All Systems Go

Brain Injury Blog by Ron Hartnett

May 9, 2011

All Systems Go

What strikes me watching Gabrielle Giffords board the airplane is that first time out after brain surgery. I remember my wife Kerry pushing me on the wheelchair one bright August afternoon outside the hospital. Excited to breath fresh air, I couldn’t wait. The trip, however, did not live up to expectations—no warm and soothing but harsh and glaring.

I remember how we dropped down a steep grade on the sidewalk. Across the street, a Readymix cement truck spewed out concrete, or mud. One hard-hatted man guided a heavy chute over wooden 2 x 4s while a few others spread the mud around.

I tried to shield my eyes from the glare with dark sunglasses that I did not have. Instead, I held my right hand over my eyes like a salute. Still, it felt like the sun poured in from all directions.

And, watching the mud flow out gray and wet and thick, a concrete pour was a something I didn’t mind watching. But this afternoon, everything was a couple decibels too loud, a few notches too bright.

Plus, the sidewalk was in no way wheelchair friendly. Somehow, Kerry managed to hit every crack. The hard drop down to the street and the hard allyoop back up to the sidewalk was clanging and jarring.

And, I half expected to get up to walk. Instead, I sunk lower and lower, my stick legs failing me. A little later, I told Kerry I wanted to go back. I was surprised and disappointed at what little progress I’d made.

What you find out is that it all takes time.

Gabrielle, for her part, is now beneath a bright Florida sun. I wish her and family Godspeed as she watches the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavor Friday, husband Mark Kelly leading the crew. Here’s to a great liftoff—all systems go—for missions large and small.

2 responses to “All Systems Go”

  1. Marie G. Cooney says:

    I also suffer from extreme photosensitivity and need to protect myself from overstimulating lights with visors and dark glasses. I have learned that amber colored glasses help at night to lessen the intensity of headlights, taillights, and streetlghts, all which can give me severe headaches and migraines. It’s also very difficult to explain to others how painful reflection off the chrome of passing cars, the glare of snow, flickering of lights between trees, reflection off mirrors and glass can be. And florescents! So call nonperceptive movement of light is horrible. I have learned that CHURADA FRAMED glasses are the most helpful I have found. One can get a dark bifocal or regular prescription lenses. Then a second colored lens is added inside instead of outside the frame, completely protecting eyes from any flashes of light. My quality of life was greatly improved once I bought two sets of CHURADA glasses and inserts. Amazing help! These glasses were first used for motorcycle riders, skiers, and others needing “goggles” for heavy glare situations. See if your MD will prescribe as durable medical equipment! Best wishes.
    Marie Cooney

  2. Janet Cromer says:

    Thanks for a great post on the coexisting realities and unmet expectations of making progress, Ron. My husband Alan and I had experiences like that after his brain injury too. One day I drove along a road by the ocean, all excited, saying “Look at that view of the water, Alan.” He held his hands around his eyes like blinders and said, “No, no, I’m trying NOT to take it all in, It’s too bright, too fast, and too much.”

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