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Brain Day No. 50

Brain Day No. 50
 

BRAIN DAY # 50

By Michael J. Herman

What if the lights went out and the darkness lasted so long that your young mind couldn't comprehend what was happening to you?

What of the power to move even an inch went away and you were stuck motionless, in the dark, helpless, scared, and confused?

What if all this happened and your only choice was to keep going forward, in complete obscurity, and utter aloneness?

What would you do?

What could you do?

This might have been just another Labor Day to you, but for me, it's Half a Century of beating the Odds. Obstacles are part of life. Without them we cannot evolve and adapt. But when obstacles come all at once like a conquering army set upon your head the downfall of all time, it takes a lot   to cope, let alone overcome.

It started out as normal a day as any for me, that 5 year old boy playing, climbing, and exploring with friend and neighbor #AndreaFeller. We were children set out to have fun.

We ran and laughed chasing each other like kids do. Until in the rafters of my parent's garage, the flooring gave way and to the concrete slab below I went, head-first and head last.

Out cold!

Injured.

Motionless

Unconscious

Rushed to the ER for 4 days of exploratory brain surgeries to find bleeding and relieve inner cranial pressures.

Day 5: COMA, where I laid slivers from death for 57 days.

With my large family by my side the entire time no one could know which way the odds would turn. Doctors doubted my survivability. Rabbis were summoned to offer final prayers. Little hope was given and little could be found. For some reason I was sent back from Oblivion.

 

 

Then, like being led back by the hand of God, I opened my eyes and sat up in the hospital bed.

Paralyzed.

Aphasiac.

Blind.

A list of neurologic dysfunctions and other obstacles that seemed utterly insurmountable filled clipboard after clipboard at the end of the hospital bed.

With Chins addressing the ground for weeks: "He'll never survive."

I did.

Heads shook side-to-side. "He'll never walk, speak, or see" announced Specialist after Specialist. "It's just never happened. A child this young cannot survive this kind of trauma. He'll be lucky if he's only a vegetable" offered Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, NY.

But what could I do? Trapped in a sarcophagus called a body that didn't work, all I wanted was to get back to normal. All I wanted was to get back on my feet and a million other issues.

It wasn't easy. Relearning how to speak and move my mouth so that actual words came out and not just dribbles of incoherency. Remembering how to eat, drink, and swallow, and even how to give   a kiss were challenges.

I remember the therapists giving me a walker to relearn how to balance and eventually walk. I remember throwing that piece of metal garbage across the aisle insisting "I will walk on my own or I won't walk at all! You can't walk for me."

Can you imagine a five year old saying that to a trained medical professional? Who did I think I was? Some sort of superman?

YES!

So with every attempt at a step came the vertical slam on the floor.  With every stand to my feet came a lesson in gravity that reacquainted me with the floor. And every time I was sure I could do it right, came the shattering reality of failure.

Until, one day, climbing to my feet and finally finding balance, I took a step and           fell down.

I climbed up again, took a step, and fell down.

I took a step, and then another step.

It was not learning how to walk that was the challenge. It was learning how not to fall. Turns out there are lots of ways to fall, but only a few ways how not to.

A step, and another, and another… Until walking was no longer in front of me.

Surprisingly though, it has not been the physical effects of TBI that have been the greatest block, but the simple gift of sight. It's a gift that continually gives and takes away. It's an ally. It's a traitor. It's a blessing and it's a curse. It's a truth teller and a fraud. The anxiety that grows as vision returns and retreats, morphs and expands, stays and changes can sometimes make the world seem upside-down.

Through focused drive and unrelenting discipline the speech and paralysis gradually lessened, until they disappeared. Leaving me in a world for me to conquer of visual kaleidoscopes of distortion, perversion, and madness-making barriers and a lifetime of reinvention, adaptation, and rediscoveries.

Self effacing crushes that make you question your very worth filled with deep inquiries as to what it takes and what you're willing to do; how far and how long you'll drive to get what you want defined a lifetime of compensating and resiliency.

Every limitation was invisible and totally unknown to "Professionals" how to master and finding their solutions was a never ending singular challenge left only to me to solve.

