The Day of the Accident (from what I was told)…by Bernadette Lyons-Sales

That morning started with memories at Santa Monica Beach, riding my bicycle to Marina Del Ray and back, enjoying my children at the beach and relaxing in a Jacuzzi. When I returned to Ventura with my children (10 and 7 year old), I stepped out of my vehicle and was struck down by a truck. When I woke up from my coma, I was in pain from a skull fracture and many other injuries. I was so confused. I went from bed ridden to a wheel chair, to four-pod walker, to using a cane. It took 5 long years of my life to plateau.

Recovering in bed, the darkness was my friend, because light and sound were my enemies….the migraines and severe pains associated with it were excruciating. My 10 year old daughter, Angela, became my caregiver and I became like her daughter in a reverse role of responsibilities. She helped me live day to day with my memory deficit and disorganization, especially when I would lose my keys, locking myself out.

I did not get the breaks that many other brain injury survivors had as I listen to their stories at support groups. In the beginning…others had better resources, such as money, family and friends to support them.  After my injuries, I was rejected by the very loved ones who thought their gifted daughter made poor choices. I needed help making choices! Eventually, with help, I realized they simply did not have the inner resources of patience, kindness, education and tolerance to deal with my injuries…”THAT is a hard pill to swallow!!!!”

I am not one to feel sorrow for myself. From that point on I realized I was in this struggle on my own, until I found BIC.

When I meet new people…after a while…they are forgotten. Unless I spend interactive time with you over and over, you are long forgotten.  For the people out there, that have experienced this with me, like Dotti (point at her), I apologize.  “We often laugh about it together.”

It takes time to process things in my mind and there are many times I have difficulty articulating my thoughts, especially after a busy day.

It takes me so much energy to talk, that I often only nod my head “yes,” and mouth the word “Yes” because my brain is so tired.  There are times that I begin a sentence and stop mid-stream–I have forgotten what I wanted to say. Moments like this are frustrating, but I am compelled to move forward.

Living life with a Brain Injury takes a lot of gumballs, something you “Normies” (people with no Brain Injury) cannot understand. Gumballs represent the energy it takes for our brain to process.

Sleep is the best way for a survivor to replenish energy in the brain.

For example, recently after volunteering at the BIC office making my reminder calls for 5 support groups, I went home, ate lunch and “passed out” for over 2 hours. My daughter woke me up when she stopped by after work. I fell back asleep like a baby that evening, my tired brain needing much more sleep; the exhaustion can last for days.  But in the end, I am rejuvenated.

In my recovery period, I called some of my old college mates. I told them “If this is what average feels like I feel sorry for you guys.” They recalled me before my injury–having a photographic memory and acute auditory abilities–remembering mathematical and scientific formulas in the past was…my forte.  Because education was important to me and my family, I planned to get my degrees, with all the alphabet soup after my name. However, my brain injury closed many doors, my future changed dramatically. Even though I never earned the letters after my name–I have survived!

Live for what today has to offer and not what yesterday has stolen.”  These are words I have learned to live by.

I celebrate my life as a self-advocate and survivor. I want to make a difference in giving both survivors & caregivers COURAGE to put the puzzle of a Broken Life together. Each morning I tell myself before I go out the door, “Bernadette, you are never fully dressed until you put a smile on your face.” I live daily with chronic pain, but I function, by the grace of God.

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