Brain Injury Adjustments: Self-Reinvention by Rodney Smith

Brain Injury Adjustments: Self-Reinvention

by Rodney Smith

That works!!!

That works!!!

The “A-HA” Moment

At some point adjustment occurs during the brain injury recovery journey, and there usually is an “a-ha” moment, if you will, where we realize that big and small changes have taken place.  It is time to make the best of things as they are.  Some of us look at this as “acceptance” or “adjustment,” which is viewed by most experts as the final step in the grieving process.  I don’t know about all that.  But, although it was hard to accept, I knew I had to change some things in my life after the TBI.  Some of the changes were necessary because of deficits caused by the injury.  Others were more personal and the result of a shift in priorities.

Before my TBI accident, I was a computer network engineer working on large, sophisticated, government systems.  Afterwards, the skills weren’t gone, yet, I couldn’t process information fast enough to efficiently do the tasks my job demanded.  Following several trips to my office, and a few attempts at studying material required for certifications in the field, I knew I would be a liability to my networking colleagues.

It is at that moment when I could have thrown my hands up and cried “Why Me?” However, God and Bonnie, my wife, wouldn’t let me.  Bonnie was persistent in pushing both me and the medical system to keep going.  Looking back on that period now, she and I see how God was quietly and subtly directing our steps.

Diagnostic Evaluations and Appropriate Referral are Essential

It took 2-1/2 months before we secured a referral to Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury and brain injury.  I received several evaluations and a recommendation for outpatient rehabilitation at Shepherd Pathways, that includes: a comprehensive community reentry day program, a residential program for patients ready to practice living in a more home-like setting, several programs and services available on an outpatient basis, and a short-term respite care program.  That is where my reinvention began to take shape.

Assessing Skills Pre and Post TBI

Recipe Box with Plaque

Recipe Box with Plaque

Before my accident, I had done some woodworking.  It gave me a chance to do things with my hands, like my grandfather had always done.  I saw and felt the products of my labor.  As I started my occupational therapy (OT), my therapist asked, “What goals do you have?”  One of the first things I chose was woodworking because I love to work with wood.  But, I had to make sure I was capable of operating power tools.

My therapist and I spent a lot of time in OT sessions working on hand-eye coordination.  I operated a powered jigsaw and a circular saw to see how well, and safely, I handled them.  After I proved I was competent enough, I was given a project to build over a weekend.  I made a simple recipe box, which I gave to my daughter Amy.  We added the engraved label with her childhood nickname for humor.  Through hard work, practice, and of course learning how to use new tools, my woodwork projects have gotten better.  I have even made a couple of Christmas presents for the kids.

New Skills, New Tools

New Skills, New Tools


I know every TBI is unique with its own specific challenges. We survivors come from all kinds of circumstances and backgrounds and each individual has different goals, different skills, different abilities.  It is my prayer and hope that each survivor, regardless of his or her situation, who reads my story will be inspired to make the decision to keep moving forward, being the best that the TBI allows, and finding the open path to reinventing yourself, just as I was able to reinvent myself.

Rodney Smith,

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