Day off:

I should be writing the next article, but who could resist spending an evening with two lovely ladies! Our family had a rough week we needed a break… LOL

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During the Storm

IMG_0208My mom is super talented when it comes to sewing and quilting. She has made a couple of quilts for me. She has also made Mandy (my wife) and Juliana (my daughter) clothes.

Sometimes when stories are conveyed the real emotions are lost. I wanted to share this quilt design of hers, it was never made, because this is a perfect picture of where we were as a family during the main part of my recovery. Her interpretation of it is the bottom is where we were as a family, as you travel up the quilt is God bringing the pieces back together.

Thank you Mom for sharing.

Where was I during all this?

First I want to give a shout out to my Dad who has been gracious enough to write a few articles to give a parent’s perspective on what happened. While we who are injured suffer we must be aware that those around us suffer in a different way. So, a thank you to him for his contribution and support. Also I should mention that while my mom wishes not to be involved on the public face of my endeavor; she has been kind enough to help with the editing of my blog. So thank you to both of them.

Also, thank you to those of you who follow my story is much appreciated. I could not be more blessed. The stories my wife and I hear and continue to hear are the whole reason I felt led to begin this journey with all of you.

With that said, let’s get back to the story. What I remember is being introduced to our first attorney Charles Purcell. They wanted my input on what had happened, and I was truthful that I couldn’t remember. What I did remember was working at TSI soccer that night, and even that’s a hard picture to hold in my head. Also during this post-accident time I was starting therapy. Maybe it was my lack of understanding, maybe it was youth, or maybe it was just being stubborn but I was completely clueless about what was happening around me. I just didn’t know it. In my mind my plans to go to college and continue my life goals were only suspended for, maybe, a year. I have to confess, I made peoples lives around me difficult. I don’t know who I made it worse for, therapists, parents, or other people. So, I think that should make it clear – I was out of it.

This was also about the time I started feeling disconnected with people and not just from the accident. What I mean is with the TBI one of the effects I suffered is feeling disconnected emotionally from people. I noticed that people were communicating and acting differently around me, and I truly did not understand why. After much therapy, researches, and conversations later, it comes back to the change in my personality from the accident. At this point in the story I didn’t understand the damage and changes that had occurred.

The good news was that the traffic court did find the driver guilty. The company that still wanted to come after us was not done. You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village”, well, that’s what it takes to defeat a McCallum. (As previously stated, it was not our desire to proceed, it became a necessity). We were very fortunate to retain Mr. Charles Purcell and Mr. Irvin Cantor. Our family was fortunate to have them in our corner.

Mostly what I remember after the court date was my Dad being slightly relieved, but nervous about the future. Also he was working three full time jobs; yes three. He was a high school principal, youth pastor, and licensed real estate agent. My mother was working full time as a K-5 teacher. The other thing was while the therapy I was getting was top of the line; the office was about 1hr. away one-way. So, to say that it was tense at home was putting it lightly.

Therapy itself was intense. I’d start my day with speech therapy at 8 a.m. and end at noonish. Then after that it was occupational therapy. That was my week five days a week. All the time I was thinking I was fine and this was a big deal over nothing. I remember the one tactic they took to make it a point to mention when I failed an exercise to get it through my thick skull that, hey kid you need help!

Where was I during all this? Well, in my own head, and trying to ignore everything that happened. To put it in therapy dialogue, I was in denial. This is such a hard stage of recovery because until the injured person realizes they need help there is no healing. That’s why in an earlier article I suggested having a “bad” guy – someone to tell you like it is. Denial can last a while! I know for me it did, and hurt me in the long term. This is where “speaking the truth in love” comes into play. Sometimes you need to speak the truth kindly, but that may be interpreted as an attack, no matter how kindly you try to communicate it. Remember, though, it needs to be said.

If you have someone your helping please be kind but firm and help them find the direction they need to go to get better. Don’t advise them, unless you’re their M.D., to stop taking their medicine, or to stop seeing a doctor without finding a new one. The best thing to do sometimes is to let them talk and just listen. Don’t listen to reply -listen to hear.

Family Fun

I don’t just blog! LOL Our family needed a short get away. Below are pictures of us having some fun at the Richmond zoo. I’m still recovering from my knee surgery, but I was still able to have some fun feeding the giraffes with my beautiful daughter and wife.

 

Behind The Eight Ball

Not long after Robert was home from the hospital we received word that the driver of the truck had been charged with Failure to Yield Causing Bodily Injury. We received a summons for Robert to appear and testify. We were happy that the other driver was charged, especially since the trucking company had taken a very aggressive stance, already taking steps to sue Robert for the damage to their truck.

Robert and I showed up on the day of the trial. When we arrived we checked in with court officials and were told the trial would start shortly. Officer Netherland was there (the officer who greeted us upon arrival at the hospital the night of the accident, see earlier article).

