Head Injuries

I’ve been thinking since my last visit to my psychiatrist (on Tuesday 07/10/12) about my head injury and head injuries in general.   Many of you know about this car accident I had in upstate New York in November of 1991; some don’t.  I was driving home from Albany, New York back to my place in Bennington, Vermont. Now I had no business going to Albany in the first place, but I went.

This was a Sunday/Monday time frame. Early Sunday morning it was, my friend Julie and I decided we’d drive up to Burlington, Vermont and check it out. 125 miles North of Bennington. We headed up and were surprised how much colder it was there and we had to purchase gloves and I think I bought  a scarf too. hhmmm…. So we spent the day wandering around the city and park there and just really enjoyed ourselves. It’s a beautiful city overlooking Lake Champlain.  I think we got back to my place around 8:30 pm or so…best I remember.

For some reason, I had an urge to go to a club in Albany, NY; just felt like getting out, dancing, having a drink..I shared the idea with Julie who wasn’t hip on it seeing with all the driving we’d already done and the time n such too. I agreed with her and hung at the casa. Well about midnight, I decided I WAS going to go to Albany afterall. It was a 37 mile trip through the Taconic Hills, Troy, NY, and into the city. I showered, got dressed and headed out! (dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!) So I got to the place (Private I’s I believe it was called) and had one drink, watched folks dance, enjoyed the music, and crowd. I forget many of the details now, but I hung until the bar closed at 4 am. Now think too that I was 37 miles from home…and had to be at work in Greenfield, Massachusetts at 8 am (I was an Assitant Manager in Ames Department Stores). Greenfield was 62 miles East of Bennington and I was 37 miles West of it. I wasn’t ready to go home and happened upon what I thought was an after hours bar, so I mosey up the stairs into the place, get up to the bar and order a rum and coke….only to have the bartender inform me it was an after hours coffee house! lol So that’s cool, I ordered coffee. I hung out, watched folks (guys) and kept looking at this guy at the bar…he ‘looked’ like Marilyn Monroe to me..LOL He was wearing men’s clothes; jeans and a plaid button up shirt) but his hair and earrings screamed Marilyn! hahaha …anyway, I strike up a conversation with him and forget everything that was said, but..I did end up going to his ‘place’ nearby, in downtown Albany. It was actually where he and his mom lived, but she wasn’t there..at like 6 am..We fooled around and I think I left about 6:30 am and headed to my car. This was early Monday morning.

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The next few days are gone for the most part; I remember bits of ‘awakeness’ and seeing people I knew sitting in chairs by a bed? I couldn’t talk properly and I remember feeling my forehead and it was all scabbed over. Things kept running through my mind; phone numbers, names, events, etc.and I still had no idea where I was. The following Thursday, I woke up. Met my trauma doctor and my neurologist. This was the day I found out what had happened and why I was in the hospital. I could barely walk and couldn’t move my right arm much either. I was told I’d been in an auto accident and had been thrown from the car I was driving. I stayed in the hospital for a few more days and was released the following Monday, one week after the accident.  I was told I was going home for a two week period, but that I was being ‘transferred’ to a head injury hospital in Schenectady, NY. Just on the other side of Albany.  Well my two weeks home didn’t go well.  I rented the mother in law’s sweet of this old house in Bennington. I was on the second floor, but my front door was on the first. One day I decided to go somewhere and as I took the very first step down, I fell. I banged, smashed, and tumbled down the staircase until I hit the wall at the bottom and stopped. Oh my God, I was sore, and having had the head injury, was slow moving too. I didn’t tell anyone about the fall that I remember, figuring it was just stupidity.

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As an aside here, one of the days, I assume Thursday or after, this couple came in to see me. I was in ICU and had been told the NY Police wanted to come see me, but the hospital wouldn’t allow them too. So this couple tells me about my car accident. They tell me the whole story from beginiing to end. How they saw my headlights ahead of them, coming toward them, but all over the place. They told me my car hit the guard rails, and flipped end over end 3 or more times.  They told me on the second flip, while the rear of the car was up in the air, I came out of the rear window, thrown up against the guard rails and bounced back onto the highway on my head! Holy Jesus. They called 911 and the wife held my head in her lap in the highway until the ambulance arrived. It was like hearing a description of someone else’s accident, since I remember nothing of it.

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Two weeks later, my friend Julie takes me to Sunnyview Rehab Hospital where I meet with a Psychologist and a Social Worker, questioned, and admitted. I was tagged with a wrist band and taken to my room on the 3rd floor I think. I couldn’t leave the room without a nurse, which was odd, but they had their reasons.  The room had 6 beds in it, but there were only 4 of us total in the room. 4 men of varying age and difficulties. One guy, close to my age, had fallen off of scaffolding and landed on his head. The nurses told me he had become violent after the incident and didnt’ recognize his wife or daughter. They kept photos of them by his bed. The other roomy, was an older man whom had hit a tree branch while riding his lawn mower. He had been there for 6 months and had to be re-trained to talk, use his arms/hands, and to walk again. The 3rd patient was a young man with actually no head injury. The had discovered a small hole in his skull, above and between his eyes and was watching him for fear blood from surgery had gotten in there. (Days later he was also diagnosed with meningitis and we all had to be treated for it).

