Falling With Style – Life After Brain Injury

Buzz Lightyear, the now infamous space ranger from the Intergalactic Alliance, has quickly become my TBI hero.  Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine, shall we? Together, we’ll go back… back into deep space-time before my brain injury.

Back to a time when I was unaware of all the new acronyms that now define my new life.

Back before TBI.
Back before PTSD.
Back before MRI’s, EEG’s and ABI’s.

Back when I still lived in blissful innocence as to what my future would hold, to when life was easier and carefree.

Sarah and I have long been fans of Disney World. Both Sarah and the Magic Kingdom were born in 1971, so there is an element of cosmic Karma to it all. For many years, the four seasons were defined as spring, summer, fall and Disney. Being ostensible Disney fans, we learned the art of travelling affordably many years ago.

In our lives together before brain injury, a couple of trips to Disney every winter were not uncommon. Like kids at Christmastime, we would count down the days until our trip from MHT to MCO in ever-building excitement.

And the Disney parks? Let’s just say that we know them like the back of our hands. Where to go first, how to play the Fast Pass game, where to get a frozen latte – it was a familiar routine we cherished in our lives “before” brain injury changed everything.

When we planned our honeymoon a few short years ago, only one destination made the list. Like so many other mouse-ear clad newlyweds, we spent the first week of our married life playing like the kids we really are.

Life was good. Life was innocent. And while not perfect, life was easy. We had each other. And no idea what the future held in store.

We were married for just over a year when I was broadsided by a teenage driver. We had fifteen short months of married life before my brain injury. So much of life with a brain injury is unfair. Sarah has been married longer to the “new” David then she was to me before my accident.

That alone makes me want to stamp my feet and pout and cry foul.

But to what end?

We all get what we get. There really is no Wayback Machine, except on TV.

On a recent trip to Disney, I let Sarah know that I wanted to take a vacation from my brain injury – that I wanted to play like we used to. I let her know that we needed a vacation from life.

And play we did – for five long days.

And I came home broken. Ruined. Exhausted.

It was a month or so until I had recovered. But that is a tale for some other time.

But I had the opportunity to see Buzz Lightyear again. Buzz has long been a Superhero to me. Since my brain injury, my fondness for Buzz has increased tenfold. We saw him during a recent trip at one of the Disney character meet and greets. There were 20-30 small children in line to see him. My feet stopped abruptly and my mouth fell open.

I watched innocent child after innocent child hold out an autograph book and pose for a quick picture.

Sarah watched my reaction and encouraged me to get in line.

And get in line I did. I stood there with the nervousness of  a child awaiting a seat on Santa’s lap.

So what it is that I love about Buzz?

Buzz believes he can do ANYTHING. We all know his wings are plastic, but he BELIEVES he can fly. Even his best friend Woody tells him he can’t fly.

Best friends are like that – they support each other unconditionally. I am blessed to be married to my best friend.  She believes I can fly.

You see, Buzz has blind faith – faith that anything is possible – despite unseen limitations.

He believes in miracles and in the Power that dwells within him.

And so I play connect-the dots with my own life; my life since my traumatic brain injury.

There have been people in my own life who have told me things could not be done.

A neurologist who said I was permanently disabled. But, like Buzz, I chose not to believe the limitations that were placed on me by others. Like Buzz, I choose to fly.

I have many role models. Some have heartbeats, while others have batteries.

And I also have dreams. If you happened to be in the Gamma Quadrant of Sector 4, and see Buzz, keep an eye out for me.

You see, no one ever said I could get there. But more importantly, no one ever said I couldn’t.

And if I lose my way, I recall Buzz’s sage words…

“This isn’t flying, this is falling with style!”

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David A. Grant
About David A. Grant 7 Articles
David A. Grant is a freelance writer and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury, a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. David is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog. David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also regular contributing writer to Brain Injury Journey Magazine as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire's periodic newsletter. David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 10,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community.