Browsing Tag

brain injury

Family, Guest Posts, healing, Holidays

Dead Christmas Trees, Brain Injuries & Finding The Beauty.

December 29, 2014

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By Karen Pyros-Szatkowski.

When I lived in New York City after college, too many years ago, I’d be so saddened the weeks following Christmas walking by apartment buildings seeing the discarded, used up Christmas trees piled in front, waiting to be picked up by the garbage collectors. I was in no way a tree-hugging, save-the-earth activist back then, but for some reason, these trees, some still with tinsel on the branches, made me view the city as a morgue and a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness and despair would replace the holiday happy from a few days before. The trees of all shapes and sizes, some tall and skinny, others short and more full, ugly Charlie Brown trees, and beautiful prize worthy ones, whatever fit into the lives of the former owners’ apartment spaces, had now served their purpose and lay, most of them without bags, on the cold New York City sidewalks, atop their own fallen needles. They were once connected to and nurtured by the earth, then worshipped and adorned with beautiful decorations… a proud centerpiece in the apartments, the holiday, and now tossed out like garbage. Actually, that’s exactly what they had become. Garbage. Although I never, ever, bought a real tree after my first Christmas in New York, I certainly don’t make any judgment on those that chose the natural over the unnatural; that’s not what this is about. I know that for every tree cut down, others are planted and farms grow trees just for Christmas pleasure. It is not a moral choice for me; it’s an emotion. I know real trees look much more beautiful, fully decorated, than the artificial ones, and I do love the smell of pine, but the memories of those discarded trees piled many feet high like dead bodies awaiting their disposal left too much of an impact on me, too much of a sadness, not because of the waste, but because of the abandoned love. From the pedestal to the street. Beauty completely stripped to nothingness. Life to death.

I’ve been feeling similar emotions recently, but not due to Christmas trees. I feel so much pain and sadness, all around me and not all mine. Being so easily connected through social media and website magazines, Damon’s story has reached out past the community in which we live to a much larger audience. Because of this, I’ve been connected to many new friends and reconnected to many old friends, so many of whom are affected either themselves or through family members by traumatic brain injury, death, or just horrible diseases. In our pre accident life I never would have crossed paths with most of these people. In our pre accident life I would never have been able to so deeply feel their pain. So many have reached out to us to share their own stories, looking both for inspiration from our journey and hoping to add support to theirs. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

The Tunnel of Trauma.

December 3, 2014

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By Karen Pyros-Szatkowski. 

I lost my son on December 3, 2011.

My sweet, cheerful boy with his contagious grin, ever helping hand, and heart of pure gold was gone in the instant his car slammed into the stone wall. What was left after intensive surgeries was an unmoving, minimally conscious body, kept alive only with the help of machines, monitors, wires, and loud, piercing bells. What was left according to medical charts and the doctors in their own insensitive words, was a vegetable, was no hope, was a severe case of traumatic brain injury. What was left was not the boy I knew and loved and mothered for 17 years. I still had a warm body, but on that day I lost Damon.

Damon’s story, is a story of faith, a mother’s healing love, gut instinct, blind hope, miracles. It is the story of the rippling effects traumatic brain injury has on family and friends. But most importantly, it’s the story of an amazing boy who just refuses to give up, who faces each day with resilience, determination, and a heart bursting with so much appreciation for life.

Damon lives at home with me and his two beautiful sisters who have each played a major role in his recovery. He has made huge strides in his recovery, but still has a full journey ahead. Today marks three years of progress. Three years of loss. Three years of hope. And three more years we have been able to enjoy Damon. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

What You Will Learn From This: Living With Head and Brain Injury.

October 6, 2014

By Jane Ratcliffe.

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1. Some people will refuse to believe that there’s anything wrong with you. They will accuse you of pretending to be sick for attention, even though you had plenty of attention in your life before the table top that was mounted on the wall fell on your head (or you got in that car accident, et cetera). They will counsel people not to help you, they will explain to them that helping you with your myriad terrifying symptoms is akin to enabling a drug addict; help will only encourage you to fake your illness longer. What you will learn from this: You’ll learn how to swaddle the voice that spends hours (and hours) each day defending itself to your accuser in soft, warm blankets and hold it to your breast rocking it gently like the frightened baby that it is. You will learn how to hear your soul and spirit shouting to you through the (temporarily?) out-of-whack channels of your brain, calling out over the cries of the baby, that your naysayer’s truth is not your truth, no matter how forceful their voice is. You will slowly excavate Your Truth from the dark, neglected chambers of your heart. You will discover how to let others say what they will about you while you’re still sick and heal anyway.

2. Most people will believe you, but they won’t really “get it”—so they’ll drift away until you’re better. Or they’ll get it, but you’re like a drowning person grasping at anything stable—and just because they don’t have head or brain injury doesn’t mean they’re consistently on steady ground. So they may drift in and out depending upon circumstances. This will hurt, but you’ll reflect upon your own life and all the times somebody else’s suffering was too much for you to carry. Or the times you judged someone’s suffering as symptomatic of character flaws—some of which were annoying enough that you secretly considered that perhaps they deserved their struggles, that if they were better people they wouldn’t have these struggles and, really, it wasn’t up to you to fix that mess. And that just as you have been put aside now, so too did you put aside others. What you will learn from this: Compassion. We are all suffering. You haven’t been singled out. Listen. Watch. Study others. No one is without fear. You will learn to hold their fear in your cleaned-up, cleared-out heart, and you’ll discover that the compassion you generate for their fear has the power to dissipate your fear as well. And likewise, the compassion you learn to generate for yourself (because you need it more than you initially realize) makes it easier to be present to another’s suffering which, well, makes it easier to be present to your own. And so on.

Continue Reading…

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