Suddenly officer Netherland came up to me and said he needed to see me in the hall. Once there he said; “I am going to recommend to the prosecutor that we drop the charges against the other driver”. I was shocked. I just stood there and tried to take in what he had said. I know he showed a lack of tact and impartiality that night in the emergency room but to recommend dropping charges, why?

I immediately asked him why he would do this since we had three witnesses to the accident that said it was not Robert’s fault. He told me that he did not know until just a few minutes ago that Robert would be unable to testify.

This was true. Since the accident, Robert had no recollection of the accident. The last thing he remembered was pulling out of the parking lot and heading home. He could recall nothing of coming over the hill and the truck pulling into his path from a construction site.

Still, I was puzzled as to why the officer would not want to bring a case. His answer was direct and revealing. He said that without Robert’s direct testimony against the other driver, he was unsure if we could win the case and he did not want to try unless he was 100% sure we could win since that would hurt his conviction percentage!

My response probably brought me close to arrest. Lets just say that I told him in no uncertain terms that we would move forward or I would hold him personally responsible for the outcome. We did move forward.

Unfortunately this officer did everything he could in his testimony to hurt our case. At one point the judge asked him a technical question on certain site distance requirements. These figures clearly showed the other driver at fault. Instead of just answering, the officer editorialized that the specifications really should be different than what they were. (This would have let the other driver off the hook) The judge would have no part of his editorializing and reminded him to stick to the facts without offering unfounded opinions.

In the end, none of this mattered because a recess was taken and the other driver changed his plea to no contest so the court accepted that and pronounced sentence.

To the casual reader this could seem like only a minor annoyance. One must keep in mind that our whole world had just been rocked by this accident. Our son had been seriously injured and from our vantage point everyone seemed to be bailing on him and us.

We are truly grateful for the wonderful medical care he received but even they gave us little hope for the future. At one point it was recommended to us to put him in a home and give up since he probably would uncontrollable and severely limited in his abilities.

Next the trucking company forced us to hire an attorney to defend ourselves and was coming after Robert even with witnesses against their driver and their driver being sentenced.

Our own insurance company seemed to be willing to pay the other side just to make them go away. It would be less expensive to pay them off than defend Robert.

The very people we look to for protection from wrong doers, in this case the police did not want to do what seemed so obviously correct.

So this incident was just too much for us at the time. We truly identified with Job when he felt God had abandoned him. But, praise the Lord this only drove us closer to our God. It put us in the position of the Israelites and Gideon when God made the odds so great that the praise for any victory had to be given to Him.

Where’s the help?

My father is taking a break from his side of things for this week. I’ve mentioned that I have dealt with TBI for 19 years, and I wanted to share some things that have helped me when I was frustrated, angry, or confused.

Please remember I am not a licensed doctor or counselor. What I am sharing are simply things that I have found to help. Please continue your health regime, and discuss any of the following with your doctor:

*Family and Friends:

I could spend most of this article on this point alone. One of the biggest reasons for any of my success would be my parents. They believed in me, didn’t give up on me, and researched their tail off to make sure any treatments were to help me move forward. I need to mention also that most of my friends moved on with their lives. They went to college, got jobs, and continued with life. I felt completely alone, isolated, and forgotten. Other than my parents, the “structural” people in my life changed, and, in many ways, were gone. I did not say this to make anyone feel guilty, but to put this journey in perspective.

Find people that are willing to support no matter what. That could be family, friends, or special support from church or counselors. This journey you are on cannot be done alone! You will need help emotionally and practically. Make sure your “support staff” understands this is not a simple recovery and that it may take years. Should you not be able to communicate this in the way you need, have someone go with you to your doctor or counselor.

*Be ready for negativity

Negativity will come in several different ways. This could be from family that may not understand, doctors that do not comprehend all of the issues, insurance companies that will not want to help, or church staff and members ready to speak at you instead of listening to what is happening. Plus, dealing with all the questions of, “Why can’t you get over it”, “Snap out of it”, or “Your not that hurt”. One or more of these will happen. So, what are some ways to help you stay focused and stay positive?

Meditation is one was to combat negativity. I hear it now. You said this was from a Christian perspective, what are you talking about? Merriam-Webster’s definition of meditation is “The act or process of spending time in quiet thought: the act or process of meditating” What does the Bible say on the subject? These are just two verses about meditation: Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth: but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” The second verse is Psalm 1:2 “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” There are many other verses in reference to meditating.

So, what’s my point? When a TBI injury occurs, we need to make sure that our Christianity doesn’t fly out the window. Hebrews 11 discusses faith; our faith is in God’s Word and the promises listed there. While we have the negativity and difficulty around us, we need to remember that God hasn’t left us.

