March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness month. For the general population, it’s just another month where people may pay a little more attention to an issue, maybe donate $5 towards, or to not care at all about and wait for the next big philanthropic event. I’m not asking you to devote your life to this issue because in reality most people will never be affected by a TBI. I’m just asking you to be aware, to think a bit more about so that you aren’t so blindsided and heartbroken when a TBI does affect you.
That’s something I’ve learned through this 3 year journey (woah- it’s been that long). Most people don’t know the first thing about head injuries and mental disabilities. Why? I have no idea. Millions upon millions of dollars go to other causes like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, whatever, but for some reason TBIs are just not a big issue to most people. I am not discrediting any of the other issues at all, I just truly believe that maybe if my family and I were a bit more familiar with TBI awareness, then maybe we would have known what to do when it happened to us. Maybe we would have made better decisions with my sister’s care, maybe there would be more government funding towards TBI victims, maybe the shock of it wouldn’t have hurt so bad, maybe my sister’s journey through her TBI wouldn’t have to be so painful.
That’s why Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness month matters. It is for people to be aware
of an issue that doesn’t get half marathons, bake sales, and raffles every week across the globe.
So, for the sake of your awareness on this issue, here is another update in the world of a TBI victim:
Sherrin has made more progress in the past two months than I have ever seen. It makes me want to cry. I am so proud of her. God, where do I start?
Her body: She is FINALLY moving her right side! Brief reminder: the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body. Sherrin hit the left of her head when she was in the accident (probably from smacking it on the driver’s side window), so her right side has been incredibly more sluggish than her left. That’s also why her smile doesn’t really go up on the right side of her mouth. She hasn’t really been able to do much more than move her thumb and index finger on her right hand and kick out her right left about 3 inches for the past 2 and a half years. We’ve stretched her limbs a good amount, tried some weight bearing, but nothing has been incredibly progressive.
I really can’t describe what it is, but something has gotten into Sherrin where she wants to try more, wants to push herself, and I’m feeding off her energy in order to motivate her. When I work with Sherrin, I sound like a drill sergeant or one of the moms on Dance Moms. I scream at her to move her body, saying things like, “Do you ever want to go on a date?! Talk louder!” or, “Do you ever want to dress yourself again?! Move that freakin’ arm!” or, “Move your legs! Your life literally depends on it!” And to my amazement, IT’S WORKING. Sherrin likes loud noises, she likes it when there’s a loud battle scene in a movie or when I yell up the stairs for my dad’s attention, which is where I’ve kind of gotten the idea to yell at her when we’re doing therapy. When I’m yelling at her, she starts cracking up but then pushes her arm or leg a solid 7 inches down. She couldn’t do this a month ago people!
I’ve tried a lot of occupational therapy with her too to make her feel more normal. When I give her a bath, I give her the wash cloth so that she can wash herself. When I have to turn her over to change her diaper, I make her turn on her side without my help. When I change her clothes, I make her put her own arms through the sleeves and pull up her own shorts. She likes this, she feels more independent.
Her mind: That girl is THERE. She knows what’s going on. She listens to the conversations around her and asks questions. She gets extremely frustrated when she doesn’t know what we’re talking about, so she pokes my side until I’ve explained it fully. I do a daily news briefing at the end of the day to explain current events to her so that she is able to understand what’s going on when CNN is on in the living room. I’ve been making her read one newspaper article a day and write me one sentence about she’s learned. Wow- I didn’t know what she was capable of, that’s for damn sure. She read one article about the Hillary Clinton email scandal currently going on and then texted me at least 4 sentences about what she’s learned. She texts things like, ‘the parties are bitterly divided,’ or, ‘this article is incredibly interesting and I would like a proper way to learn more about it.’ What? Who is this girl? Who the hell knew she could retain so much information?
I’ve learned that Sherrin is capable of so much more than I give her credit for, she just needs the motivation. She needs someone to tell her how amazing she is, how she’s beaten every odd thrown at her, how she will be able to walk and talk again one day.
Sometimes she’ll tell me she wants to be normal, doesn’t want to be in a wheelchair anymore, and that she’s depressed because she doesn’t have any friends. This is where my daily motivational talks come in. I say, “Sherrin, you are not normal, you will never be normal again. This is because you are extraordinary, and extraordinary people don’t live normal lives.”
Whenever I say this, she purses her lips, sighs, says, “I’m inspired. Thank you, I love you,” and keeps fighting her fight.