I would have probably never taken the time to research the life long effects of a frontal lobe traumatic brain injury if I hadn’t met and fallen in love with a victim of this devastating invisible disability. My amazing partner, Richie, was in a horrific car accident 3 years ago and that night forever changed his life in ways he never could have imagined.
Richie’s extensive injuries were so horrific that the doctors only gave him a 30% chance to live while he laid in a coma. The swelling to his brain was so severe that they had to operate to completely remove the right side of his skull which was stored and later reinserted. As he laid in coma fighting for his life his immediate family sat by his side while praying for God’s healing powers. Amazingly, he awoke from his coma after a month but the doctors told him he would probably spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and an assisted living facility. Well, my strong willed man that he is, Richie vowed to his family and himself that he wasn’t spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He was determined to walk again and he mustered all the strength within himself to accomplish just that. All in all he spent 3 ½ months recovering and rehabilitating in the hospital. With his strong will and determination Richie learned to walk again proving to his doctors there was no way he was accepting their bleak diagnosis. Upon leaving the hospital the doctors informed him of possible physical side effects he may experience from time to time, but nothing and no one prepared him for what was really about to unfold!
Richie and I met August 2, 2008 so I never knew what he was like before the accident that forever changed him & his life. When you first meet him he looks like a perfectly normal, extremely handsome, charming young man. In fact, to me, he looked like the world’s most perfect man and I fell in love with him at very first sight! I’ll never forget that fateful moment, I knew I had met my soul mate! With his beautiful, crystal clear blue eyes and killer smile you would never know there was anything wrong simply by looking at him. In fact it was about 6 weeks into our relationship before I began to notice there was something more going on.
In an instant our seemingly perfect relationship & honeymoon period came to a screeching halt! He did something so out of character and so hurtful that I was completely stunned and left wondering if he was really the man he presented himself to be, or if I had simply fallen for a cunning con. After the incident he was so sincere and apologetic that I decided he had just made a mistake, a terrible mistake that nearly ended our relationship, but none the less a mistake. I figured we are all human and God knows I have made my share of hurtful mistakes so I chose to forgive him and move on with our relationship. For the next couple of months everything was great once again and I continued to fall more and more in love. Then once again, from completely out of the blue, it happened again. There I was once again wondering who this man really was and how in the world he could commit such hurtful acts one moment and be Prince Charming again the next. Was he bi-polar, was he conning me for what little I had, or was something much deeper going on? For months I watched this go on. One minute he’s charming the pants off me, he’s happy and optimistic and smiling ear to ear and the next he’s pulling some crazy stunt, he’s depressed, at times even suicidal, dark, extremely angry and sometimes violent. I’m not talking about your normal relationship arguments, and I’m in no way saying that I am perfect and haven’t done or said my own share of hurtful things. I’m talking about something much deeper that goes far beyond the “normal” things couples do or go through in their relationships. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, I spent countless hours wondering what could cause such drastic behavioral changes from one moment to the next and I just couldn’t figure it out.
Finally, I began to think about all the things Richie had shared with me regarding the traumatic brain injury he had suffered to his frontal lobe when he was thrown out the passengers side of the car he was riding in. I began to remember things his Mom had shared with me regarding his behaviors before and after the accident and I decided I needed to dig deeper into this issue and figure out what was really going on.
I began searching traumatic brain injuries using the internet search engines google.com & bing.com. I was stunned at the extensive list of life long side effects that I found on site after site and page after page. It was if the writers personally knew Richie and were writing about him! On one hand there was this overwhelming sense of relief because I now knew that, for the greater part, Richie couldn’t control his behaviors. On the other hand there was a great sense of being overwhelmed because I knew we had a long, exhaustive uphill battle to get Richie the treatment he needed to conquer his invisible disability.
The list for the side effects the injured can suffer after a TBI are very extensive and range from cognitive & emotional effects to the physical effects. These effects can, and often do, last for life and are usually very difficult for the individual to acknowledge and accept. It’s not any easy thing to accept the fact that you will never again be the person you were before you suffered your TBI. Richie suffered his TBI 3 years ago and only came to accept that he will never be the man he was before just a few weeks ago. The following are only a few of the possible side effects that an individual may experience after a TBI occurs that I found on WebMD.com.
