Just When I Least Expected It

This is a copy of my first post on Facebook in March.  It was, for many, the very first time they had heard this story. Even for those that knew, they didn’t know the depths nor the details. I have never felt such love as I did when I began to read the comments that people shared with me having read my post.  Today, I share it on my blog, not within the safety of my FB friends list, but open on the web, for anyone to read. This is a big leap for me.

The seizure took me by surprise. It had been six months since my accident that left me with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. I was finally beginning to learn how to face the world again. Brain injury is a curious thing. On the outside I looked the same. Beneath the surface, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was completely different. Nothing was routine anymore and I could not remember anything. I had to keep notes in order to recall my birthday, my children’s birthdates and even my own home phone number. I would wake up each morning and put a sticky note on the phone with the current date and where my kids were that day. Justin was in Elementary School so usually I knew where he was. Hunter was almost two and naturally I wanted him to be with me as much as possible. The problem was that I couldn’t remember when he was with me or when he was at daycare.  I remember being downstairs and being frightened by his sudden appearance in the room because I had forgotten he was at home. If he was at daycare I would run frantically to his room multiple times each day looking for him. We decided it was safest for him to go to daycare everyday, at least until I had learned to cope with my new world. If I became confused during the day I learned to go to the phone and everything I needed to know was listed there. I remember the first time I went to the grocery store and I stood in the produce section with an empty cart and I had no idea how to go about filling the cart. I left the store empty handed with my head hung low and tears streaming down my face. I didn’t feel like I even knew who I was anymore. My body was the same, but my brain, my very own brain that I had always known, was suddenly foreign territory.

I took a leave from work and worked hard to recover from my brain trauma and go through extensive cognitive rehabilitation. In six months I was finally making positive steps in recovery. I was learning to accept the changes and I was learning to incorporate strategies to compensate for my deficiencies. And then, just when I thought I could manage to face a day without as many sticky notes and reminders….the seizure that brought another new diagnosis.

I remember looking across the rack of clothes in Gymboree at my two year old and thinking to myself “I’m in trouble and I need help. I need someone to help me. I need someone to help my son!” I tried to speak but nothing would come out of my mouth. I desperately wanted to get the attention of the people in the store, but I couldn’t. Then, I remember staring up into the lights in the ceiling and crying out for my baby boy. The Gymboree manager was staring deep into my eyes with a calm spirit and a gentle voice. She repeatedly told me that he was ok. From the corner of my eye I could see his stroller and he was surrounded by women who had come to our aid and distracted him from the scene that had just unfolded. There must have been four or five women smiling at him, singing to him, covering him head to toe in stickers and batting balloons back and forth with him. He was fine. I was not, but I didn’t know why. I wanted to get up but my head was pounding, my shoulder was hurt and I could barely speak because my tongue hurt so much(I had chomped down on it very hard during the seizure).  There was chaos and confusion. I could hear people talking on two-way radios and cell phones. I was scared and confused. I tried to stay focused on the young store manager with the gentle voice. She kept telling me to stay still and help was on the way. The EMT arrived quickly and started asking me as well as everyone in the store a gazillion questions. If you are going to have an emergency, evidently it is helpful to do so in a new mall with state of the art security and a complete emergency response plan in place. I thought to myself “Ok, you have got to be kidding me! Am I on candid camera? Is this a dream….or maybe a nightmare? I finally got up the nerve to venture outside of my safety zone and go try going somewhere new, on my own…and THIS is what happens? I just wanted to check the clearance rack in Gymboree!” I heard a familiar voice and arched my neck back towards the front of the store. I wanted to be sure the face matched the voice. Yes, it was Johnny!  After my accident, I programmed his phone number as the “In Case of Emergency” contact in my cell phone and I had put his contact information directly underneath my driver’s license in my wallet. Someone in the store called him right away. He rushed to the mall and flagged down security in the parking lot and told them he had received a call from Gymboree. Security said they knew about the situation and escorted him right to my side. He was with me within minutes of my seizure. I remember Johnny’s calm demeanor and easy, but controlled voice telling me that I had a seizure and that everything was going to be ok. Ah yes, another escort in the ambulance for me while Johnny was off and running to farm out our kids to our relatives and then meet me at the hospital. Here we go…again. I was tired of this becoming the new normal in our life.

 Somehow, given the events of the previous six months, the current circumstances probably should not have been a surprise. Regardless, I was surprised by the seizure and even more surprised that a slip and fall would lead to Epilepsy. Now I had a chronic condition that would require medicine for the rest of my life. To say the seizure was a setback in my recovery from the initial brain injury is an understatement. This was only the beginning of a journey I did not choose, but one which God chose for me. It’s only now that I’m beginning to understand why He has taken me on this long road and how I can still flourish, even within my own safe world.

 Why am I telling this story now?  In the last six years few people had a room with a view my world. I’ve spent years paddling through muddy water and I’m finally beginning to see clear beautiful water ahead. A dear friend suggested I start putting my thoughts on paper and sharing my experience. It may only help me to digest my life, or maybe it will help someone else. Perhaps it is simply that for several years I functioned under the false belief that I should keep my injury and my diagnosis a secret. That false belief delayed my ability to recover and it’s time to make some changes. I am not damaged goods. In fact I am a better person having been through these experiences. I still have lots to learn, lots of positive things to share and beautiful family and friends to walk this road with me.

© Gatewood Campbell, June 2011

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3 thoughts on “Just When I Least Expected It

  1. Sandra N Rich says:

    Gatewood, just know that you are in my prayers and know that the Lord does lead you during these difficult times. You and Amy should communicate often and help each other. Ya’ll have so much in common now; more so than when you were in school together. May God Bless You and keep you safe.

  2. Julie Foster says:

    Dear Gatewood, I do wish I’d known what you were going through. I would have included you in my prayers~but you’re there now, that’s the important thing. I can truly relate to part of this posting ~ as you know I have a brain tumor that is in-operable and lately it is causing me some issues. Memory being the worst. The last time I went to Harris Teeter for the “big” order, I was in there over 3 hours and I too stood there crying inside the store, outside the store and stared at every isle like I was waiting for my buggy to fill on it’s own. I came home with only part of what we needed and a bruised ego. I don’t want to return. There’s one of my meds that I think could be the cause of the early memory loss; I’m just not sure. Looking for a good neurologist now… God Bless you and I truly like your blog..You are very couragious. You are a good wirter and a wonderful example of a Godly woman..I will keep you in my prayers, stay strong 🙂 Love, Julie

    • Julie – Thanks so much for your thoughtful words and for letting me know I’m not alone. You are one of the blessings I have discovered in allowing people to see into my world. Now I know there are people who do indeed understand. Grocery shopping is the worst, but I do feel like I’ve accomplished something when I get it done. My speech therapist gave me a shopping list that is organized just like the store and I can write down things as I run out. That makes it a bit easier to go down the list. You are a real trooper and a fighter! You stay strong too!!!

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