God Can Take You Further Than You Ever Imagined
One night in 2004, can't remember the exact date, on my way home from work, I had a near fatal accident on the Florida Turnpike. Another careless, inconsiderate driver hit my car from behind. While my car rolled over several times, the vehicle that hit me, maneuvered away, and left me to die alone at night. But I serve an awesome God, and through his goodness, mercy and grace, he sent the Angels to rescue me.
Thank God I bled so much through my nose and ears, because if all that blood had remained in my brain it would have killed me. I don't remember much about the accident, but I chose to ignore some problems and refuse to name them...but they are still with me after all these years of progressive healing. The Neurologist calls it Post Concussive Syndrome. Believe me, it's no joke.
I experienced many of the deficits that most TBI survivors experience. I had huge cognitive problems and I had difficulty choosing, understanding, remembering and using information. I had major issues with:
- Attention and concentration - I was in Nursing School studying to get to the level of a Nurse Practitioner and that became a historical non-event. The accident happened two weeks before graduation from the first phase of my nursing training. Thank God all exams were completed. My brain could not hold water, so with all the excruciating headaches and everything else, my concentration went through the window and I had to develop ways to cope. Studying was the last thing I wanted to do...or could do.
- Processing and understanding information - I was a teacher so I was good at understanding and explaining stuff, but I became like a little kid again. Why, how, when, where, were coming out a lot. I made everyone repeat things so often that some people stop talking to me, they stop calling. My daughter is a saint. I know she was worried but she was there for me. She said I raised her to be a warrior...so coping with my 'new normal' was not so daunting. No wonder she became a nurse and specialized in caring for developmentally challenged adults with neurological deficits. I guess she benefited from the on the job training she got taking care of me.
- Memory - This was the worst, as I had near photographic memory before the accident, so everyone noticed the change. Even I notice the difference. I remembered telling the doctor I had Alzheimer's. I went to Jamaica recently and saw many faces I remembered but couldn't remember their names, because I'm terrible with names now. Some people thought I was pretending. Do I have to explain the TBI to everyone? I think not.
- Communication - I had Aphasia. My speech was messed up and I had problems saying words and understanding what others said. I did a lot of parroting and some people got annoyed with that but I couldn't help it, that was how I was processing. My grand daughter and I had fun...lots of fun parroting each other when she was a toddler. She was my unofficial speech therapist. I practiced talking and reading with her. She never complained...how could she, when she was learning to talk too. She still thinks grandma is a lot of fun to be around. We still have that bond.
- Planning, organizing, and assembling - This was nonexistent. I became a hoarder. I couldn't read and understand my mail, so I saved them fearing I might throw away something important. My house no longer looks like a good housekeeping magazine picture and it doesn't bother me at all. I sometimes go back and look at pictures my daughter and my ex-husband took of the house when I was on top of my housekeeping game. That in itself was a dead give away, tell tale sign to those who knew me before the accident, that my brain is now mush. I had a system that worked to get bills paid on time...that went through the window...big time. I am almost back to normal with that now.
- Reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and judgment - This was painful because with a background as a high school math teacher, accountant, and nursing student, I was totally lost. Nothing was clicking. I was helpless and only God kept me from feeling sorry for myself. Healing has come...God has been good to me. My sense of discernment has kicked in big time too, even better than before.
- Controlling impulses and desires and being patient - Impatience became my middle name. I developed intolerance for simple things and phony people rubbed me so wrong. Being outspoken did not help matters. There was not one bone of political correctness in my body. Naturally, I hurt some people who did not understand my NEW condition. I am fearless and not so inhibited, but my Christian values never left me...I always thank God that I did not become promiscuous.
- Restlessness and being easily distracted - I am still restless and easily distracted but I try not to show it. Busyness helps me hide it...now everyone knows. Thankfully I became a homebody more so because of self imposed isolation. So I don't wander. It's good that I cannot drive long distances anymore. That's a blessing in disguise.
- Difficulty finishing a project or working on more than one task at a time - I was a multi-tasker before the accident and then I became like a little child...but I understand what is happening so I pick tasks that help me heal. However, I still have about a dozen books that I am reading all at once, and a million other things that are in various stages of completion. Don't call me a procrastinator because I am always working on something...my rules. God helps me get things done for Kingdom business. I am much better than I was and projects now get completed on schedule. Thank God.
