On May 3, 2012, my wife, Jacqui, and our daughter, Jenna, were at home having a garage sale. Our son Jayse, a kindergartener at the time, was in school. I had the day off so I ran into town that morning to buy some flowers at the local hardware store. I don't remember anything else about the rest of that day, but it's a day I will never forget.
On my way home from the hardware store that morning, a driver ran a flashing red stop light, broadsided my truck, and slammed me into a concrete utility pole. I was life-lined by a helicopter to Christ Advocate Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center just outside of Chicago. Neither the scope of my injuries nor my prognosis were known at the time I left the scene, but given my status, they were unsure I would survive.
Based on the severity of the accident, I am very fortunate to be alive today. I suffered several broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but most significantly, I sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) when my head hit the concrete pole.
I found all this out later. At the time, I was oblivious to what had happened. Once I came out of my comatose state, I was suffering from a condition called post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) caused by the severe head trauma. This state of marked confusion lasted about 2 1/2 weeks. The first recollection I have is looking out my "hotel" room at the "ocean." In reality, I was looking out my hospital room window at Lake Michigan.
Due to the severity of my brain injury, my doctors thought I would need to go to another facility for a prolonged course of inpatient therapy. But much to their surprise, once my PTA cleared, my recovery went very well - and very fast! So after just a month, I was able to go home and finish my rehab as an outpatient.
I remember at the time thinking that with enough time and therapy, I would make it all the way back to my pre-TBI self. There were even many well-meaning people who had the same impression and thought I was already there. They would frequently say things like "So glad you are back to normal.” And I wanted so much to believe they were right, but they weren’t, because I wasn't. My normal was lost and nowhere to be found. However, I ended up finding something else I wasn’t expecting to find.
I found out, when it comes to us humans, normal’s not only impossible; it’s also undesirable. At least, undesirable in the way our society defines it and how I used to see it.