Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gray Matters Support Group - Writing assignment on the Loneliness of Brain Injury

Last month I did a writing assignment with our support group on the Loneliness of Brain Injury.  Michael Murphy wrote the following
noteworthy article:

I have two ‘brain-injury’ heroes: Gabby Giffords and Bob Woodruff. Both suffered severe TBIs  and have displayed remarkable stamina and fortitude in the wake of their injury and throughout their immediate and ongoing recovery. I am humbled to group or associate any portion of my experience and trials as an ABI survivor with these two. However, even though m injury was considerably less severe, l I can identify with their tribulations as a result of my stroke and successive recovery.                                                                                  

Gabby, a member of he US Congress an Arizona State Senate, had been married to astronaut, Mark Kelly for four years prior to her attempted assassination in Tuscon, AZ.  Both Gabby and Mark had high profile and public lives. The strength of their commitment and subsequent support to each other easily surpassed any mandated support that may have been expected of a couple with this sort of public scrutiny  and exposure  in the national spotlight.

Bob Woodfuff was a co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. While on assignment in Iraq, he suffered a severe head injury when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle he was riding in. His wife, Lee, is a noted author and commentator. Together they co-authored and chronicled Bob’s recovery. They eventually founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation, an organization that aides and assists injured or wounded veterans and their families.  Both couples demonstrated remarkable resilience and commitment to what must have been both physically and emotionally difficult times and a fantastic strain on their relationship.
I would like to ask both Caretakers, Mark Kelly and Lee Woodruff, more of the conventional type of questions; The primary ones being:
            * How did they do it,
            * Did they ever have any short-comings or doubts,
            * What circumstances tested the strength of their commitments
Even though I’m considered to be ‘higher functioning’ and relatively unscathed from the more traditional /stereotypical effects of having a stroke; I am not void of the psychosocial sided effects of a brain injury.

This article was brought about by a writing project in the Gray Matters Support Group on the topic of The Loneliness of Brain Injury.  Around the time frame of my suffering the stroke, I was involved in what most would describe as a committed, long-term relationship. The strain of surviving and recovering from this injury proved to be more than the relationship could endure; breaching her expectations and the parameters of her tolerance, capabilities, or so I surmise.  There was an abundance of help available for me, the ”survivor” and unfortunately little left for the Caretaker, supporter, and partner. Needless to say, we were left to our own devices, and we bore the brunt of the affects of my injury being uninformed and alone. The consequence seemed inevitable and definitively absolute.

I have navigated most of my recovery journey solo and alone pining for my lost companionship and engaged in what I feel is a futile, sometimes emasculating search or endeavor to find a replacement. San Diego, is a very disparaging little town for someone who no longer is permitted to drive or disabled to any degree. Many of the effects of a brain injury/disability lack transparency, thus the adage, “a hidden disability”. Barring some obvious physical deficits, an ABI survivor might present as someone void of any physical inadequacies/ challenges, and functioning with normal ambitions or desires, yet sometimes oblivious to the ‘fog, lack of clarity in the thought processes   I have learned to put a cynical spin on the old adage, “The body is willing, but the mind is weak. “
Gifford, Kelly, and the Woodruffs continue to be activists for the advocacy of people with brain injuries through speaking engagements and have authored several books about recovering from  a TBI; its effects on one’s self , spouse or partner and family.  I have always contended that in the immediate or interim aftermath of a brain injury there is an inordinate amount of attention given to remediating / ‘rehabbing’ the physical deficits and that attention to the psychosocial side effects should more equitably assigned. This could easily balance the recovery  processes by making those aspects of the disability that are considered ‘hidden’ more transparent AND RECOGNIZABLE. If treatment for the psychosocial effects of an ABI would’ve been on parity  as that applied for the physiological impairments, the demise of my former relationship may not have been so unavoidable.

Michael Murphy,  MACP