- Problems carrying on long conversations or sitting still for long periods of time - Mama must have felt abused the many times I called her or she called me and I talk for a minute or two then hang up suddenly without saying goodbye. I called it self preservation, not rudeness. She was too smart, she would figure it out and I didn't want her to know the extent of my illness. She went home to be with the Lord...without knowing the whole story. I learned to control my pacing by just getting out of my seat and standing for a while. I used to like the window seat in the airplane...not anymore. I need to be able to stand up, sometimes very often, because flying is not really so good for me anymore. I talk too much now too...note to self 'you have become a world class chatter box.' Fortunately, I talk about stuff people can learn from...things I read mostly.
The neurologist said my ICP was too high and I could die if I fly. Papa wouldn't want that so I stayed away. Looking back, I know mama thought I was rude sometimes but the next time we talked she would talk about something else and I got away with it, because mama had changed. When she asked me how I was, I would let her talk about herself and I pretend to listen because my attention span was like that of a door nob. She was older then and never seem to catch on.
I knew God had a plan for my life, because that was the only way I survived that accident. Yes, he humbled me with the memory loss and made me go into some deep reflection. I realized that just because things aren't what I would like them to be, I could still flourish in what God called me to do. So, I rededicated my life to Him completely, according to His will and purpose for my life. I found my purpose after the TBI.
Yes, I had to cut some people off, because when you want to walk with God, not everyone is up for the long journey. You cannot walk with anyone who is going to weigh you down and not be supportive. I had to relocate some people to the balcony of my life. I can still love them from a distance. This was a time for me to seriously reconsider who continues to occupy the front row of my life. I needed people there who would understand, when I needed help to hold me up when I feel like I am falling...so now I have just a few great friends...I realized that's all I really need.
I also had another choice: Do I stay discouraged and live a life of defeat? Or do I rise above my circumstances and look to God to restore what the devil has taken? I decided I was going to serve the Lord no matter what and bless Him in spite of my bleak circumstances. When I made that choice, I began experiencing a relationship with Him like never before. I developed such a deep connection of love for Him that I couldn't keep my praise and adoration to myself! He blessed me with even more gifts. I was humbled.
A Traumatic Brain Injury is a silent epidemic because it makes people suffer in invisible ways. I am a Mental Health Nurse, yes God provided healing and I was able to pass my Nursing Board exams. I couldn't take on the extra studying but passing my initial board exam...That was a miracle. Don't ever doubt God.
I have to give thanks to one of my nursing school classmates, Debbie Morris who believed in me more than I believed in myself. She came to the house and took my bank card and registered me for an exam I thought I was totally ill-equipped to take. Debbie believed that even thought I couldn't study, since I was an 'A' student, the old memories would kick in and I would 'float on auto pilot.' It was according to God's will, so it worked.
I answered questions on auto pilot until the computer stopped. I had no clue whether I passed or not. In my mind it was a test of my faith and a trial run...I was not distressed or anxious. Debbie called the following week and said, "You Passed. I knew you could do it because you used to teach us how to pass our tests." I didn't get to Nurse Practitioner status because further studies took too much and the headaches were unbearable. It's all good, because I know now, that was not my destiny. God had other plans for my life and they are more rewarding.
At times I look at my patients and so many of them appear normal on the surface, like me, showing no obvious indications of any injury. Our wounds are invisible and are only on the inside. We walk around with invisible, internal wounds. They have no idea how empathetic this knowledge makes me towards them.
I still to this day, after all these years, cannot have a good experience in a crowded mall. I prefer to shop in strip malls or online. I worship in a small congregation and I like working by myself. People who suffer from TBI have an impairment and we tend to get overloaded, and over stimulated quite easily. There are days when I cannot seem to focus, and would just like to block everything and everyone out. No wonder I enjoy living alone.
My balance and coordination is still a bit off... well, more than a bit. I can't turn around suddenly or I will keel over. The Neurologist sent me for a sleep study and low and behold, I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder which I still refuse to claim, hence the sleep aid contraption beside my bed is hardly used. My cell phone helps me save face as I get to save everything for short term until I get the chance to write them down. Oh yeah, my memory has improved by leaps and bounds, but am I expecting to get back to near photographic? Heck no, because I don't even need it to be that good. Modern technology helps with that. Thank God.