So at certain times of the days, nurses would come for me and walk me to the different therapies; physical, home life stuff, speech, and massages/exercises. The nurse would take me and return me to my room. They used a color coded band system there. Once i was ‘ready’ they upgraded my band color so I could roam freely about. My short term memory was all but gone at this time and I called my mom up to 5 times a day, forgetting I’d ever called her. She was besides herself with fear and grief as I told her what i was hearing from doctors and therapists about the brain damage. (I had just graduated from Florida State University with my BA in The Humanities in May of 90). This was December of 91.  I still couldn’t walk well and my right arm was for the most part useless, but no one had said a word to me about anything and I didn’t complain about the pain, cause well hell, I’d be thrown from my car..I figured I was going to be in pain eh? lol One day they’d done X-rays with me holding weighted bags which I thot was quite bizarre, but I also had a lot of trouble holding them. Back to my room I went and then later of to the exercises therapy. This guy I was working with that day was nice, but he was working with my right arm, forcing it to rotate and bend and i was in tears. Shortly afterward one of the Doctor’s came in and yelled ‘stop’ to the therapist and informed us that I had a crack/splinter on the ball joint of my upper arm/shoulder. So the arm would not leave the side of my body basically. I could only move it forward and backward a little bit. The next day they discovered I had 3 fractures in my right Patella. Well there were the explanations as to why I walked like a zombie and held my arm tight to my side.

I was upgraded in band color and this one day I was heading to one of the therapies.  I’m not sure what happened, but a nurse caught me on the first floor heading out the door. I had absolutely NO clue what i was doing or where i was going. I was escorted back to the therapy room and ‘demoted’ in band color! LOL omg.I finished out my 2 weeks at that hospital, driving my folks mad with phone calls that I never remembered making.  Before I left this place, more therapies were scheduled for me when I got home. I lived 1 mile from SouthWestern Vermont Medical Center and had no car anymore, so I had to walk to the hospital 3 times a week for 4 months. The pain was excruciating, it took forever cause of the bone fractures, and I was suffering from shin splints or whatever they ‘re called. I’d also added about 75 lbs since the accident! I was a total mess.

I got home finally and my dad came up; he waited to visit until I was released from the hospital, figuring he couldn’t do anything without me there. The car was a total loss and I had learned by the towing company, that after I had been thrown from the car, it continued to flip and landed upside down on the edge of a pond. My Dad was in shock I think, but handled it all in his typical ‘Cool Dad’ way. He never acted like anything was really wrong, but very ‘let’s take care of this mess’ attitude; and we did, he did.

So for the first app 7 years I was under the regular care of a Neurologist and a Psychologist.  When I finally moved back to Floirda in 1998, I started seeing a Psychiatrist…figured it would be easier to see over 2 doctors. lol I’ve been seeing her now for 14 years and am diagnosed OCD/BiPolar and now it seems I’m dealing with ADD too. I still have many ‘side effects’ from the head injury and am looking forward to more things becoming apparent as time marches on.

I have hearing ‘issues’ in that when I’m around noise, lawnmowers, fans, air conditioners, my brain has trouble figuring out the sounds, so I end up ‘hearing’ radios playing, people talking, my name being yelled, and various other sounds. It’s my brain not being able to process sounds quickly and it’s trying to find the right ones.  I have a slight ‘dis-connect’ with my brain and mouth too. lol this has caused me problems, serious problems, and makes me feel dumb too when I can’t figure out what something is called. Like calling a chocolate bar a strawberry.  I have issues in that my brain no longer gives me the ‘normal’ signal that i have to use the bathroom as far as urinating goes. By the time I get the message, I’m just about to go in my pants.  I have had Grand Mal seizures on several occasions, and a concussion too. I still take meds everyday, and still, after 21 years see a doctor every 3 months.

I love it when folks tell me I’m ‘lucky’ to not have to work and still get paid (long term disability). The last thing I consider this situation is ‘lucky’ by any stretch of the definition. It completely changed my life, my personality, and my abilities. Luck…right.

**I’m thankful I am ‘okay’ and still alive. I always have this fear in the back of my mind that I’m going to suddenly rememeber the accident; according to the Police Report, I WAS conscious. My doctor tells me I have no fear, the memories are gone and I’ll never experience them. I’ve also learned that people with head injuries have a higher risk of cysts too; odd.  My flight or fight syndrome is messed up too and I stay when I should run, and vice versa.

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About Gary W Norman

54 yr old Beardsman, Pipe smoker, Network Creator/Webmaster, College Grad, Dog Lover, Coffee & Tea Fiend, Romantic, Photographer/Artist, Music lover, Nature lover, budding superstar and Coffee Shop Philosopher, OCD, bipolar.
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