TBI Thoughts

Somebody had posted this in a TBI group…

Hi everyone, how’s everyone doing? Quick question: what’s the recovery process like for Diffused Axonal shearing? Is there any coming back from this severe type of brain injury? 4 months in and my brother still doesn’t talk.

–Anonymous

And, because I can’t leave well enough alone, perhaps the world may stumble onto my thoughts and find some benefit from it:

Okay, here’s the thing: “DAI” and “Shearing” are the terms that are used medically to describe what’s occurred.

Can anyone come back from it? Well, maybe. It depends on… well… everything.

We’re talking about the one thing in the whole of the known universe that can, so far as we know, interpret the universe. And if one’s brain has been jarred from an impact, if it’s survivable, it may effectively scramble all of the memories and knowledge that person had.

Brain Injuries are as unique as a thumbprint. No two TBIs are the same. With two identical twins in the prime of their health and youth were to sustain identical trauma, they will absolutely have a completely different array of issues. One may feel a bit tired for a few days… and the other may be fatal. They’re that unique.

So, can somebody come back from it? That, like all things, depends.

My TBI was about three years: 4m fall, head first onto concrete, knocked unconscious instantly, coma, DAI, CNS shearing. I was 45 and generally in perfect health. I was in a coma for about two weeks and had to relearn absolutely everything (and I do mean everything) and have been frustrated now and again with proprioception and dexterity challenges.

Today, I’m still relearning and gaining more understanding of the various bumps and ridges of my own particular TBI.

Have I come back? Eh, it depends on one’s interpretation of “coming back”. And upon who one asks. I don’t think I have, yet. But in some ways, I can do more now that I did before. I still walk with a cane every now and again, but don’t like it — yet I can still run a 5K or more (I ran a 1/4 marathon a few months ago). I get mentally exhausted much sooner than some people. But I’m learning how to work around it… and work with it.

It’s been a long journey through a mental and emotional hell — and through it all, it was critically important that I had support and understanding of my wife and family.

On Burnout…

Never push loyal people to the point where they don’t give a damn.

Peter Drucker, 1909 – 2005

Thinking back, there were signs of a somewhat lessening interest in Pearson in particular and in Computer Science in general somewhere around about October, 2017. That was right about the time that one of the greatest champions of the team announced his departure.

People move on.

That year, after a business trip to Austin for KubeCon in early December, I was feeling quite burned out. We were planning another trip to Noida to transition a team in February, 2018, but I’d settled that after Christmas (of 2017), it’ll be time to start seeking in earnest opportunities elsewhere.

And The Universe said, “Oh, you have plans, do you? Here, try some gravity…” And the fall and TBI happened.

Strike one.

In the coming months, while struggling with rewiring my brain and body, the entirety of the team who’d pioneered the evolution within the company from the long-standing Mode 1 hardware model into a Mode 2 infrastructure model — which, by design, would slash spend dramatically across from the company — would disperse.

And The Universe said, “Ah, while you’re in the prolonged recovery, here’s some innocuous bacteria…” Then the infection.

Strike two.

Clearly, I’d end up being more dependent upon modern healthcare and needed to relocate to larger city. Moses Lake wasn’t nearly as connected to technologies as I’d have hoped. So, we’d planned on moving to Spokane — not only because it was a large city, but also because it wasn’t nearly as expensive as the Seattle metro area was.

And The Universe said, “Oh, you’re still coming up with ideas, are you? How about this…” Then the layoff and all of its psychological stressors.

Strike three.

My confidence in Computer Science at that moment was not only shaken… it was shattered. I doubted everything related to computer-anything. Programming, development, design, experimentation — I stopped caring about everything: the pursuit of work, life, self.

I would spend the next several months seeking desperately a reason to continue — a reason to do. What I needed most was sense of purpose.

Alright, Universe… what else you got?

Locusts? Ha!

Pandemic? Please.

Earthquakes? Hey, we all get a bit wobbly with age.

Riots? Amateurs.

Wildfires? Bah!

So, bring it on.

Achievement Unlocked

The first time I’d read Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love was in High School. About 30 years ago. One line from the book that seemed most meaningful that, in varying forms, stuck with me throughout the years was on specialization.

Rather, it wasn’t directly from the story itself, but it was a sub-story within the story — from the section, “Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long”. Lazarus Long, is, of course, the’s book’s the kilt-clad protagonist.

His notebooks contained wise sayings, recommendations, cautions, realizations, what have you.

One of those excerpts from his fictitious notebooks was this:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

For a long time, I had commented that somebody must learn of and actually do each one of those varied tasks throughout life.

Save one. That last.

Not very convenient — you won’t witness your own death.

But it wasn’t until quite recently that I realized that I had, in fact, achieved every single one of those diverse skills as of December nearly three years ago. In fairness, whether it was “gallant” is open to interpretation — so, die gallantly, provisionally.

I’ll take it.

Oh, also:

Yeah, I’ve always been the person who did things out of the natural order.

Adjusting the Sails

See also, The Toolbox Fallacy.

I find that I often speak in metaphors. It’s not intentional, necessarily. Sometimes metaphor or a reference to a scene in a movie or a verse in a song or a story conveys meaning far better than a ten thousand words of my own.

Sometimes, just one borrowed line conveys appropriate meaning:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Not Theodore Roosevelt

As another had remarked, it summarizes and strips away every excuse you have for not doing something.

So, why did I begin this with Adjusting the Sails?

I’ve found that when the wind isn’t going the direction I’d expected, hoped, or planned. It’s time to adjust the sails to weather the continuous metaphorical storms.

I’m adjusting my sails quite significantly and changing my course. I need a sense of meaning… a sense of purpose.

With shaken and shattered confidence in my career field, it’s time to pursue an alternate career.