How do we meditate? First, find Scripture that you claim as your own. For me, that passage was John 20:29. Second, start your day with that passage. This way it will stay in your heart and mind. Third, when you reach that point where you can’t take anymore, find a place where you can be alone for 5 to 10 minutes and list any positives that you can think of. If it’s that day that there is truly nothing you can think of, pray for God to reveal them to you and remember that passage that you chose.

This takes work it will not happen over night, but, if you can make it a discipline, it will help you in those dark times.

*Have a “Bad guy” or “gal”:

When I was first injured, one thing the therapist told my parents was, “Let us be the bad guys.” What does that mean? You’ll need that person that says, “Are you taking your meds”, “ Have you been doing the therapy exercises”, “You need to calm down”. Hopefully that can be a therapist for the health of your relationships, but, if not, you need a confidant that can take the anger, happiness, depression, or frustration you will exhibit.

There also will be times when no one will be around to help. Have some of the above tools I shared ready in your mind. There are times where we get lost in our own thoughts with the depression and confusion. One exercise I’ve used for these cases is to remember four (or more) things that are real. Examples of this could be: address, street you lived on, favorite restaurant, favorite activity, family members, or even or favorite car. They just need to be things that real and grounded. Once you’ve done that, remember four (or more) positives in your life (for the positive list try and not use the same things as the first list). It sounds a little crazy, but I promise it will help.

*God still loves you:

If you are a Christian saved by His grace and forgiven for your sins, God loves you. He will be able to handle the anger, frustration, and questions. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” This is only one verse of many that show how much God loves us. I can tell you for my part this realization did not come overnight. I went through times of anger, self-pity, and questioning why. This is natural, but I have realized I may never know why I went through what I did, but I know God has been there the entire time, and helped myself and family through it.

I truly hope these are helpful tips. These will not fix everything. You will still have hard times, but I’m praying some of these ideas make your recovery a little easier. Please do not use any of the above to replace medication or doctors. Those things are still important to your recovery.

Surprise

Within three seconds, I lost my ability to function as a normal adult.  This included voluntarily turning in my drivers license (at age 18 not a cool thing). My parents went from planning their lives after children to having to raise their child a second time, and to top that off, we have to go to court because the company that hired the truck that pulled out in front of me was going to come after us. An amazing three seconds! Now we (my parents and I) must contend with an area of injury none of us had any idea what we were doing, plus a now looming court case.

That’s where we are in the story. After my evaluation it was determined that immediate therapy was needed, and not just a little. Therapy would now consume 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. The therapy type was speech and occupational. Here’s the catch….in my mind I didn’t need the therapy. I was fine and ready to continue on to college. This was my experience.  Others that experience TBI notice there is something different right away. Probably my feeling “normal” was youthful stubbornness! This can make it difficult on the person injured, as well as, the family. That being said my feelings were confusion, abandonment, isolation, and obviously feeling I did not need any of this!

My parents on the other hand were dealing with their own issues besides taking care of me. This is where I will allow my father to fill in some of the details. The following is his perspective.

The day had finally come; we were taking Robert home from the hospital. He had already beaten the odds. We were told he would not live, then if he did, he would be a vegetable or so restricted that he would not be able to function normally. But he had progressed and was coming home. We naively thought that since he was released from the hospital, he must be healed. How wrong we were.

Robert was alive and could walk and talk but we were at the beginning of the healing process, not the end. There were still numerous deficiencies.

Sometimes Robert would use words that made no sense. He could not follow simple instructions if it involved more than one command; for example, go to the shed and get the wrench. He would get to the shed and then have no clue what to do or why he was there.

 Evan his personality changed. Before the accident he had never been interested in basketball, now he would watch it for hours on end. Before the accident, he would always “dress to impress”, not in a flashy way but a class way. I remember he would wear his three-piece suit just to go shopping at Wal-Mart. Now he never wanted to dress up, not even for church.

Another change was a lack of motivation. He would say that he wanted to get up and do something, even something he liked, but was usable to get out of the chair. Many times he would sleep all day and was frequently tired.

 The thing I missed most were our in depth talks about God, the world and other topics of mutual interest. Now he was completely unable to think and communicate on that level. He would become agitated if the conversation did not go his way. There were numerous things we disagreed on and part of our fun was defending our views to each other. Unfortunately all that was gone. If he sensed a disagreement, he would get defensive and shut down. Life and our relationship would never be the same.

 One particular difficulty was his mini-seizures. It took my wife and I a little time to figure this out, especially me. We had always been strict about obeying immediately and responding when spoken to. Several times I had told him to do something, he would be perfectly still, and just stare. I confess the first couple times; I was angry with him and let him know it. Once we understood what was happening we went from upset to concerned.

