Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Too Fast Now Furious

Artie was in his bed, his ears pasted back, his eyes droopy. He was scared. In the other room, Aimee sat in her white oversized robe trying to stop her tears long enough to finish putting on her makeup. In the living room the cats hid underneath the old oak record player. I stood in the kitchen with my teeth clenched. I hit the wall with the side of my fist. I screamed out in anger. By the time Aimee came out of the room to check on me, I was on the couch crying.

"I'm losing it. I am fucking overwhelmed. I can't think straight," I said to her. This was the climax. The point when the frustration over my new life, my new weaknesses, exploded.

The frustration had been mounting for weeks. Not having focus, or getting sidetracked each day with some new meaningless task, or the constant fucking thoughts about this injury, about my inabilities, about my fatigue; it mixed with everyday stress.

Three days into it, burdened by the depression, I told Aimee that I needed a break. I told her that going back to work six days after waking from the coma, rushing to get back to my life, avoiding idle time, wasn't an easy strategy for a hard recovery. Looking back, I see my errant ways and I fear that only now am I beginning to pay for them.

I see that I am unable to say no to new things. I see that I am unable to switch tasks. I see that I can't control my thoughts. I notice how weak my mind is. I see the ironies; being 'unable to switch tasks' is more than getting fixated on a little project, it's getting fixated on my overall routine, my new life, depressed and stressed.

And while this weekend's little breakdown resulted in some tears for Aimee, some uneasiness for Artie and the cats, I worry what it might turn into not only for them but for me as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Celeb With A Dented In Head

I stepped up to the counter to pay the cashier the ten bucks for a car wash. A lady in her twenties stood at the register. She took my slip and stared at me.

"It's you," she said. "It's you."

"It is," I said, not sure how to respond. "It's me."

"It was you wrote the article..."

"Yeah, yeah, that was me."

Tears welled up in her eyes. She started to cry. She said her friend was in the hospital when the story came out. She told me her and her boyfriend cried while they read the story. They just got a new puppy and her boyfriend always ran the dog next to his skateboard. That ended after they read my story.

I was speechless. I didn't know how to respond. All I could say was thanks. She said I looked good. I took it that she meant that I looked better with a complete cranium.

These past 7 months have been the strangest months of my life. I'm not sure how to move on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shudder To Think

We watched Shudder Island last night. It was disturbing. Not because it was scary but because it made me feel crazy. The movie brought back memories from when I was in the coma, or when I was coming out of it. I felt like the main character living a false memory.

The memories seemed so real and still do. They were vivid and they lasted for what seemed to be days. I still can describe the faces, the places, the anxiety, and the pain. Whether I was a newscaster, a documentary film maker
, or, a prisoner held against my will, they were my only reality during weeks of nothing.

We paused the movie and I asked Aimee about those memories. She said it was called confabulation. It results from a cerebral disconnection. She reached for her computer and read from a website. "Patients recovering from coma after a traumatic brain injury often start by retaining bits and pieces of information; hallucinations" she read.

It was strange watching a movie about mental illness and actually understanding what that means. It made me realize that I will never be removed from it. I am disturbed to think that those false memories will haunt me for the rest of my life. I'll carry them along like childhood memories. It freaks me out that on the outside no one will ever tell that anything happened but on the inside I will always have those false realities waiting to resurface.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Ride...

It's been eight days since the newspaper with my face on the cover was replaced with a new edition and yet, the response continues. I found out yesterday that the story is getting a thousand hits per day, making it the most read story so far this year. I never expected to reach a wider audience. I'm amazed it's happened.

I received this message today from a school teacher in a different city in the county:

I am a middle school teacher. I read your amazing story "Broken Skull, Broken Heart" and just had to share it with my students and the other english teachers I work with in 7th grade. My students and I read your entire story. It took us a week and a half to get through it, but it was like a reward to them. When we were finished with our other work they begged to continue reading about your crash and recovery. They were incredibly taken by your inner strength and Aimee's love and support. I lost a student 2 years ago to a skateboarding accident, so my students are very aware of the severity of these types of brain injuries. Would you consider coming to speak to our class or classes? We would very much love to have you here and be able to meet you.

