The Slow Crawl of Brain Injury Recovery by David Grant

So much of life happens between those moments of normalcy during brain injury recovery.

David Grant smallThe sun rises, the sun sets, many of us go to work, care for our children, spend time with those we cherish, and never give much thought to the fact that life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye.

And so it was for me in November 2010. On a cold, blustery day here in New England, my life was forever changed. Local police estimate the speed of the teenage driver who broadsided me while I was cycling at 30-40 mph. In two ticks of a clock, my life unexpectedly and abruptly changed course. I was thrown from my trusty bike into the strange new world of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

I did not then know the scope of  “America’s silent epidemic” in today’s society, blissfully unaware that more than 1.7 million Americans a year sustain a TBI.

Brain injury recovery is like nothing I have ever experienced.

If you are a survivor, you already know this. If you are a family member or a caregiver, you know this as well. But to live life as a brain-injury survivor, there are no past experiences I can draw upon that have helped me navigate this new and uncharted life territory.

In the days after my cycling accident, I saw doctors of many specialties. The orthopedic doctor let me know that my broken arm would heal, that I would be in a cast for a couple of months, and feel a bit of pain for six months. Right on cue, at the six month mark, my arm pain stopped.

But recovery from a brain injury cannot be defined by an end-date circled hopefully on a calendar, though I thought this at first. As my broken body began its slow crawl toward wellness, as my bones knitted, and as my bruises faded from black to yellow and then to memories, the extent of how my brain injury was affecting my life became clearer.

My journey to my “new normal” may or may not be typical of brain injury recovery.

Brain injuries are like snowflakes—no two are alike. In the days after my injury, I had a CAT scan, an EEG, and other tests to see if my cognitive abilities were compromised. I passed all my early tests with high honors and was congratulated by many within the professional community for dodging a bullet.

But all was not well. Most all of my symptoms, those cues that let me know I had sustained a TBI, came slowly, in many cases weeks after my injury. Word-finding issues were among my first challenges. Then came significant challenges with my memory. We can add to the list a couple of new-found speech impediments: stuttering and aphasia. 

Recovery after brain injury begins each day.

Recovery after brain injury begins each day.

Yes, on the outside, I “looked” normal. But under the hood, it was becoming very clear that something was wrong. Another trip to the neurologist revealed a new, multi-facetted diagnosis. Grateful that my body was mending, and still confused over some of my newest challenges, I was told I have a very clear-cut case of post-concussive syndrome. At this same time, several months after my accident, I was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

By nature, I am hard-wired to be a problem solver, an overcomer. Whenever a life event comes to pass, the optimist in me tries to pull whatever positive I can from the experience and move on.

But with brain injury recovery, there is no end-game.

There is no magical date on some future calendar page that is circled in red, perhaps with a smiley face, that I await. I have learned over the last couple of years that recovery from brain injury is lifelong. I have learned that the brain recovers in its own time, sometimes at glacial speed. And if I try to hurry the process, I am left disheartened and frustrated. 

Life as a brain injury survivor is vastly different than I ever expected. Challenges I never considered in my old life can overwhelm me. Akin to learning to drive a new car, I am slowly learning how to navigate through life with my new limitations.

But there is good news.

By being respectful of my new limitations, and surrounding myself with people who love me, who care about me, and who want me as well as I can be, I am building a new life after TBI. Yes, much of it is more difficult. But much of it is surprisingly more wondrous. I have slowed down to a pace I never had before and now take time to see, feel, and experience my world with deeper appreciation than I ever thought possible.

And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

About the author

David A. Grant is a writer based in New Hampshire and the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury. A survivor of a harrowing cycling accident in 2010, David openly shares his experience, strength, and hope as a brain injury survivor. Recently recognized by the Brain Injury Association of America, David’s book offers real-world insight into life as a brain injury survivor.


Special Collection on Brain Injury Journey

Special Collection on Brain Injury Journey

This article is posted with permission from Brain Injury Journey – Hope, Help, Healing, Vol 1, 2014.

6 responses to “The Slow Crawl of Brain Injury Recovery by David Grant”

  1. Melanie Devoid says:

    Thank you David for sharing your story. My life was forever changed in September 2012 when stopped at the toll booth and hit from behind by a driver going 55 mph. I have been navigating this new life ever since. I’m thankful for the 40 years I was able to work in the educational field which I’ve since had to retire from. I’m focusing on my new life and continuing my recovery. I also am one of those people that look “normal” and like you, on my good days sound like there is nothing wrong with me. But I do have the other days that are challenging and the brain does process things the way they do on other days.
    I used to live in NH but have since moved to AZ to continue my rehab.
    For me, every day is a new day. I hope everyone that has a TBI will continue their lifelong journey of recovery. For those that are care givers or loved ones of someone with a TBI, try and understand how your loved ones life has changed and make sure you get the rest and breaks you need to be able to care for them.
    Fellow TBI survivors hoping for sunny days along your journey with your new life.

  2. Thank you all for your kind comments. While my brain injury was a game-changer, it was not the end. Rather, it was more like a new beginning. A positive attitude really does make all the difference! ~David A. Grant

  3. Sandra Williams says:

    This article encouraged me. I wish I could
    Write my about experiences. You have put into words a little about what I am feeling.
    Thank you for the comfort.

  4. Dear Terri,
    I have signed you up for an electronic subscription – you will receive an email from us and you must confirm it in order complete this. Thanks so much for your interest. here is the link to the page on our website for the magazine as well

  5. Randall Newberry says:

    I enjoyed this article. I am the parent/caregiver of a grown daughter with ABI. All insight is desired! I look forward to seeing more from this magazine: Brain Injury Journey – Hope, Help, Healing.

    I am interested in the free electronic version, please.

  6. terri brophy says:

    Beautiful article. I am the mom of a 22 year old tbi survivor. Please sign me up for a subscription.

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