 From this brief discussion you can understand why I called the company that employed the driver that hit our son. In spite of what office Netherland had told us the night of the accident, there were three witnesses that established the truck driver was at fault. The driver was even charged with failure to yield causing bodily injury. (More on that story later.)

 I will never forget that call. I had no intention of suing anyone. My only concern was our son and his well being. From the police report I obtained the number and dialed. Finally I was connected to the right person at the company. I stated that our intent was to handle this as quickly and fairly as possible. All we expected was for them to take care of Robert’s medical bills. We would not even go after them for the car, we could always get another car. (Talk about being naive!) The response was: “we don’t believe our driver was at fault and we don’t believe your son was that injured. We are coming after you for the damage to our truck!” I was dumbfounded. Things had gone from bad to worse in an instant.

 

Back to our regularly scheduled program… or not…?

Before I continue the story, please allow me to explain one thing that is a constant struggle….long time memory. This is a common TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) symptom. The best way to describe my struggle is this: imagine doing a scrapbook with 100’s of pictures around you not able to clearly see any of them until you grab one from the table and, for a brief moment, you can see that one picture. That’s how my memory works. At times for a short period I’ll have clear memory of one “picture”. After I “put it down,” I never for sure know if or when I’ll get if back. I said all that to say this, as I share my story it may seem bits and pieces or that a lot of pain has elapsed from point A to point B. Well, the above is the reason for that.

Now that that is out of the way, I’ll continue with the story. Once I returned home, it was quickly obvious things were not the same. My sleep schedule was ridiculous to say the least. A teen sleeping sixteen to twenty hours is not normal! Also I had mini-seizures. During these episodes, I could be directly looking at you, but I would have a complete blank look. After it passed, I would have no idea what our conversation was about. Also my father would love to debate, or, if I had a question, dad would give the resources to find the answer. Now, I would have outburst of anger if he didn’t give the answer right away. Remember, to this point our family had no idea what a TBI was. It was at this point that my dad called the trucking company and said that we would need help with medical expenses and vehicle repairs. Their answer was not only a harsh “no,” but they then said the accident was our fault (nothing official had been determined at this point) and they were coming after us.

This next part I truly believe that God was working in our corner. Through the Christian school my father was principal at, I had met an ex-policeman that refereed our basketball games. Unfortunately, his police career came to end after he received a TBI injury. My father reached out to him for advice, and through that he recommended Charles Purcell, who was a local lawyer that helped the officer with his case. (I apologize, this is one of those moments where my mind fails me and I forget what the officer’s name was.)

I don’t remember our initial meeting with Mr. Purcell. The only memory I have is wanting to take a nap on the sofa in their waiting area. However, what came out of that meeting was I needed to be evaluated immediately. Thus, started our introduction and wake up call to this thing call TBI.

Within a very short period, we had an appointment with one of the leading neurologists in country, Gregory O’Shannick. Just walking into the office and waiting for us to be called, I knew this was going to be different. I had no clue why my mental facilities needed to be evaluated. In my mind I felt off, but did I need this?!? The only thing that stuck out to me throughout the whole day was the word association test. Should you have ever had this done you understand where I’m going. The one I had is when they show you a picture of, let’s say a stove, and the second you recognize what it is, you say what the item is (in this case stove). This was the hardest and most frustrating thing. I could remember things in my head, but could not verbalize them for the life of me. There were time I would state what I thought was the right answer only to have the therapist correct me by saying “you meant __________, right?”, or “you were trying to say”. I’m thinking, “Don’t correct me! I was right the first time!”

The whole day was quite taxing. I just wanted to sleep for weeks after that one day. Keep in mind it was a long evaluation; and, like any other muscles in your body, it tires and wears out. It was if my brain had run marathon. I was done for that day. Little did I know many of my following days would be like this and worse!

Updates

Hey everyone!  This is Robert’s wife, Mandy.  Just want to give y’all an update on Robert and his knee.

Robert’s had a rough go of it the last 5 days.  This past Friday was the surgery.  He had ACL reconstruction, but on top of that, the doctor found 2 meniscus tears and some bone damage.  This new discovery turn our day from 6 hours to 11 hours at the surgery center.

Everything was great until the nerve block wore off.  The pain got so bad, I had to give Robert a belt to literally bite on to help with the pain.

Now, 4 days post op, the pain is getting bearable and he is able to get around slightly better.  Praise the Lord that I have a job I can work from home to be here to help him.

Robert should be back in blogging action next week.  Trust me, if he wrote blogs now while on the pain medicine, y’all be wondering what in the world he is trying to talk about. 🙂

Thank you for all the praying and sweet words of encouragement.  They have been a tremendous encouragement to Robert.  Please continue to pray as he recovers and as he embarks on physical therapy (UGH!).

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