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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog
A hug is duct tape for the soul.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The Crash of a Family
Years ago, I remember, I read some quotation to the effect that "just because somebody's handicapped doesn't mean he can't be a jerk."
I myself am hearing-impaired, and understood exactly what the quotation meant: the handicapped, or the disabled, or the special-needs individual, or whatever polite term you want to use -- all such people are people first, and handicapped second. They have the same kinds of neuroses that other people have; the same things (plus a whole lot more) make them angry; and so on. They can be just really difficult to live with.
Ditto, those who live with them. Being a caretaker doesn't somehow magically endow you with superhuman powers of forgiveness, patience, generosity. It doesn't require you to be a saint, and it won't make you one.
Graphic evidence of the clash of human failings -- exaggerated by a disability -- comes from Jacqueline L'Heureux's article, "Do We Have to Crash Our Marriage, Too?" from the Fall 2007 issue of The Challenge, a print publication of the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA). BIA has graciously permitted us to post a copy of that article (599KB PDF) here on sossisson.com. The article begins:
I never saw the truck coming, stopped on a freeway under a knock-your-eye-out blue sky. My back would freeze for months from the monster grille I never felt mount our car.Think non-TBI'd family relationships are harrowing? Wait till you read the rest of L'Heureux's story.
Note, though, that the piece is not unrelievedly grim. L'Heureux concludes with some helpful tips, among them these:
If You Have a TBI and Your Marriage Is in Trouble:
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Working with the Invisible TBI Sufferer
Much of the content here on the TBI blog -- especially lately -- focuses on attention devoted by the media to traumatic brain injuries suffered on the modern battlefield. But veterans' hospitals and medical tents are far from the most likely places where you'll encounter someone suffering from TBI. Indeed, you may have to look no further than the next cubicle, desk, assembly-line station.
That's part of the message of a brief publication put out by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at West Virginia University. (124KB PDF version also available.)
Never heard of JAN? From their "About" page (emphasis added):
The Job Accommodation Network is a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the U.S. Department of Labor... JAN's mission is to facilitate the employment and retention of workers with disabilities by providing employers, employment providers, people with disabilities, their family members and other interested parties with information on job accommodations, self-employment and small business opportunities and related subjects. JAN's efforts are in support of the employment, including self-employment and small business ownership, of people with disabilities. JAN represents the most comprehensive resource for job accommodations available. JAN's work has greatly enhanced the job opportunities of people with disabilities by providing information on job accommodations since 1984. In 1991 JAN expanded to provide information on the Americans with Disabilities Act.Yeah: since 1984. Twenty-three years of something very like invisibility, and darn those big-government bureaucracies anyway. [Sarcasm off.]
The invisibility of JAN parallels the invisibility, for the most part, of brain-injured workers. Someone who's been in an automobile accident or suffered a football or boxing injury may or may not evidence physical symptoms, like scars, broken limbs, and other alterations in their appearance. But there's nothing intrinsically visible about a TBI. From the JAN site:
...There are several different types of TBI (TBI Recovery Center, 2006):With the possible exception of a skull fracture, in other words, everything going "wrong" with a TBI victim is going wrong inside:
...Symptoms of mild TBI include headache; confusion; lightheadedness; dizziness; blurred vision or tired eyes; ringing in the ears; bad taste in the mouth; fatigue; a change in sleep patterns; mood changes; and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. The injury may or may not result in a brief period of unconsciousness.Even those TBI symptoms which are observable can be easily dismissed as symptoms of something else: not enough sleep, drunkenness or hangover, a bad chunk of pork in the lunchtime takeout.
Furthermore, the above list scarcely addresses the most potentially debilitating conditions resulting from a TBI:
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