My Family’s Journey

Donna

Donna’s Journey

The day of the incident was like most other weekday mornings – getting ready for work and Mike and I having breakfast together. The lead up to the incident however was not normal.
I guess the family and I had become in tune with the pressures and incredibly long hours, both at work and then at home that Mike was consumed by. “Me” time or “our” family time became very rare and was certainly taking its toll on our quality time as a family. I recall having a few conversations with Mike regarding this and remember saying that “somethings gotta give”. Unbeknownst to me did I think that it would be Mikes health and life that would be that “something”

Back to “that” day…
As said before, Mike had been under immense pressure and he was quite worried about what tasks were facing him at work that day. I asked if he was okay and he replied “I feel nervous under my skin”. This comment worried me because for as long as I have known Mike (30 years), he has never said anything like that before. We said our goodbyes and then next thing I knew (about 10-15 minutes later) there was an extremely loud banging on our front door. At the door I was met by my neighbor across the road asking if I knew the man out the front. As I came out I could see Mike laying face down in the rocks beside our driveway. Apart from completely panicking and saying “yes, it’s my husband”, we quickly started going through emergency response mode and I just kept trying to talk to him in order to keep him awake until the ambulance arrived. What a fine way to meet the neighbors! How do you thank a person for helping to save your life? We are and will be forever in debt to our neighbor Adam for if he didn’t find Mike collapsed and raise the alarm I’m pretty certain I’d be a widow today and the kids would be without their Dad.

Of course there is always the “what ifs” that enter your mind once the shock has set in during the days and weeks post incident. What if Mike had driven? He was about to drive to work, the car door was open and his bag was near the door when we found him. What if he didn’t start breathing again? It’s all too much to think that way though and I prefer to be positive by living in the present and deal with each new issue day by day.

So, over time we realised that Mike was “not right” and not himself. Through a long journey with Doctors, Specialists and Mike feeling like he was going mad, the brain injury was finally diagnosed. This was of course met with relief and shock. The relief was only for having a name for the changes in Mike. The shock is still being worked through even now a couple of years post incident.

I still can’t believe and never knew that workplace stress could potentially kill you! I had always heard of stress morphing into other health issues- for example a heart attack but I never knew it could make you stop breathing and survivors could end up with a brain injury through the lack of oxygen. We had always heard of the term “fight or flight” and never took the meaning as a potential threat to a persons health. Well as it was Mike had been fighting workplace stress to a point where the workload exceeded his bodies limits and his brain decided it was time to go into flight mode.

Prior to the incident, Mike had an incredible sense of humour and he’s always been known as the funny guy and the life of the party or group. He’s always been very motivated, has incredible work ethic, is a very caring, loving and sensitive husband and father. He was incredibly confident, quick witted and has always tackled everything face on.
Wow, he sounds awesome- yep, that’s why I married him!

Through rehab and day by day understanding of a new life with a brain injured husband and father we are getting there!

Cooper

Cooper’s Journey

The day my Dad had his incident I clearly remember getting up to get ready for work however this day was to be to the sound of Mum crying at the door telling me Dads in hospital. Seeing my Mum in tears, trying to find out what’s going on until being told my Dad had collapsed and ended up in hospital was the hardest news to find out. I remember how much of a struggle it was to get through the day at work waiting to hear from Mum on Dads progress. Gladly I was told that Dad was going to be fine and that he just needs to be monitored at this stage. It was horrible trying to stay focused whilst having Dads wellbeing on my mind.

For a few months things were really hard for me seeing my Dad in a different way for he wasn’t himself.  The incident took away his humour for a long time and anyone who knows my Dad knows that humour is a big part of his personality and who he is. Seeing him unable to laugh, being short, confused and unable to do what he used to enjoy or even being able to string sentences together was horrible. Seeing my Dad work himself to near death for years, I thought to myself that can’t be his “return on investment” from working so hard. Seeing him unable to control his moods, being very forgetful, unable to process information, unable put a sentence together and forever being tired on a daily basis was very hard to accept. I think back now and wonder how much Dad was not coping, suffering in silence with his ever growing workload. I wish we or someone were able to see that Dad wasn’t coping for my family would not be going through what we are now.

