TBI Island. It's an imaginary place we came up with during our many hours sitting in the hospital as we wondered about Neil's future. In this isolated paradise, brain-injured individuals and their families could live comfortably without having to explain disabilities and social awkwardness. Everyone would be able to relate and commiserate. There'd be no staring, no snickering behind someone's back. Each person could find a partner who had had a similar experience and who understood what they were going through.
Oh, but we'd miss our friends in the real world! We would probably start to resent the isolation. So maybe the island isn't such a good idea after all.
Fortunately for us, we are finding compromises. Fitting back into reality has brought Neil tremendous help in the form of education and therapy. Though his peer friendships have been harder to maintain, he has learned to appreciate the company of his family, and to enjoy relationships with therapists, teachers, and assistants. And we've all been thriving on the love and compassion of family and those who have reached out to us in kindness.
But there is a community for us. Linda is my favorite friend from Kessler. She and I love to visit--laughing and crying together as Neil and Paul, her husband, work hard to heal under the caring guidance of their therapists. Russ is a young man whose accident six years ago left him with obstacles that seemed insurmountable. He is an inspiration to us as we see his amazing progress and his continued determination. We are happy to call him and his family our friends. We have spoken often about Glen and Regina. We're grateful for their friendship and the understanding we share. We've never met Gabe, but we have followed his progress with interest and have felt a connection ever since we learned about his circumstances through a mutual friend.
And there are others--all brought to a common understanding through life-changing experiences. Although I grieve for each family, I am thankful for their inspiration, their friendships, their examples.
Today, I dedicate this post to our friend Mike. He was a patient at Kessler from the time Neil first began as an outpatient. He was always kind and friendly, calling Neil by name even before Neil could recognize he was being spoken to. He inspired us with his determination and his amazing attitude. Mike's battle with brain cancer ended last month. We miss him and send our prayers of love and comfort to his family. You're our hero, Mike!