I consider myself a writer now...woooi. I did write a 300 plus page book that remains unpublished and started another. As a writer, I think my book needs some good editing but I STILL CANNOT TRUST ANYONE WITH THAT TASK...So it remains unpublished. One day, one day... I will trust my 'baby' to a good editor.
I once had a session with a neuro-psychologist and I was not amused. It took way too many hours and I did not learn anything new...plus because I was not depressed about my deficits, she thought I was in denial. Since there are many factors that can affect how someone will improve cognitively, it is very difficult to predict how much someone will recover.
I am recovering at a pace that I can handle. With practice, my cognitive problems are improving to some degree. I have had no official cognitive rehabilitation therapy so I am mainly using compensation skills. I did some remediation with my math skills but I really needed communication... writing and speaking, more than math, so my focus was on compensating. So, I lost my math skills but I turned into a writer... That works for me!
When I was at my worst, my daughter learned to write checks and paid the bills. All I had to do was sign where she showed me. She did the shopping too and would get mad when someone comes to visit and I make them get me ice cream and put it at the back of the freezer. Just like a kid, I knew I shouldn't have it so I hid it. I was gaining weight too fast and she was worried I would die and leave her all alone. She turned into a pretty good cook too...and even though I am a good cook, I dislike cooking now.
She believes that it is a miracle, that prior to the accident I had hardly any clue about the computer, yet after my healing began, I am able to build websites without any instruction or formal training. Yes, this is a gift from God and I intend to use it to uplift lives and bring substance to his children. I built and donated websites to organizations and churches...I have slowed a bit now that I work full time and have a charitable organization to run. Now, you know...This website is one of my designs...intended for doing God's work and bringing Him glory.
God continues to raise me up from the struggles we go through in life, when we feel like we've lost it all. He also gives us those around us, who help bring us up to our feet. It's about the special ones in our lives who can make us believe in ourselves, and give us a reason to live. The ones who give us encouragement and the push to keep going when we are about to give up. The loving, caring people who touch our lives and help us to remember to keep fighting until we achieve our God given destiny.
I founded the Milka Clarke Stroke Brain Trauma Foundation to memorialize Mama and help people who suffer from stroke and other brain trauma. It's about forgetting your situation for a minute and helping to lift someone else. It's about a best friend, a mother, a father, a child, a grandfather, a sibling, a lover, a mentor, a creative business partner, who can help lift you up to heights you may never achieve on your own. A service provider who can help you lift your business to higher heights. It's about you, reaching towards your true potential whether in business or in your personal life. It is about you never giving up because while there is life there is always hope.
It is about selfless individuals who help to raise up the tired, needy, homeless and disadvantaged, mentally challenged children and adults in the community, day after day, month after month and year after year. When you focus on others you forget your pain for a while and become more functional. It's called HOPE!
And it's about me! Yes, I have been raised up with this spiritual gift and I want to use it to help you achieve more that you have done so far. I want to encourage you to use what you have and achieve more than you have ever imagined!
Are you ready to experience all the influence that you carry through your ideas and creative thinking? Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone and try something different...for you, your family? Are you ready to maximize your true potential? Are you ready to increase your earning potential and maximize your stake in the world economy? What are you waiting for? God is ready to raise you up like He did me.
A TBI or a stroke is a real setback, that the enemy used to make us believe we are done. But that is not God's final report. Never ever give up believing in God's mercy and grace.
I must give special thanks to my beautiful daughter Lori-Ann, and her family, also to my good friends Donneth, Everton, Debbie, Marvia, Maxine, and Sylvia, for helping to raise me up. Mama, if you only knew...But you didn't...by my design. Thanks for raising a warrior princess.
I am on a mission to help affect positive change in the world, and improve lives and communities! I can...so can you, one small step at a time. One small task at a time. DETERMINATION is the key! According to God's will and purpose for our lives. We will overcome. I am an OVERCOMER! Are you?
The Milka Clarke Stroke Brain Trauma Foundation is ready to support you and your family. God bless you all.
Debbie M. Thomas-Brown (TBI Survivor)
Milka Clarke Stroke Brain Trauma Foundation