 Never for one moment for 50 years have visual had realities remained a constant. Never have I taken for granted the sublime gift of sight, always knowing how fleeting it can be. When people have asked along the way, "How do you keep going and do what you do?" I always answered, "There's only one way up and that's where I'm going."

Albeit liars, frauds, and wizards, my eyes misrepresent reality and distort prisms of vision and interpretation have led the way as I have learned through trial and error how to discern the truths from the distortions.

Neurological ticks that plagued my body for almost a decade were deemed "Incurable" and yet, when it came to my attention that they even existed, within weeks they were harnessed, controlled, and banished. Proving once again, the solutions are in the will and not in the won'ts. Vision oddities and maladies like Tunnel Vision and Prosopagnosia keep me humble.

What I have learned these past 50 years is that Disability never stops teaching. As long as the brain keeps absorbing, the consciousness can overcome and succeed.

*Look down past the bottom or you'll fall.

BAM!

*Look to the side past where your vision ends or you'll crash into another person, car, or find a downward staircase.

CRASH!

*Be patient. Things take time and you can't rush healing… Not even after 50 years.

But I've never been patient and chances are good I never will be.

*You don't own your disability, it has the advantage. The key is to overcome more times than you fail.

There were many a time when I wondered when will this "shit" end? When will I finally be able to take it easy and just be? Not have to worry about seeing the whole picture; Not have to worry about peripheral vision hazards; Learning as fast as the other kids;   Or doing something as mundane as picking up a coin with my left hand? When will it end and can I get there now?

Constant frustrations of dealing with ever evolving deficits have provided a lifetime of training in how to compensate, multi task, adapt, and succeed.

And what of the millions upon millions stumbles, breakdowns, collapses, and reinventions that have happened along the way? I would not have made it this far without my pit crew.

The people, family, friends, teachers, coaches, teammates, and even opponents who have driven me through and over Traumatic Brain Injury Hill are really the heroes here. They have stood by while I fell, stumbled, plummeted, crashed, burned, broke, and cracked, and then fixed me to fight on to climb, overcome, and achieve. Not once, but over and over again.

I was always cognizant from the very beginning that the situation could be worse. Seeing this as an advantage, I used the perspective "It's not that bad" to drive myself through the blinding rain and treachery of trauma and crisis to regular and consistent places of safe harbor.

Even though no one could tell the subtleties, I could and I celebrated all of them.

More time on one foot? Amazing!

Finding and pointing to the doctor's flashlight correctly? Superb!

Speaking without spitting? Better!

Holding a marble without it rolling on the floor? Success!

The names are too vast to list, but they start with my family, they list friends and advisors, they include teachers, coaches, business partners, and customers, and most of all, the gifts given directly by the All Mighty Himself.

Having survived and prospered despite all this and more, I'm left humbled and honored to be a successful multiple published author, renown Motivational Speaker, helping others find their Complete Champions.

While I was in a world of my own, traveling a trek no one could understand, my family, friends, teachers, doctors, therapists, and community was right there the whole time.

I now know that it's not the hardware that stops anyone. Parts can be fixed and in today's Science replaced, it's the software that runs the show. It's the spirit to compete, to challenge, to refuse failure, and to reach for the life that is there, if you fight for it. Ask anyone who has mastered their way up a mountain and they will tell you the mountain is won and lost in your mind.

As I stand at the 50 Year mark of Traumatic Brain injury,  reminded every day by the bumps and lumps, the hopes and misses, the vagaries, confusions, and frustrations that never lessen or soften, I'm reminded with each new stumble that you're only as good as your commitment to overcome it.

I do not publish this to say look at me.

I do not publish this Anniversary of dread to elevate myself, but rather to reinterpret the severity and size of the obstacles on your path.

I've always believed that I am greater, stronger, and more able than any limitation or barrier that attempts to stop or slow me. I travel this big blue ball in an ever attempt to bring this kind of fight out of others and to keep it burning inside of me.

So come with me today to celebrate BRAIN DAY # 50, 2021.

Join me in my clarion call, I've Only Just Begun!

Michael J. Herman Mr. Motivation® © 2021 Michael J. Herman All Rights Reserved

Please let me know if and how I can be of value.
 
Michael J. Herman, Speaker-Writer-Author-Entrepreneur
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