~ Short term memory loss
~ Trouble concentrating
~ Difficulty with communication
~ Spatial disorientation
~ Impaired judgment
~ Unable to do more then one thing at a time
~ Difficulty completing tasks
~ Increased anxiety
~ Mood swings
~ Impulsive behavior
~ Angry and/or violent outbursts
~ Muscle spasticity
~ Double vision or blindness
~ Loss of smell and taste
~ Speech impairments
~ Balance problems
The above side effects can be found on an exhaustive list of other sites however, my personal recommendation is to visit WebMD if you want to learn more about the side effects one can suffer after a TBI. Richie suffers from side effects in all three of those categories. He often experiences short term memory loss, has trouble concentrating, difficulty with communicating, increased anxiety, depression, mood swings, impulsive behavior, angry and sometimes violent outbursts, has no smell or taste, headaches and fatigue. However, those are not all the side effects he suffers from. After reading an article titled Effects of a traumatic brain injury on the site www.theinjurylawyers.co.uk written by Aman Singh I discovered several other effects that he suffers. Lack of insight, lack of initiative, inflexibility, impulsivity, and self-centeredness are also effects he suffers from. As stated in Aman Singh’s article, these effects are some of the hardest for family and friends to deal with. They make communicating & planning extremely difficult because you often can not get the injured individual to see any other point of view except their own. Patience is a must when learning to cope with these effects and if you are not a patient person you need to learn patience quickly! I personally have never been very patient but, I am quickly learning to take deep breathes, try and remain calm and think clearly when dealing with any of these effects. I’m not always successful but I continue to work on it.
Returning to work or even being able to maintain employment is another problem for these individuals and this another one that includes Richie. According to caregiver.org estimates for those who are unable to work again range from 12.5% to 80%. The reasons vary from case to case but I know for Richie it has a lot to do with being unable to deal with disorganization, too much stimuli coming at him at one time, co-workers not pulling their share of the weight, and poor management. When a combination of those issues begin to swirl around him he becomes extremely aggravated and irritated and his nerves simply can not take it. He had three jobs in the past year and none of them lasted for more then a couple of months. Two or three incidents like those above and he simply short circuits and walks away before he has a chance to snap on those involved. He has a desire to work full time, he speaks about it all the time, but due to all the side effects he suffers from he is unable to do so. I know this makes him feel inadequate, like he is unable to be the man and the provider he desires to be and it breaks my heart to see how depressed he becomes when he’s thinking and feeling that way. I do my best to assure him that he’s in no way inadequate and that we will continue to work on finding a way to get him the help he needs to conquer the problems he is experiencing, but it’s not always easy to get through to him.
Before doing all the research on the long term side-effects suffered by individuals after experiencing a TBI, like those I found on WebMD.com and caregiver.org, I was on the brink of giving up on Richie and our relationship. I knew I loved him more then anything in this world and I couldn’t forget how he came into my life and swept me off my feet and made feel more incredible then anyone else ever had, but I didn’t understand his erratic and unexplainable behaviors and it was taken a drastic toll on me and our relationship. Now that I know and understand that he is suffering from the long term effects of his injury I have a renewed faith that he is the man I met and fell in love with and that we simply have to be dedicated and diligent in getting him whatever help he needs so that he can have a better quality of life. Richie has an amazingly large heart, he loves intensely, he is a dedicated family man to both our families, he is sweet & romantic and he supports me in ways I never imagined another person would. It’s difficult and painful to watch him go through these intense episodes that inflict emotional pain on everyone in our home and it’s even more difficult to see the amount of pain he suffers after he calms down and realizes what he’s done. Since sharing my research with him, however, he is a different man. He has renewed faith and hope in himself and his situation. He now realizes he’s not crazy and he’s not alone and that there is help for his situation. Unfortunately, since he is unable to work and has no health insurance the journey to get him the help he needs has so far been painstaking and slow, but none the less it is in progress. Hopefully, he will have his Medicaid in about a month and will finally be able to see a doctor and get him the therapy and medication he so desperately needs. I am excitedly looking forward to seeing him truly happy, to see him renewed and rejuvenated and energized to fulfill his destiny in life.
If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI and are experiencing any of the long term side effects I have discussed in this article I strongly recommend you contact your doctor to discuss your situation. For emotional support or answers to many questions please visit any of the sites I mentioned or any of the many others you can find on the internet. Most of all know that there is hope!