This month is Brain Injury Awareness month. For this month I am posting on my Instagram stories someone who has been affected by brain injury daily. We get a month where awareness and brain injury is talked about and acknowledged, but living with a brain injury is 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. But i appreciate there is one month dedicated to the awareness of something that affects so many. Check out my Instagram jessymunch82617 to see the highlight bubble to see all of the people affected by brain injury and TBI just from my Instagram connections. It’s definitely not everyone, just a few of my followers that I could remember, all whom are affected by brain injury. Someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds in the USA (BIAA). It can be any of us, our friends, family, kiddos, all sizes all shapes. Brain Injury doesn’t discriminate and it’s so crucial to be aware and in the know. Brain injury is not just TBI. Educate yourself, others and spread awareness. 3/1 is the beginning of the month and when Brain Injury Awareness Month began, I posted about and this week I will post one of the faces of TBI and brain injury, my friend Johnny.
I will admit something and I’m super ashamed of it and now that I myself have suffered a TBI, it makes me sick. Our friend Johnny, 5 years ago this April suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. I remember when it happened, I can’t remember it clearly now but I remember it happened. He was our friend. We weren’t super close but when we saw him out we definitely were friends and would catch up. He is a great guy and he loved 🥓 bacon. I knew he got a severe TBI and but I have no excuse, and I don’t know why I have been such a shitty friend. He didn’t deserve that and doesn’t.
After I got my Traumatic Brain Injury, I realized how so many “friends” stop calling and stop coming around. And I got extremely lucky with mine, Johnny didn’t. He lives in a nursing home and can’t communicate with words and definitely did not have the same outcome I did. It really has weighed heavy on me and my heart. Although we weren’t super close, how did I never take the time to go see him?? I am sure I was “too busy” just like most people in life. Too busy having a date night with my husband, too busy riding motocross, too busy going to happy hour or the bar when I drank, too busy going shopping, traveling, too busy hanging with friends. Too busy doing all the things in life I was SO lucky to be doing, and not taking time to see someone who doesn’t get the chance to live a life like I do and do all those things. Too busy to take the time to see a friend. How fucked up is that. Since now that I had a life changing accident and TBI, I really have thought about priorities, time, things that are and are not important and put value into my life. I get one, I want to make the best of it.
I went to see Johnny on January 16th, 2020. The first time I have seen him since his accident. I get it, many people probably don’t go see him because it’s uncomfortable, they don’t know how to act, what to do, it’s fucking sad. I felt all those things, but then I thought how does Johnny feel! I’m sure living the way he is living is not fun, comfortable, he can’t say anything to you, seeing someone like me I’m sure is sad and makes him angry in some way. Because look at me, I was able to commute to Gresham, I’m able to talk. But it also was probably so amazing for him to see a familiar face.
When I walked into his room, I first said “Hi Johnny, I’m Jessy. Is it ok for me to visit you?” He blinked his eyes, which I thought meant yes and asked the nurse and that is his way of communicating yes. I then asked him if he remembered me, he blinked yes. I told him how nice it is to see him, how I am so sorry for never coming to visit. I was definitely getting choked up, mostly because I felt so horrible for saying sorry I never visited. I told him that I had a traumatic brain Injury last year and it really taught me how people abandon you in life and that it has been my goal to see him since last summer when I thought about him and living with a traumatic brain injury.
I made small talk, I know he is a huge Raiders fan, so I had asked my husband about Raider facts to be able to talk to him about and share with him. I told him that Chris and I had gotten married. I told him I would be back to visit him and with Chris if it was ok with him and he blinked yes. I left him an Oregon Ducks blanket and Ducks stuffed animal on the chair, he loved the Ducks and I told him how they had just won the rose bowl.
I left his room and stopped at the sign out desk. I was crying, I can’t control my emotions now. But I did a good job at not crying in front of Johnny. But it was all over as I left the room. I made the receptionist start crying. I had unbelievable emotions running through me. The why him, why me, why did I get so lucky and not him. It was way more than I had anticipated as a TBI survivor going to see someone I know who’s a TBI survivor that had a way different outcome than me. It was real. It was in my face. It was hard. But I am SO glad I did it. Johnny deserved a visit, I know how lucky I am, but being with Johnny really helped me and really put into perspective so many things. Daily I realize how lucky I am, I don’t take it for granted either. So many things I do on a day to day basis, I do because I can and I think about how lucky I am to be able to do it because so many others who suffer from a brain injury aren’t so lucky. I practice gratitude daily, and so often part of my gratitude is being alive, being who I am, being able to have a bad day, being grateful for my bad days, grateful for taking the bus, grateful for being able to work, walk, talk. Every day! It’s how I start every single day, writing 5 things I am grateful for.
I never once pretended to understand what he is going through. We may have the same brain Injury, but it’s not the same. No two TBIs are the same. I also never thought how hard that visit would be for me, or how humbling and real it would be. It brought up a ton of emotions in me. Why did I get so dam lucky and he didn’t?? I was doing what I loved, he fell off a cliff while camping trying to save someone. Like why did I get so lucky and he didn’t? It was hard. It was so fucking hard. I said goodbye and told him I would see him next month. My goal is to visit Johnny once a month for all of 2020. This month, February I will go back with my husband. He will be able to drive and save me from the 2 hour commute on the bus and max one way to go see him. ONE WAY! So 4 hours of my day, but it’s worth it. Johnny deserves it. If it was me laying there, I would hope people would do it for me. But I know the truth, people live 2 miles from me or 20 minutes away and can’t find the time or don’t take the time to come visit me and we can have a full on conversation. I understand for some I may be a sad realization of what can happen since many of my friends ride dirt bikes and that’s how I got a TBI. But I don’t care if it’s a sad realization of what can happen, you would also see a great example of how someone overcomes hard things in life. Not to mention I’m still the same me, a little different but mostly the same. So maybe they really just didn’t like me before and that’s ok. We have figured out who are true friends are and we are ok with it.
My 2020 goal is to see Johnny once a month. He deserves that. He is worth that. It feels so good to be able to do that. It felt so good to see him no matter how hard it was, the way I felt after seeing him was so worth it. I took the time to take time for someone else. Life’s busy, I’m busy, but you’re only as busy as you make yourself. There’s always time to do what’s important to you. Seeing Johnny is important to me. He is important to me. Johnny didn’t ask for this. He didn’t ask to be in the position he is in. He didn’t ask for people to stop showing up. He doesn’t deserve that. So just think about your too busy’s in life. Are you really too busy or are you just uncomfortable? Are your priorities not aligned right? You are never too busy in life. You just have to reorganize your priorities and what’s important.
If you are reading this and know Johnny, or someone like Johnny think about how uncomfortable it is for them to live like this. I get it might be uncomfortable to see him and visit him, but I am sure it’s just as uncomfortable to him not being able to speak with you and shoot the shit with ya. Get uncomfortable, do something good for a friend, do unto others as you would want them to do for you. Anybody can end up like Johnny, TBIs happen all the time in car wrecks. A normal task you probably do often. Just put yourself in his shoes, if this happened to you would you want your friends to still be there?