I have a son who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was 11. My fear, once we knew he would make it, was that he could lose some cognitive function. He had been accepted to an accelerated school that would allow him to skip two grades and put him in the company of other gifted kids. Well, he is fine. He's a sixteen year-old college freshman now, and hopes to go to med school when he finishes undergrad. My own little Doogie Howser.
There has been fallout from his injury. He had ADHD before the injury, and it didn't exactly go away. We were warned that he could become more impulsive...whoooeeee, was that true! He was slow to develop a social filter, and sometimes still blurts out exactly what he is thinking, without considering that talking about someone else's bodily functions at dinner with Grandma may not be appropriate. But these are small potatoes. He kept his big heart, his amazing sense of humor, and his overactive imagination.
Anyway, it was one of those big events that changed our family: "Before the Big Bonk" and "After the Big Bonk" is one way we mark time.
I followed a thread through the internet the other day... a book review lead to an author I wanted to check out, which led to a blog, which lead to another blog, and I found myself here:
Being the Wife (Widow) of a Wounded Marine
And I haven't been able to escape.
This is a blog written by a woman (Karie) whose brand-spanking new husband was injured in Iraq, and the blog is her diary, starting about two years after the injury.
I spent a good portion of Friday evening and Saturday afternoon glued to my computer screen, reading posts (starting at the beginning), and I'm not even halfway through. I have shed quite a few tears for Karie and Cleve, and I suspect I haven't even gotten close to the hard part (because, as the title indicates, Cleve didn't make it). Cleve was injured by an IED and suffered an amputation, TBI and PTSD, followed by depression, addiction, sleep apnea... and the injuries were not just to Cleve. The fallout of this shit is pretty widespread. Karie wondered if she could also have PTSD because of what happened to Cleve. I'm not a licensed mental health provider, but I have to say, "Uh, Yeah."
Writers of fiction, especially romantic fiction, love to take these injuries and use them in our stories--we love a damaged hero, right? In our stories, we get to fix things. In real life, the love of a good woman isn't enough.
This girl, Karie, has more courage than I can possibly imagine--both for sticking around to deal with what happened to her husband, and for sharing her feelings so clearly with the world. When my son was hurt, we were enrolled in a study about the effects of TBI on the family, and had to answer all these questions about how much stress we were under because of it. I had a hard time with that--life is stressful! I had kids aged 8, 11 and 13--there was ALWAYS stress.
After spending time with Karie and Cleve, I can say that what we went through was NOTHIN".
What is really staggering is that what Karie and Cleve went through, and what Karie still goes through (even though I haven't read through to the current posts) is not unique. Thousands of soldiers and their families have been destroyed by the war on terror. That totally breaks my heart over and over. There isn't much I can do except throw money at the problem, but thankfully, there are plenty of organizations that help families with living expenses, caregiver support, life management skill development. It's not enough, we can't go back and undo the damage, but we can get in there and try to help.
And say "Thank You" Cleve, for making my world safer, and Karie, for reminding me to be grateful.