Brain injury can happen to anyone at anytime, and it does.
New Mexicans living with brain injury are all ages and come from diverse cultural backgrounds. They share common feelings and experiences as they cope with the challenges of living with their injuries. The people below are 7 of the 8 stories highlighted on the documentary “every 21 seconds…” a 60 minute film telling the stories New Mexicans living with brain injury, a project funded by the Brain Injury Advisory Council.
To order a complimentary copy of “every 21 seconds…” call NM Brain Injury Advisory Council at 505-476-7328.
Chloe was an angel of a child with a sweet smile and an endearing laugh. She was severely injured when she was shaken by her birth mother’s boyfriend. Since the filming of the documentary she led a quiet life surrounded by her loving adoptive family. Chloe recently passed away and leaves a legacy of hope and courage. As a result of her participation in “every 21 seconds…” and other public awareness campaigns her story influenced grass roots advocacy efforts, increased public awareness and helped design brain injury specific service delivery in the state of New Mexico.
Joe was partying with friends and took a drive in his dad’s Corvette. He was hit by a drunk driver and thrown from the car. Since his brain injury, he has served time in prison. Today, he is learning to control the anger that got him in trouble. “I just want to get my life together,” he says. “More than all the fun things, I just want my life to be normal. I want to be able to feel good about myself one of these days and be proud and know that all these things I’ve been through—the head injury, the prison, are behind me. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Charlie was a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard. He was escorting a supply convoy near Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded right by his Hummer. Today he struggles to deal with his injury and with the stress of combat. “Some days I can’t distinguish the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the head injury,” he says. “The PTSD can be cured, but the head injury, I don’t know. It’s just going to take time.” A proud member of the military, he has no regrets.
Joe remembers returning to the corral after a fun family ride. He was thrown from his horse and woke up in an ambulance. A former probation officer, who took pride in his education and his job, he can no longer work. He is deeply frustrated. “Sometimes when I’m home alone and the depression and loneliness and probably self pity overwhelm me, I begin to cry,” he says. “I don’t want to feel the tears rolling down my face, so I will lean over and bow my head so they fall straight down. I search the puddle on the floor looking for the pain the tears are supposed to wash away, but all I see is a puddle of tears.”
Jessica, now a talented artist, was a passenger in a car that hit a tree when she was a teen. She was in a coma for four weeks. “First it was a thick grey fog, then it started to lift and hover like cataracts,” she remembers. “Then it was now, and now is sort of like white, but you stand out and everybody sees you stand out and you know you will never fit in. You have been where no one else has.”
Barbara fell on a sidewalk after getting off a city bus. She has become an advocate for people with brain-injuries and resumed much of her former life. But she still walks with a cane and longs to dance. “I loved to dance,” she says, “and I couldn’t dance at all. I dream of dancing and I feel so happy when I’ve dreamed of it because of that lightness.” Tears come to her eyes. “I just truly miss my old self.”
Bryan was assaulted and badly beaten. When he got out of the hospital, he had trouble concentrating and performing even simple tasks. “The only way I could put it is that it felt like I was housesitting in me—that this wasn’t really me, that this was a place I stayed.” He has made great progress in his recovery. “For those that have head injuries, stick it out,” he says. “It’ll get better.”