What I Can Remember… by Lee Staniland

It was June 11, 1978, in Somis, California, so I’ve been told. Because you see I have no memory of what happened that day.

     I know that I had just gotten back from Arizona where I became the godparent to my young nephew. I had brought my mother back with me, and for Mother’s Day I had taken her to Solvang for the day. I also remember taking her to the Burbank Airport for her to go home. I remember all that very clearly, but the actual day of the accident, I remember nothing.

     I have been told things so many times that they now have become my memories. I was told that I had  been outside washing windows when my husband left to go somewhere. I was probably upset about something or someone because that is the only time I would wash windows.

     I put my dogs up in their kennel like I always did when I rode my horse. My husband came home and could not find me anywhere until he looked out in the pasture, which was in the front of our house.

    He noticed my horse with her bare-back blanket on and a hackamore hanging from her neck.

Our pasture had walnut trees on it and he found me unconscious under one of the trees. He told everybody that he had always told me not to ride when I was alone.

    He gathered me up and took me to Camarillo’s Emergency Room.

    They sent me to Ventura’s Community Hospital where I stayed in a coma for six weeks.

I have been told stories of things that happened there, like they left me in front of an open window one day, so I caught pneumonia as a result. Another time they kept giving me dilantin to control seizures, and I was allergic to it. Because of that, I was scratching myself so badly that they tied my hands to the bed so that I could not reach any part of my body.

   I guess they must have done most things right though, because I’m here today to tell you about it.

    I came out of the coma 6 weeks later and was sent up to Santa Barbara Rehab where I spent another 2 or 3 months.

   That was where I got my first memory that stuck. I was in a room all by myself, and I could hear people out in the hall. I had no idea were I was or why I was there.

    I have memories of little fragments of that time like being with my family, my sister wheeling me around their hotel pool, another sister taking me for a car ride around Santa Barbara and lunch at Micky D’s. Funny the things that you remember.

    My husband took me out of the hospital to spend the day in Solvang for our first anniversary. That was a super memory. I got to be out of the hospital for a WHOLE day. Wow!

    Trying to walk down the hall with a walker and not doing so well.

    The day my brother hid the belt that the nurses had tied around me so that I didn’t fall out of the wheelchair every time I thought that I could stand up on my own.

     A great young gal that was supposed to be with me while I cooked a meal that I had chosen.  There was no way that I could do that yet, so she and her boy friend cooked and ate a steak dinner or whatever it was that I had picked out to try to cook. It was so much fun just watching them enjoy it. It still puts a smile on my face whenever I think of it.

    Then there is the memory of crying and pleading with my family to take me home.  They all felt so bad and wanted to do it, but they knew I wasn’t ready so they would leave and I would just fade out. That is the good thing about not having a good memory. You forget most things that upset you. I remember things a lot better today, but there are times, especially when I am tired,  that the old memory just doesn’t work the way it used too.

     Well, I finally got to go home. I was so happy.

     My parents had moved down here from Sacramento to help take care of me. You have to relearn to walk, talk, dress and feed yourself. My old self was a very head strong person, but I just let everyone help me with life. It’s amazing how your mind protects you from yourself. 

     After awhile it was time for my parents to leave. I loved them so much but my parents were smothering me and I wanted MY house back.

     I know my mom was so afraid to leave me to handle things on my own, but it was the best thing for me.

      I want to tell all you caregivers a secret. I know that it is a lot easier if you just do everything for us, but please don’t. I believe that is how I got to be as good as I am. After they left I had to do everything myself, from taking care of a big house, to caring for cows, chickens, dogs, cats and helping to run a carpet supply warehouse. I sold my horse because I could not ride her then. Oh ya, I just remembered that my rooster would chase me whenever I would go out to collect eggs. They always go after the weakest thing and that was me.

     I forgot to mention, we were also still in the process of finishing the house we were building and living in. Talk about crazy!           

    I am so thankful that the part of my brain that reasons things out, was not damaged completely. Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are times when I get a little crazy about things. That maybe other people that do not have a brain injury would handle a situation a lot differently, but I do the best that I can.

      I am now re married to a man who does pretty well for someone who was not with me from the beginning. I think he has learned a lot from me and I have learned a lot from him.

     When someone says to me “Oh your head injury must not have been very serious,” I would like to shake them. I had to work very hard to get where I am.  I had Someone looking over me and He decided that my time was not up yet and I have something that I’m still suppose to do. I believe my purpose in life is to be with my fellow brain injured and to give them and their families hope.

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