Friday, October 29, 2010

First entry

I've been wanting to do this for a long time. Thought now was as good a time as any to start. I'm writing this from the perspective of a Stay at Home Dad, who has also suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I think this will be good for me, and I hope, for someone else. Maybe it can help someone not feel so isolated like I did after my accident.
My story: August 29th, 2006 was the day my life and the life of my family changed forever. I was riding my bicycle in San Francisco from my home to my job on Market St. One minute I'm riding down the street, the next I'm waking up in the hospital. I had a concussion with some bleeding - called a sub-dural hematoma in the left frontal lobe of my brain.
My helmet was broken and probably saved my life. I was transported via ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital. I was given an MRI, where it was determined that the bleeding had stopped. I was kept for several hours for observation and released to my wife. I don't remember much for the first few days after the accident.
I saw my primary care physician about a week after the accident, was given another MRI, and a referral to see a neurologist. I was having double vision and vertigo along with much confusion. The double vision subsided after a week or so, but the vertigo continued for several months. I could turn my neck a certain way, and the room would start spinning. Fun!
During all of this, my wife took care of everything. She kept it all together, but I know it was hard and frightening to deal with. Two months prior to the accident, we had our second child, Mia. So now my wife is dealing with essentially two babies, as everything was new to me, and a source of wonder and many times frustration and anger.
So, the neurologist I saw had me walk in a line and watch his finger and say some words, and then told me to return to work, to "use my brain". I did what he said, but this is when I really noticed things weren't right. Everything was confusing to me, which is not a good thing in any job, but as a software developer, it's a disaster. It was like I had been suddenly thrown into a foreign country without knowing the language.
Distractions were a huge disruption. Someone would talk to me, and I would completely forget what I was working on. I would get up for a drink of water, and end up on the other side of the building talking to someone. I was, at times, inappropriate without knowing it. I was quick to anger, and even yelled and cussed at my boss. I was getting reprimanded at work, and finally, after nearly a year of frustration, I went to see another doctor for a second opinion.
I saw a neurologist who gave me a neuropsychological exam and decided that I had had a serious brain injury. Finally, I was getting the help I needed. She recommended I go on disability leave so I could give my brain time to recover. That's what I did, and none to late, either. I was probably one step away from being fired.
So, that's where I'll leave it today. I've been a stay at home dad since then, and it has been a struggle for sure, but I'm glad I get to spend this time with my kids, who are now 14 and 4. I've got a new appreciation for people with disabilities, and am more compassionate towards people in my everyday life since the accident. That doesn't mean I don't get angry, but I feel more connected somehow with people. Maybe because I realize everyone is dealing with what's handed to them in life, and outsiders can't possibly know what's going on inside someone's head.


  1. The last sentence is so true. How much easier is it for us (in the short run) to go around making assumptions about others rather than to take the time to try to find out about them.

  2. Wow Mike, I had no idea. I kno you are able to exercise. How long was it before you started riding your bike? I have severe hearing loss and it keeps getting worse, but I am in denial that I have a disability. I did finally contact the VA. Thanks for sharing. Brinn

  3. Brinn - I am able to do more physically, than mentally. I have come a long way since the accident, and have found tools to help me get around my difficulties. I started riding again after about nine months. That's when the vertigo had mostly stopped.
    The one thing that I feel I have total control over is my physical body, so exercise and competing in triathlons and foot races has been a real positive in my life. I don't think I would be in nearly the same boat if I hadn't.
    Glad to hear you contacted the VA. I really didn't even think about the VA at all, until a neurologist suggested it. I had insurance, and some old misconceptions from my short time in the Navy, but the VA has come to be the best treatment option available. They pull doctors from all over (Stanford, Cal, USF, UCSF, UC Davis, etc...)