Brain Injury Awareness – A Survivor’s story 50 Years Later

Wow! This photo is from 1972. I was in a body cast from the chest down and had to sleep a lot. Prior to the TBI, I slept on the top bunk in a room I shared with a sibling. There was no lifting me that high so I spent much of my recovery on the couch. Mom slept in a nearby recliner. Traumatic Brain Injury as a child meant that my saying “I don’t remember my early childhood” wasn’t at all unusual to declare. Even abled folks in their 50s say, “I can’t remember back that far”. My parents worked hard in my rehab and by third grade I was back in school. I would eventually become deaf and acquire a vestibular disorder, but I had a terrific childhood living on a farm in rural Colorado.

Fast forward 50 years. TBI, like many traumatic injuries, is “the gift that keeps on giving”. I don’t even mean that in a particularly snarky way, as my disabilities have opened up so many opportunities for me during me life. The downside, however, is that when the brain is injured in a significant way a survivor will always have repercussions. For me, it meant 11 concussions, broken fingers, hands, toes and numerous hospital visits. It has meant learning disabilities and cognitive challenges. It meant that it took me 16 years to finish all my degrees. It has meant a very real struggle to stay on top of serious depression and anxiety.

Having fought, struggled, and persevered, having cried, grieved, and given up SO MANY TIMES, on this side of having survived 50 years, I can say “My Life Matters“. For over 3 decades, I have used something “bad” for something very, very GOOD. I am an advocate, a teacher, a passionate voice for those who often have no voice. My TBI gifted me with my “calling”, and became the impetus to fight the fight for those with disabilities.

I am one of the lucky ones, however. Are you a parent? Research and gear up with all the knowledge that you can about how to keep your child’s head safe in play, team sports, and recreational activities. Treat concussions seriously, even mild ones. Don’t hesitate to enjoy life, but enjoy it safely. Enjoy it while protecting that wonderful brain of yours. You cannot put a cast on a brain and hope it heals straight. Preventative measures are all we can do.

Happy Brain Injury Awareness Month!

L. Denise Portis, Ph.D.

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