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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Head Shrink

"This sounds ridiculous but I wish people could see the injury more," I told my neurologist.

"It doesn't sound ridiculous," she said. "You're not the only person that has told me that."

During my visit, I told my doctor about my condition. I told her about my impulsion. I told her about the time I picked up the skateboard to entertain my friend's toddler. I told her, after my buddy told me to put a helmet on, how I would run into the car headfirst trying to get a laugh out of the little guy. I told my neurologist that I didn't know what I was doing, that it took a change of scenery until I realized how crazy I was acting.

I then went into the time I made Aimee wait outside for two hours while at benefit attended by local journalists. I told my doctor that I had no idea of the outside world while I was inside the bar.

I asked her whether I was using the injury as an excuse, or, if my behavior was a result of my injury.

She said the latter, telling me that the behavior occurs often in frontal lobe injuries. She said I can get caught up in the stimulus and am unable to tear myself away.

I asked her when recovery will end and normalcy begins.

"You're only one year out," she said. "You are at that middle stage of recovery. You still have some time to go."

I left feeling better about my condition. I felt good I wasn't making it up.

It's nice to know more recovery will continue, not nice that it has to be so slow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Installment: Two Sense Short

Today, my "archnemesis" from wrote about traipsing through the coffee aisle at the local health food store for a quick rush of "nose candy." The supersniffer opened one bin and took a whiff and the strong scent of skunk filled her canine-like chemosensory system.

It reminded me of my recent run-in with a skunk, though, my experience was a bit different than the great "odor-picker-upper's."

Not long ago, Aimee woke me in the middle of the night. Our dog Artie was at the door and needed to go out. Aimee got up and opened the door. The dog ran out, the ridge on his back standing straight up. Just then Aimee said she saw Artie go nose to nose with a skunk. A few moments later Artie was rubbing his nose and eyes on the ground and with his paws.

I ran into the office and looked up what to use when skunks attack. I came back with some rags and a bubbling vinegar concoction. Aimee took the items and started scrubbing Artie's face. I stood above them and watched.

"You can't smell, shouldn't you be the one doing this?" She asked, her eyes watering and nose running.

I stood there unaffected by the odor.

Later, after Aimee got out of the shower she asked me again why I wasn't more help.

"Because, I wouldn't know when the skunk's scent was gone," I told her.

"What do you mean? You'd take a shower just like I did and wash it off."

"Yeah, and how would I know if it was gone? Would I come out and have you smell me and return to the shower if it wasn't off? That could go on all night, all week!"

Here's a quick bonus installment:

A few days ago, I went up to Aimee to give her a kiss. Just as our lips touched, Aimee pulled back, her face all contorted.

"Honey, you're moustache stinks kinda like dried snot."

These are the things that happen when you can't pick up a scent, even when it's a few centimeters from your nose.

Your move

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Good Times Are Killing Me!

A few weeks after I left the hospital I ran into a neighbor on my way to the grocery store. He rode alongside of me in his electric scooter. We talked about our health; I asked him about his recent knee surgery and he asked me about my head. He told me that I had finally become an adult, or, in his words, I had reached manhood. He said it happened to him during the Korean War.

I didn't think much about that statement, not then or in the year since my fall. All that changed when I received this message the other day on Facebook from a young skater:

"I came across your story a few weeks ago. I used to board a lot without my helmet before I read your article. Shortly after I read it, I went out boarding with some friends but I grabbed my helmet. That day I ended up getting speed wobbles near the bottom of the hill and I wiped out. my head hit the ground first, hard. I was confused at first and my head was pounding. I quickly crawled out of the road way and on to a patch of grass. After about 30 seconds or so I realized I fell. I checked myself over and all I had were little scrapes and a mild headache. My helmet on the other hand was cracked. If I had not come across your story I truly believe that I would have not been wearing my helmet that day. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that some good has came from your misfortune."

After reading it, I started thinking about my neighbor's statement. It started to make sense. Before bashing my head in, it would have been difficult to find someone that thought that I had made a difference; actually, it wouldn't have been difficult, it would have been impossible. But after I read this message, for the first time since my fall, I felt like I had done something good. I realized that my neighbor was right that day on our walk together. That maybe it took this traumatic experience, a horribly bad experience, for me to do something good.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Sense Short

Yesterday, a fellow journalist, and new friend, alerted me to a local writer's blog, The blog chronicles one lady's experience with having a strong sense of smell. From what I read, her strong sense came shortly after suffering some kind of liver ailment.

When I first learned of I thought about transforming this blog into one about losing my sense of smell. My idea, akin to hers; I would choose one thing during the day that I wanted to smell most but, of course, was unable to.

