There are many books on my nightstand these days. And with the exception of my grad school readings, they are all about brain injury. As you would expect a common folk person like myself to be, I am especially fascinated by the accounts of well known brain injury survivors like Bob Woodruff and Gabby Giffords.
I followed Gabby and her husband Mark’s story particularly closely this week as the trial surrounding her case ended and a sentence was announced. Like many others, I was especially tuned in to Gabby’s shooting when it first happened. As an Arizona native with a sister who lived in Tucson at the time of the attack, I was horrified by the brutality and senselessness of it all. I stood anxiously by the news waiting to hear whether she’d survive or not, certainly not understanding the enormous gray area that lies in between life and death in the case of brain injury. I’d never have guessed in a million years that I’d have so much in common with Gabby’s husband, Mark. And yet there is so much similarity in Gabby and TC’s prognoses and subsequent rehabilitation. This week I came across a photo of Gabby wearing the same black arm sling TC uses. Like TC, Gabby has significant paralysis in her right arm. This is something that may improve in time, but as in life, there are no guarantees.
At the sentencing Mark read an especially powerful statement on behalf of Gabby and himself. His words resonated so deeply that in many ways it was actually painful for me to hear. His explanation of what is lost in a brain injury was so much more honest and descriptive than what you generally hear on the news. It beautifully captured that rare place that exists for TBI caregivers: immensely grateful and hopeful for your loved one while simultaneously grieving the loss of the person you once knew. It’s an extraordinarily strange place to occupy. And yet, it is the reality of the every day for many caregivers.
We are blessed to end this week with another successful surgery for TC. Yesterday morning he underwent a cranioplasty to replace the piece of his missing skull. His incredible surgical team, led by the most brilliant, caring, and unassuming neurosurgeon, kept TC safe and healthy as they have before. He has had a total of six surgeries to date and hopefully yesterday’s will be the last.
So with Thanksgiving (TC’s favorite holiday) just around the corner, we truly begin the next leg of his recovery: healing at home. He will participate in intensive outpatient rehab, not to mention the many activities his drill sergeant wife/teacher has planned for him. My not so secret hope is that in a year from now this blog will cease to exist. You will be bored by our story. There will be little left to write. TC, Jack, and I will have moved on to a more normal life where bad days consist of traffic, spilt coffee, and lesson planning. Not brutal assaults. Not violence. Not pain.
I could really go for a bad day like that.