All his efforts and this is what’s happened, years of service and he gets a brain injury in return due to immense amounts of stress.

For me, sleep was a struggle, work was near impossible and I closed myself off to to everyone due to the incident and was only focused on seeing my Dad get better.

All the appointments with Doctors and Specialists my Dad had to see took a toll on him causing him to be exhausted and frustrated as we all were as it was one hoop after another to get them to see that he is not well and needs support. We all wanted to see Dad get back to who he used to be but as time went on we knew that wouldn’t happen.  We know that this isn’t the worst thing, seeing Dad smile again was a big deal. It took over 2 years to get to the point where Dad was his funny self again and it was really great seeing him laugh and make jokes again.

I assist my Dad I suppose as a filter as he doesn’t sometimes think before he says or does things. I try to be there to stop him and ask him to think about it before he speaks or acts. Other than that, always supporting my Dad in day to day things helping him string his sentences together and anything else he needs help with. It has been a long journey for Dad to get where he is today.  We have all supported him in order to get to this point and will continue to support him for he cannot do this alone.  I guess what I’ve learnt from all of this is not to take your family for granted because at the end of the day they will be there when everything isn’t okay. I’ll always support my Dad and love him to my grave for he’s the best Dad you could ever ask for and he hasn’t allowed this injury to stop him from being a great Dad.

 

Laura

Laura’s Journey

The day of my Dad’s accident was just like every other day. I remember Dad came in to say goodbye to me and that he’d see me later on. He had said bye to Mum and then he went to work. Well so we thought! It would have been around 20 minutes later (at least it felt that way) when there was this huge and loud banging on the door, it was a mans voice on the other side yelling something about my Dad. My heart sunk, my initial thought was how loud it was and whether this guy was trying to break into our house. Mum raced to the door and went outside and all I could hear from the spare room was her yelling out my Dads name, Mike. I thought that this guy had my Mum or was trying to hurt her or something so I raced outside to try to help her when all I saw was my Dad’s feet and legs on the rocks behind the work car. I ran over to see my Dad barely responsive laying face first into the rocks. He was with our Neighbor who was on the phone to the Ambulance while my Mum was trying to get words out of him. From this point I think I was in shock because my vision went blurry and I felt as though I was going to pass out after seeing what I initially thought was my Dad, dead laying face first in the rocks. I was crying my eyes out but in all of this panic I immediately thought of my younger brother, Shay. Shay had always been quite sensitive and he would have been awake by now so I made sure I went into his room and explained the situation lightly to him. I couldn’t stress enough to Shay that Dad was Ok and just to stay inside and get ready for school as I did not want him to see Dad that way. I got some towels out of the cupboard to put under Dad’s head and as I was walking back inside the Ambulance arrived. I mainly tried to stay inside to make sure that Shay was Ok so I didn’t see much of what they were doing. But before they were going to leave for the Hospital, Mum came in and gave me a big hug and said ‘He’s ok.’ They were the words I needed to hear. Then they were off to the hospital. I skipped the school bus to make sure that Shay was Ok and he made it to school on time and got a friend to drop me off to school afterwards. It was the last place I wanted to be and I couldn’t concentrate all day. I wanted to be at the hospital and I remember it was only the 2nd period when I rung Mum crying just to check that there were no changes but he was fine. Well everyone thought he was fine, anyway. This was the hardest day of my life to date and I will never forget the pain that workplace stress caused my Dad but also my Family. However, at the end of the Day I just felt grateful that my Neighbor found my Dad in time and he really could ‘see me later.’ I feel blessed in my Dad’s presence every single day.

