.
    I spent another week in rehabilitation. Every day I wondered what had happened. How did I get to the Hospital.
    I went back to work on Nov.25, 2004. I had a Dr. tell me that I would never work again. I started seeing that Dr. again the frst part of Sept. 2010. He now has a different opinion about people with a brain injury.
    I am fortunate that I am alive today. I used to get mygrain headaches that would last for at least 24 hours. Now if I feel a headache coming on, I can take a couple of Advil and within about fifteen minutes it is gone. I do not go any place without my Advil.
    Every one knows that I have them so I end up giving more away than I take. I can live with that. I had the right people in the right places and they all did the right things.

    I hope that you can find the right thing to help you.

    Tim Turner
    Johnson City NY

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog and leading me here to yours. You’ve done an excellent job telling the story of your TBI and your journey to recovery. As a sufferer of chronic illness for many years (I have intestinal adhesions that are not operable or curable at this point, and this causes pain, illness, and a severely restricted diet), I can relate to much of your experience. I admire your perseverence and your creativity in continuing to pursue many options to make your life and health better. I also admire your decision to find the joy and blessing in each day. I am on this journey, too.

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