One year ago tomorrow my sister’s husband Brian suffered a traumatic brain injury from a fainting spell at home. I awoke that morning to numerous missed calls and texts from both of my sisters in FL that he was in the trauma unit at UF Shands Hospital in Jacksonville fighting for his life.
And that morning I had to get to the farm for our 2nd annual Peacehaven Farm Walk – a fundraising event I was in charge of. As they say, “the show must go on,” and there was not much I could do for Brian being 500 miles away. I managed to keep it together and lean on my amazing coworkers so we could pull it all off, checking text messages off and on all day. It was a beautiful day at the farm and the event was a success.
Many of you followed along while Brian was in ICU. After two brain surgeries, he was in a coma for 10 days, surely the scariest days our family has ever experienced. Storming – erratic body temps, erratic heart rates, and violent shivering – became the scary norm for a week or so as his brain and body worked on overtime to heal. Miraculously, he came out of his coma on Day 11, and his recovery from that day forward was on supersonic speed. Today he is perfectly healthy – minus hearing in his left ear (site of impact) and minus the ability to taste and smell. Cognitively he is back. Emotionally he is back. Physically he is back. If you don’t believe in miracles, let me tell you more about Brian’s story. The power of prayer, along with the power of modern medicine, along with the power of God is the stuff of miracles!
I was able to visit Brian, my sister Leslie, and other beloved family members, the weekend after the accident. Brian looked like this monster of a man — Superman, really — as he lay in the ICU bed. (He is a Marine Corps Veteran, a triathlete, and 6’5″, so of course he looked like Superman!) Leslie was holding up as best as one could expect. They had a 15-year-old and a 2-year-old at home, boys needing their mom and dad. He didn’t know I was there (although he now tells a story about a dream he had while in ICU that includes North Carolina … hhhmmm), but I was glad to be with Leslie and the others who were gathered and pulling for him. While at my parent’s house, I remember talking to them and saying, “Well, statistically, brain injuries like this aren’t horribly common, so surely this is the only one we’ll have in our family.” God knows, I hope and pray that is true.
And now, here we sit one year later, dealing with a cancer diagnosis in our family. I wish I could say “surely, this will be the only one in our family” but it’s actually #2 in my immediate family, as my mom is a breast cancer survivor. The American Cancer Society reports that 1 in every 2 American men will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime; and 1 in every 3 American women. So I am surmising that this is just the stuff of life. The dips, rises and falls of the roller coaster are just part of it. An accident, an injury, a disease, a trauma, despair, loss, death … these are all on the menu for us humans. The menu awaits and usually we don’t get to choose, we are just served up one or more of the options along our ride. If we’re lucky, it’s only one.
As Don and I talked before his biopsy procedure on March 1, when we really had no idea what could be ahead, I said, “Well, whatever it is, we can handle it. It won’t be as scary as what Brian went through.” That is not to diminish anything we had ahead, but to remind us that our people have been through tough times before and we can make it through tough times again. That’s what we do as humans and as a family. We support each other and hold hands when the ride gets bumpy.
Cheers to Brian and Leslie! One year later – a picture of health with many more years ahead. Hallelujah!
Pictured: Brave people who are no strangers to scary moments a.k.a. our people. Reese, Dan, Carol, Brian, Leslie, Becky, Josh. This was at the A Night for Heroes gala in January, the annual event that benefits UF Health TraumaOne, where Brian was the 2017 patient honoree. You can read more about Brian’s story here.