70, accident happened at 68
I’m 70 years old now, 68 when I got injured. I was doing a lot of wilderness hiking at the time, and I fell on one of my hikes on August 7th 2019. Over the next three days, I developed many problems which I initially thought were just swelling back, but then it was really fuzzy, so I came back home. I signed up for a foot race, and I went to meet with my race team. By the end of the meeting, I could not even drive home. I went to the hospital emergency and they checked me immediately. I ended up spending a week there while they tried to find out what was wrong with me. I ended up transferred to the spinal injury unit at Vancouver Coastal Hospital. I spent six weeks there when they did every test known to man. The summation was that we don’t have a name for it, there will be no therapy nor treatment, but I will become better.
It turned out that none of the things were true. I did not become better. I then found an osteopath a year ago exactly. She kept me basically functional, but I was physically compromised, and on bad days, cognitively as well. On bad days, I’m barely functional: I can’t do anything. I have a bunch of high school kids coming in every two weeks to help me, because there is a lot of stuff I can’t do. Even trivial things like driving have become difficult now. I have spent my life driving: I started driving in the 70s, and was always very proud of how good a driver I was, which is no longer true.
The cognitive side was certainly way worse: on bad days I would lose my speech. A year ago was when I hit the absolute bottom: I was certainly suicidal because I would not do anything. I have not seen my general practitioner for a year time: they gave no support whatsoever. When I had to go from an extremely active lifestyle like I was, to doing nothing, I should have received some support. But there was none. My family was also distanced: my two kids were in Alberta, and I never heard from my brother or sister.
To keep myself busy, I run several facebook groups. My main one was on Yukon history, with 15,000 members. I also have a website on Yukon History for 24 years now. Although it is commonly said that spending too much time on the computer is not healthy, these are the only things I can do. These programs allow me to build connections with the world, on good or bad days. I have a difficult time reading, so I am doing a lot of cutting and pasting for my group chat. I can not do anything complicated. I just can't get my brain to work. Even a few weeks ago I was trying to text someone, I gave up. I just could not do it.
People often don’t think basic things like texting are complicated. But when you have a brain injury they are.
I don’t make a big deal about my brain injury, but I mention it from time to time. People need to understand I am not who I used to be. Luckily I have had a few old time readers who've been with me for years. Sometimes when I post a blog, or outside doing something, I receive comments like “It is so good seeing you getting better now.” I am not actually. But I force myself to get out. What usually planned to be a day trip turned out to be a three days trip, because I needed to take breaks along the way. The mental power needed to take pictures was also gone. I used to be a good photographer, but now, I have a difficult time taking anything more than snapshots.
My life has been changed drastically. I can’t fix things, and when I get people to come to help me do work, I am often taken advantage of. For example, I told a couple of guys I hired to help with my firework that I wanted to have the price straight upfront, but they refused. I can’t negotiate with them because I have a brain injury. I told them in advance, and it turned out that I was badly taken advantage of.
I can’t negotiate, I can’t argue, I can’t trust anybody I hired.
It was so amazing when a bus full of 23 high school kids showed up in front of my home. They were all over the property. It was fabulous. But obviously they were not a long term solution. But at this point of time, I don’t even know what the long term solution is.
I really don’t look at tomorrow anymore, because I don’t even know where I am going to be tomorrow, nevermind ten years. Eighteen months ago, I would have said I would still go out, wandering in western Canada with my automobile. But now, I really don’t know.
I have no clue where things are heading to.
Interviewed and recorded by Vivian Liang