This is the first time in my life that I feel like I am doing something for the greater good. Too bad it took me nearly losing my life to do so.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


While a four piece country band played in the background, we stood in line next to the bar waiting to purchase two tickets for “Chicken Shit Bingo.” I turned to Aimee, who stood behind me.

“I love it here," she said with a huge smile on her face. "Let’s move to Austin." Aimee picks the funniest moments to show her appreciation for places, such as while standing in line for Chicken Shit Bingo.

After we bought our tickets, we stood outside drinking Lone Star beers. We stayed there while the crowd stood around the makeshift bingo table waiting for the chicken to shit on a number. The chicken picked the wrong number.

It was the perfect way to end our four-day trip to Austin.

The trip started off at some bar on 6th Avenue that supposedly serves the "best" burgers. We stuck to our guns that night and ordered a veggie burger and fries. By the time we were done, the patio was full with dozens of old friends from as far back as 20 years, some of which I hadn't seen in half that time. We drank beers. Some had shots. We all smoked cigarettes as we laughed at the old days and caught up on the new ones. Most asked me about my brain with worried faces.

That night ended for us at last call. It ended for the others when the sun came up; the same way most nights were spent.

Some highlights of the trip: A rehearsal dinner at the world famous, Salt Lick Barbecue, or as I referred to it as; "The Great Salt Lick," poolside with beers, Chicken Shit Bingo, Barton Springs.

Austin got the best of us during our exhausting four day trip. Most days were spent trying to meet the requirements that one must do when in Austin such as eat barbecue, despite not eating meat or lacking the sense of taste; drink beer and smoke cigs, even if your tolerance is low; and swim in Barton Springs.

We did all of these things and more. A well-needed vacation. Of all the highlights, hanging out with childhood friends and watching my old friend tie the knot with a new friend topped the list.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Doctor Stone Strikes Back...

I would have died if not for my doctors and nurses at Scripps Mercy. The damage inflicted on my brain would have been much worse if not for those same doctors and nurses. I appreciate all they did and what they do for a living.

When I was transferred to another hospital for in-patient rehabilitation I had a new doctor. I wrote about him in this post and in several others. I didn't like him for several reasons. Despite the drugs and the damage, I didn't hear anything in his voice or I couldn't see anything in his eyes that showed any kindness. I saw status. I saw a conceited, smug man.

I remember as my frustration grew, I requested a meeting with Dr. Stone. He sat down on a chair next to my bed. He looked annoyed. I asked him if he was going to write my concerns down. He said no and then reluctantly took out a sheet of paper. I told him I wasn't benefiting from the rehab. I told him I wasn't learning anything about my condition. He left the room after I was finished. My family was waiting in the hallway. He shook his head and said something about my poor attitude.

I mentioned him, not by name, in the article. He wrote the following letter to the editor.

What An Insult

I was insulted by your article “Broken Skull, Broken Heart” (Cover Story, April 22). I was one of the physicians caring for Dorian. The derogatory depiction of his medical care and physicians in particular was in poor taste. Your readers have no idea of the time, skill, care, and interest myself and others had in trying to provide medical, advice, support for him and his family. It is clear he is and probably always was an insecure, angry, and self-absorbed person. Trust, I had no economic gain in his care, and I am unsure I have ever been paid. Someone should have edited this article. He comes across as an immature, careless person. The article does nothing to educate the public about the social, personal, neurologic consequences of brain injury, which are substantial. The Reader missed a great opportunity to help the public understand this endemic problem but settled for a hit job on the medical community.

Name Withheld by Request
via email

Thanks for the confirmation, Doctor Stone. Even brain damage can't blind a person from seeing the man you are!