Traumatic Brain Injury is life changing.
Traumatic Brain injury is an invisible, life-altering injury for everyone involved. It’s truly unbelievable how quick your normal can change. Like one minute you’re a 42-year-old pregnant chick who's trying to stay fit and the next you’re a 42-year-old pregnant chick whose husband has a TBI (traumatic brain injury).
Why I am here and who I am:
Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!
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In 2014, My husband and I had a tough year. The life-changing can never go back to the routine, event. Honestly, we ended 2013 with a bang too. We had a rough miscarriage in August of 2013. I was with our kids in California working on a travel assignment as a labor and delivery nurse when that plus sign showed up. About the time the kids and I embraced our little “guppy” as we named her, we lost her. It was all too shocking, as I have had five previous successful pregnancies without a hiccup. I was so angry at my ‘elderly' body for denying us this child that we suddenly wanted so badly. I felt betrayed by myself and the aging process. Mike offered to fly to me and be with me, but I said no. I think God used this season of being alone to deal with the loss, to prepare me for the dreadful season coming my way.
Related Post: A Day in the Life of a Labor & Delivery Nurse
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Unfortunately, we made the age-old mistake of announcing too soon, so I was left with that clean up as well. It wasn’t pretty at all. Comments like, “wow you look amazing, how far along are you now?”
Which, if you belong to this unfortunate club, you know that you’re still tallying up the weeks and knowing exactly how far along you would have been and exactly which fruit to compare your fetus. You robotically answer with things such as, “Actually, we lost the baby” They say their stuff, and you tell them yours. Most often making them feel better for mistakingly thinking you are still pregnant. Then you walk away and die a little bit more. Related Post: How to Care For Yourself and Your Heart after Miscarriage or Stillbirth.
Fast forward to the spring of 2014; I’m once again working in California. Coincidently, I am working at the same hospital. My husband flew in to visit me in California and leaves behind a tiny little present, which becomes our Greyson. I left California pregnant, sick, and fearful, but also with a tiny glimmer of hope for the future. Two months later, a few days after our gender reveal party, tragedy lowered its gloom on my family again. I received a call that my husband had fallen off a 10 ft ladder, thus changing our entire world. If you have ever had a life-altering event in your life then you understand what I am about to say. I can see my foot, in my Nikes, stepping on to the treadmill. I can smell the smell of my bonus room, and hear the kids muffled voices downstairs. I can see what I am wearing and listen to what I am hearing, at the exact moment I answered ‘The Call'. There was before and there is after.
Unless you’ve personally walked through a Traumatic Brain Injury, it’s difficult to explain. The unknown becomes your daily known. WIll he or won’t he; walk, talk, think, eat, work, drive, or merely remember? Will he know his family? Who will he be when he wakes? Will he wake? Everyone laughs to keep from crying. The Dr's say a lot but promise very little. Cramped, stuffy rooms filled with experts who know nothing, ask you to make life-changing decisions.
Educated guesses are all they can offer you when it comes to the brain. The choices a spouse has to make in an emergency is mind-boggling. And the one person I needed to help me make them was strapped to a bed with tubes everywhere and restraints holding him down.
The next few weeks were like a blur. I remember feeling our baby flutter around for the first time while trying to suction Mikes mouth out because he kept making this god awful gurgling sound. I laughed out loud and rubbed my tummy. Then burst into tears and cried for the next 2 hours. That sound mike made, and Greyson's little flutter inside me is forever cemented together as one memory.
People were coming in, and people were going out of Mike's room at all hours. It's a profound moment as a wife when the hospital staff is treating your husband like a, gosh what words do I use, like a man who hasn't been a thinking adult. They treated him like a broken baby. He acted like an injured child. He just stared blankly and barely responded to anything. Just the week before he was talking me off the ledge because our teen son was disrespectful. How did we end up at this point? How did it change so fast? Suddenly my life was all about traumatic brain injury. Everyone was centered around him. Nothing else mattered.
In my delirium I recall calling my work to tell the night shift that I wouldn’t be in for my scheduled shift (like they thought I would) and hearing my friend Julie’s voice answer with the standard ‘Labor and Delivery, this is Julie' speel. I paused and started weeping into the phone at the normalcy of her voice, the old life and the devastating tornado of my new one. Outside the ICU the world was going on. Meanwhile, our world shattered into tiny little fragments that would never fit together again.
Words of encouragement fought their way into my head and stirred around to find a tiny spot to settle. Women came with food at every mealtime, encouraging me to eat. Someone told me not to lean on my understanding. Proverbs 3:5 took root, I decided to turn that into ‘lean not onto the doctors understanding,' and every time a daunting statistic was quoted to me, I would chant the verse in my head. I chose to believe that GOD IS BIGGER than traumatic brain injury.
God did many miracles on my husband's behalf, undeniable miracles. He spared his life. He allowed him to walk again. What you don't realize at first, is that the brain controls all things that make you human. It's who makes you, you. It tells you which coffee you like, how to walk, how you sign your name, and whom you love. Mike not being able to walk seems so trivial now after realizing that the mike we knew no longer exists. We had no idea that the road ahead of us would be lined with difficulties and sorrow, alongside joy and triumph. We knew little at that point in our journey, about the harsh realities of life after traumatic brain injury.
In the months following the accident, Mike was ‘let go' from a job he loved and hurt by men he trusted. They called him disabled, even though his doctors cleared him for work. They doubted his abilities and his new potential. They felt he was not capable of doing the job he did before falling, we knew he was competent for the job, and it hurt deeply. They made decisions based on ideas and not facts. Mike believed that because of their outlook on his injuries that God was finished healing him. He felt that he wouldn't improve beyond where he was at that point. The fear of men and the way they treat a man who is injured is almost as damaging as the initial injury. I'm not sure if this short, little glimpse into my life has truly expressed the walk we are on. Life after traumatic brain injury is challenging, and while the support for traumatic brain injury victims is lacking, support for the family is almost non-existent. It's a lonely and long journey. But God is good, and victories will be had. You have to see the blessings in the pain, to be able to move on and travel the path laid before you. If any of you have experienced life-changing experiences, I would love to hear your stories. There’s a bunch of us, of that I’m sure. I'm including some related links that I feel might help you if you are at the beginning of life after traumatic brain injury or like me, in the midst of the struggle of loving someone with a traumatic brain injury. Either way, we all need help to survive.