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Survivor Stories: Gallery

Mike's Story

Mike's Story

Growing up, every time the phone would ring, we wondered is it my father? Dad, like other construction workers, would migrate to wherever jobs could be had, sometimes hundreds of miles away from home. The phone rang and I jumped at the jangle of the old-fashioned rotary dial phone. As I heard my father’s far away voice, I was delighted, as we hadn't heard from him in weeks. I was disappointed when all he said was, "Go get your Mother".  Sounds bizarre to even think of us not knowing but Dad was in the hospital and had been there for six weeks in a coma.  What we were told was another worker above Dad, dropped a heavy wrench which crushed the hardhat and his skull. Thus, began the very strange world of learning about traumatic brain injury. At 15 years old, I just knew that everything would be different from now on.

Eventually, Dad came home, and we all dutifully took turns tending to his needs. There seemed to be a constant gloom in the house and my mother aged before my eyes as the harsh reality of circumstances consumed her.  Mom had been busy raising four children. Now, there was the extraordinary amount of work that she had to endure; processing paperwork for the insurance company, dealing with the state workman's compensation program, the constant barrage of inquiries by state workers pushing for Dad to go back to work because his visible head injury had healed.  We watched as he struggled with his own internal challenges and after exhaustive number of visits to the state offices, they realized that he needed to be retrained for a new career. Dad escaped into his own world; drugs, surgeries, hope and then despair.  After a five-year struggle, he died at age 50. 

Forty years later, my life seemed on a very different track from my father’s. My career was one of intense pressures, successes and losses.  I had many amazing experiences as I traveled around the world. I met captains of the most successful companies, professional athletes, actors (I spent time with Captain Kirk when I was in London). I stood behind a wheel of a racing yacht; experienced scuba diving in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, skied the best places in North America; golfed at the premier courses. Wearing black ties enough that it warranted owning a tuxedo as I dined at many superb restaurants around the globe. All the excesses took a toll on my body.

Plagued by constant pain that I still experience today, lead to visiting more specialists than I knew existed.  Yet another prescription was added to my already extensive medication and supplement list.  Apparently, the new medication was the excess that my body couldn’t handle.  I began to have a series of seizures. My son found me seizing and I was rushed to the hospital.  While in the CAT scan machine, I seized again. Cardiac arrest lead to being in a coma. Anoxia is a loss of oxygen to the brain, similar to when a person drowns.  I have been dealing with the effects of anoxic brain injury for over seven years.

The rehabilitation hospital scared the life out of me, so to speak. At first, I didn't know where I was, nor why the doors of the hallways were locked. Scary to be awake yet so tired that I wanted to sleep forever.  Eventually, I was brought home where my ever-loving wife and my dog Maddie kept constant watch.  Rehab was intense, puzzles were intense, speech and occupational therapy seemed never ending.  And then came the black void of deep depression.

I had a rich life.  And now came the realization that all of that was behind me.  I resented what the medication had done to me and the recognition that I seemingly would never have my life back. I worked so hard to achieve a great life and so quickly it seemed to be taken away.  I realized that either I had a wonderful life still to live, or I could sit in my own despair for the rest of my days.  I made my choice.  I read and researched a lot.  I listened to my body and my mind. I am determined to get better, day by day and to regain my self-worth.  Yes, I am disabled. Yes, I have an invisible injury, and yes, I walk with a cane, but in the end, I'm still living a great life.  I have my wonderful wife, my exceptional children, four beautiful grandchildren and a never-ending growing list of friends.  Yes, I have it good.

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