I think the thing that affected me the most was that after most accidents (broken bones, trauma etc.) normally the day of the accident is the worst but from there you get better, grow and find that things can only go up from there. This wasn’t the case with my Dad. After the accident things just kept going downhill. Within the first year or so of my Dad’s accident it only got worse. I could see things changing about him like his moods and he was exhausted a lot of the time. Although these things would never bother me, he’s my Dad and I’ll always love him no matter what. I could see that it was taking its toll on him. Further down the track it has affected his memory hugely and his speech now too. There was a lot of confusion because we lived with him and we knew straight away that something was wrong with him, which was the easy part. The hard part was to get even DOCTORS to believe it which was extremely frustrating for all of us. I must say though our family Doctor, Dr Stephen McNally was the only Doctor at the time that was truly listening to my Dad and was doing all he could to help my Dad. A lot of people that my Dad has seen over the years have told him it’s all in his head. Well you know what? They were right! It is all in his head! A great big brain injury is inside of his head and for a long time no one was willing to give him the help that he needed which caused me a lot of anger. It still makes me angry and upset to this day but all in all I’m grateful my Dad is here with us, brain injury or no brain injury. I guess what I’m trying to say is that everything that has happened has just made me love my Dad more. It affects me when it affects him. As long as my Dad is happy then I will be happy with him. At the end of the Day it has made our family a lot stronger.

I have learned a lot about taking life and the simple things for granted. Taking something as simple as remembering if you put the trailer on the car or not for granted.. sorry Dad haha. I have also learned that Dad may never be the same as he used to be however I don’t mind for no matter what life throws at us we will deal with as a family and love my Dad forever. I really hope that my Dad and my family’s journey can help other families going through similar things to us.

I think the most important thing for us was to stop waiting for the old Mike/Dad to appear and to adapt to the way that Dad is now. When I say this, I don’t mean he’s a different person I mean adapt to Dad’s needs now in the present. He’s still the goofy and hilarious Dad he has always been but we don’t see this as much these days. but thats ok. We really try to make jokes out of it and make something that Dad would think was quite serious into something that is a happy memory or a funny one. We never get mad or upset when Dad forgets things or can’t get the words out we just have a laugh and love him for it. I think all we can do is to help him accept it and give him any kind of support that he needs. Just like he does for everyone around him every day.

Shay

Shay’s Journey

On the day of the incident it was a simple morning, in bed sleeping until I had to wake up for school. Mum would usually wake me up back then however I woke up myself because of a consistent, loud, bang/knock on the front door. I was way too tired (saying that it was about 5 am) to wrap my mind around what was happening. I went back to sleep until my sister Laura had woke me up and told me what had happened. Laura said that my dad had passed out on our front driveway, on the rocks when going to work. She said that our neighbour had found my Dad, instantly banging on our door. It was shocking to hear what had come out of my sisters mouth- “everything is going to be okay, Mum is outside with Dad, waiting for the ambulance.” I never saw my Dad that morning, only when I came back from school. Although I couldn’t talk to him, (he was sleeping on the couch for about 3 days) it was great to be able to see him and know that he was fine. From that point on I knew my family’s life would be changed forever.

I remember that neither the Doctors nor my family did not know why my dad had collapsed however I knew straight away. Dad had been coming home from work every night being very stressed. He couldn’t go anywhere without the Blackberry phone for work, it would be going off every 5 seconds. Even whenever we went for a holiday, it was difficult for my Dad to turn the phone off, turn around, and walk away for his work was always calling him with problems. The times that he did turn his phone off someone would email him or come around home so there was no escape. This job was removing a Dad from his family so I knew why he had collapsed straight away. It was clear that my Dad had collapsed because of the work stress that had been stacking up. It was not long after that I had suggested the thought to my family that our Doctor confirmed that the incident was indeed from work stress.

It has taken a while to adapt to the changes from the injury, it is difficult, but when it’s your Dad that needs help you go out of your way to do whatever he needs. Sometimes he has trouble with words and alliteration, it can be annoying because he will do it for a very long time until he gets it right. Sometimes he keeps on going to see if he can get it again. But it is okay, we got used to it. Sometimes Dad can snap without realising that he did it, whether if it was worth being angry about or not. He doesn’t actually ever really get angry, he just gets very frustrated. He wants us to let him know when he does snap so he can say sorry-like I said, he doesn’t realise he does it.

My experience with my family has taught me a lot, I even learned how to control frustration instead of lashing out. I would love to say thank you to all of our friends and family that stood by us during dark times.