Lessons From Dave

For anyone who has ever met Dave, he is the guru of living with a TBI. He handles everything with an incredible grace and a quiet class. I know that he would disagree with me on that but after a particularly trying day, he wrote the following as a way to sort out what went wrong, why it went wrong, how he could prevent it from happening again. I will warn you to grab a coffee, tea, and maybe even a snack for this one. It's going to be a bit longer than the usual.

Our support groups have always been based on providing everyone a turn telling how their week has gone. Over time, this has turned more towards an accounting of the weeks activities and less about our brain injuries. In an attempt to make our meetings more about brain injury particularly for the benefit of newcomers, I put forward the following suggestion.

While giving an account of your week’s activities think about and try to answer the following question:

How did what happened this past week (or whatever period of time since your last meeting) impact my brain injury or how did my brain injury impact what I did or didn’t do?

You might consider some of the following questions to answer this:

Dave’s account of the lead up to and the meeting on Tuesday Nov. 28th

Was the activity harder to be present at?

This event was made harder because I didn’t plan my timing well for it.

First I decided to go in early to my volunteering at the Hamilton Health Sciences Rehabilitation Centre that day because my normal volunteer day was being broken up and shortened by the meeting in Burlington.

I left home at 9:15 earlier than I usually leave for a 10:00 start. Of course when you are trying to get somewhere early Murphy’s Laws of Driving come into play. Going along the 60 km stretch on Main St from Dundas into Hamilton with lights carefully timed so if you are going the speed limit you can make almost all green lights right through the city, the cars in front and around me are going 40-50 km/hr and I can’t get around them. Finally I can change lanes at the RED light at Dundurn and the rest of the way to the hospital is traffic frustration free…

I pull into the parking lot across from the Rehab building on Wellington and find my volunteer parking pass doesn’t work. Great this means getting a ticket, turning around and leaving that parking lot and going to the parking office in the General hospitals main 10 tiered parking garage half a km away. In making my 3 left hand turns around the block there is a minivan in front of me going slowly clearly uncertain where they are going. I am patient … I understand this is a complicated area to park in… Ok you made my miss the next green light.. it’s OK… Heh you have an advance green here go!! The guy behind me honks before I do (I have a brain injury) We barely get through the advance green and now this person doesn’t know where to go.. can I pass them… yes … OK.. I now have to get another ticket and park behind some already parked cars in the lower level of this garage where the parking office is. I go in there tell them the problem. (they know me from other problems like this over the years) The attendant resets the card takes my parking ticket and I ask and am assured the pass will work to get me out of this garage and into my Wellington lot. So I go around and put in the card to open the gate and it STILL DOESN’T WORK! I press the help button thinking I will be talking to the attendant in the parking office I can see a few feet away from me but it slowly becomes clear to me that I am not talking to her but someone else in another location who says that my card is blocked. I just had you reset it! Am I shouting? Maybe… I am sorry sir you card is blocked. Are you a volunteer? What lot are you in? COME ON!!!!!!

I park again behind the same cars I parked behind before. (They’re here for the day I ASSUME) I go back into the parking office and say that card isn’t working and ask who in the heck I was talking to when I pushed the help button. Oh that gets you the parking office at McMaster hospital Huh Why? That’s just the way it’s set up. Why is my card blocked? Are you still a volunteer with Nancy Hayes. Yes! I don’t know why this has happened but I will fix it for you don’t worry. Thank you…

So the card works I get out of this parking lot and get into mine and go to my volunteer spot. It’s almost 10:30 now. So much for my early start.

I tell the person I work with my story and get a laugh (I am not laughing yet!) and do a bit of work and plan to leave at 11:25 which will be more than enough tome to get me to the meeting in Burlington a short 20 minute ride from here…

I leave at 11:25 as planned. The card works getting me out whew… I’ll just go along Barton here out to the highway there will be no traffic at this time in the morning…WRONG!! OK no matter I still have plenty of time…

OK 403, QEW Toronto, second exit Guelph Line, no problem… let’s see they said Blair Road was between Guelph Line and Walkers Line… what did Google Maps say? Think it was the North Service Road.. Ok good… hmm. No Blair Rd yet, Walkers Line hmm…I’ll go up a block then and turn left on Mainway. Yep that’s the ticket… I remember it was Mainway on Google Maps …just looking at streets on the right… think it was that way off Mainway… crap… I’m back at Guelph Line. There’s a Shell Station… crap it’s 11:54 already… the attendant was very nice but has a blank look on his face when I mention Blair Road… I rhink it was off Mainway I say.. oh yes that’s right it is .. he says.. just go back and it is on the right… OK I was frieking checking on the wrong frieking side I say to myself….

Ok Blair Rd. …. Turn right OK… what number was it… pretty sure it was 1150 … 1150 doesn’t look like the google picture… better check what the email said…. Park, go the back door get my bag out check the email I had printed… 1190 crap… OK … back to 1190 … reserved parking only … crap.. what did the email say. There is plenty of parking in the south lot… I DON”T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION FRIEKING SOUTH IS AT THIS POINT!!! I’m already late I’ll just park behind the building.. It’s after 12:00 now … great… I arrive frazzled, L. greets me nicely points me to the food… I see my cohorts all comfortably seated and eating and I am embarrassed for arriving late at a meeting I was responsible for setting up…

Mistake number one - needlessly adding another activity to an already busy day. I violated the mantra reproduced below that has been largely responsible for keeping me on track with this brain injury. I didn’t need to go into volunteer first in the morning and as I can readily see now, shouldn’t have…

What task have you planned today?

Is it doable in a reasonable time?

Have you scheduled a good time to do it?

Remember to take a break

Having Difficulty?

It's OK to lower your expectations


Was it harder to socialize? No but there was no frieking time to soicialize!!

Was it harder to talk or say what I wanted to say? Yes because I was flustered because of the travel issues and had already used up too much of my concentration minute quota. I didn’t have a pen with me because I had left the house without going through my mental checklist and I had changed pants… I didn’t even have my licence with me!!

Did the activity physically tire me out? Uh YA!

Did I only think of what I wanted to say after the conversation had gone on past the topic or totally after the conversation was over? Yes, although my colleagues Julie, Sheila, Ashley, Jackie and Jon seemed to be doing quite well, fortunately…

Did I feel alone? Absolutely NOT, with my colleagues and friends there…

Did I feel discounted or unimportant? Absolutely NOT. The representatives were very nice, helpful, good listeners and engaging.

Did I feel I had to leave a situation so as not to feel angry or sad or overwhelmed? NO

Did I need someone to help me? Not with this group of people around me . NO

Was I able to get important points out, understood and acknowledged? Eventually I did but I had a bit of trouble with word finding and expressing myself.

Was I happy about what I was able to do? Not really…. but happy with the result because of my colleagues.

Did I feel good about myself? Not today….

Did I feel proud of myself or a family member or friend? I was proud of our group, yes.

Did I feel a real sense of accomplishment? For the group, yes..

Did people realize what I accomplished? Individual accomplishment wasn’t an issue here…

Was my brain injury visible to others? I definitely think it was today. I think my cohorts know me well enough to know I was off today… since everyone knew I and all of our group had brain injuries they were predisposed to noticing little things and subtle difficulties.

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