'What if we were to become archenemies in the blogosphere?' The super-sniffer and I, vying for the most hits on the olfactory front. Her kryptonite; her weak liver. Mine; my weak and damaged frontal lobes.

And so once a week I will pick the thing I wanted to smell most and write how big of bummer it is to not smell it. I will accompany it with a funny story about missing the sense of smell, just so I don't get everyone down.

The first installment of what I like to call, "Two Sense Short":

Today, it rained. I was talking to my neighbor. He told me how much he liked the rain; after all, there's not much of it in Southern California. He said he liked how it made him feel. He liked the nourishing quality of it. Most of all, he liked that "fresh air smell."

After our talk, I thought about the smell of rain, the smell of fresh air. I tried to take deep breaths through my nose and only felt air entering my nasal cavity. I remembered enjoying that smell too, it reminded me of living in Florida, when rain was an escape to the awful heat and humidity.

Moving on to the second part of "Two Sense Short":

The other night I accompanied Aimee to a work party. There was quite a bit of booze there. I had my fair share of it. Towards the end of the night, I waited in line for the pisser. A few minutes passed before the door opened and out came one of Aimee's co-workers. She is also Aimee's close friend. She looked at me while passing.

"I'm glad it was you that was next in line."

I went into the bathroom. It took me a few seconds until I let out a loud chuckle. She was glad because she knew that I had severed my olfactory nerves.

Now top that!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All In My Head

"I just feel sometimes you make it into a big bad injury," she said.

I didn't say a word but my thoughts ran rampant. I was angry. I believed it was another example of someone close to me not understanding the difficulties that I go through. I started listing my deficits; the lack of focus, the impulsion, the irritability, the fatigue, the loss of two senses.

I also had a few other thoughts. Was she right? Do I focus too much on this injury? Has it consumed me? Does it define me?

After a few seconds I responded.

"I can't believe you just said that. It's just another example that no one could ever understand what I am going through. It hurts that I am all alone in this."

The next day Aimee and I went to see my doctor. As we talked, she told him that I am quick to tell people about my injury, about my deficiencies.

He said part of it may have to do with the impulsion that accompanies frontal lobe damage. He also said that it is common that people are unable to move on, incapable of looking at the positive and not the negative, and unwilling to accept the shortcomings.

After my consultation, I walked outside. Aimee was there by my side. I knew that what she had said the day before while walking Artie came partly out of frustration and partly out of necessity.

I focused on the negative before the fall and am doing the same now. Instead of allowing the injury to take over, I need to move on. This blog will change. I'm hoping that my mindset will follow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Strong Soul

A few posts back I wrote about Gabe, who fell from his skateboard while bombing a hill in San Pedro. Gabe was wearing a helmet but still sustained some major head trauma. Doctors removed a piece of his skull, he was in a coma, a story so similar to mine.

Gabe's accident was only a few months ago. He found my story, and then my blog and decided to write about his own experience, recovering and redefining the person that he is.

The kid is strong, smart, and a good writer. His blog is:

Thanks for sharing, Gabe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Chink In The Armor

Last night I, along with thirty other writers, attended a fundraiser for Liberia. The name of the event was "Stump the Press." On my trivia team was a funny, and lively lady who writes for the other weekly here in San Diego. We started talking. Naturally, I started talking about myself and about my brain. She wasn't aware of my article and didn't ask too many questions. Today I received a message from her. She had found my article and was crying her way through it. She wrote later telling me that she would have never known what I had been through. It was a nice and kind compliment.

Therein lies the struggle. The fact that people can't see my injury. What my fellow journalists didn't see was Aimee waiting outside for me. What they didn't know was that I became so caught up in the event that I never stopped to think about anyone else.

I came out two hours late. Aimee was upset. An argument ensued. I blamed my injury for not being able to switch tasks.

I know the excuse is wearing thin on Aimee. It's wore thin on everyone but myself. At times, even I wonder if I am making this whole thing up. Am I just inconsiderate? Am I not letting go and reluctant to move on? Or, am I incapable of doing so? Is it all about attention and my need for it? Is it that I have not yet processed the incident and get stuck replaying it over in my head?

There are no easy answers. I go on websites and read how these symptoms appear in most survivors of brain injuries. But then you look at me, and talk to me, and you read my words, and you become convinced that nothing is wrong.

I'm sick of this and I'm worried. I read that during the first year of recovery comes the most noticeable improvements. After that first year recovery slows and improvements aren't obvious. It stresses me out that this is it. That this condition, of being stuck with a list of questions, is all that I will be left with. I'm worried that everything I do and everywhere I go, will revolve around this damn injury, the fleeting thoughts in my head. I'm troubled to think that it might be me making all of it up. I'm troubled.