I sent a draft of my book The Memory Box to a doctor who spent her entire career helping patients recover from brain injury. She had been my doctor, so I trusted her. She suggested that whereas I had seven ways of recovery, I should add an eighth: support.
I’d already dedicated a chapter to support, but didn’t identify it as way number eight. It felt as though support was – in some cases – outside a patient’s control, so it wasn’t clear that it fit. I thought about it a fair bit and decided she was correct. Support is critical to recovery from trauma, and there are many ways to get it.
Here’s a segment from The Memory Box where a friend supported me:
Ron picked me up and we went to play squash. We’d played a fair bit before the accident, and although the games were competitive, he nearly always won. Because of that, I expected us to have a good game, lots of volleys, a close score.
Ron won the toss and served first. The ball smacked into the front wall, bounded off the side wall, and flew toward me. I had the intention of dropping the ball softly at the front. I figured he’d have to run to get it and then maybe I could win the volley. I swung the racquet at the ball, imagining how it would behave after impact, and swoosh. I missed the ball. Ron laughed and moved to the other side of the court to serve again. When he did, I swung at the ball to returned it and again, swoosh. I missed it completely. Ron slowed down his serve and directed the ball toward me, making it easy to return. I swung, and hit the ball. He returned volley, and I ran – half limped – to the ball, and again, swoosh, missed it. That’s how the entire game went. I didn’t get a point. And it wasn’t because he didn’t try to help, giving me easy shots, serving to volley, but I couldn’t hit the ball. As I lay on the floor after diving and missing one, I started laughing. Ron looked at me and said, “Al, you’re not good.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I know.”
“I mean, you’re really not good.”
“I don’t …. I mean, I can’t … I’m trying, but I can’t hit the ball,” I said, confusedly.
Then Ron held out his hand. I took it and he helped me to my feet. I glanced at him – half smirking, half grimacing – and we laughed which made me feel better because truthfully, I was devastated.
“Let’s get out of here, Swoosh. We can find something else to do.”
The thing about Ron was, although I couldn’t do the things I used to do before the accident, he was still there. He stayed by my side, and helped me. He took me to the bar, even though I didn’t drink. He took me to parties even though I was a social misfit, and in the days before I got my license back, he knew he’d have to drive me home early. He adapted to changes. He supported me.
If you’ve got a friend or a loved on recovering from any kind of trauma, reach out to them. Help them. It can make all the difference.
In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.
Copyright © Allan Boss