Sunday, August 25, 2013

A brain injury caregiver who shared her free time with me

More from Monica Vest Wheeler. She has given me permission to reproduce it here on this blog. Monica's blog is titled "Turning empathy into action" and can be reached using this link:  

She mostly writes about many different types of brain injuries and diseases, such as Alzheimer's, and occasionally writes one about stroke. She has published numerous books. According to her blog heading, Monica "...explores how we can lift ourselves and others by turning empathy into action … and the importance of the art of compassion in dealing with Alzheimer's, stroke, brain injuries and other life challenges." Monica is best known for her work on the Help ME Cope & Survive book series:

Monica is also a very active volunteer for Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp and arguably our best camp photographer. 

I hope you enjoy her writing and visit her blog. And be sure to browse her archived articles, too.

by Monica Vest Wheeler

I am deeply humbled that a full-time caregiver gave ME an hour and half of her precious free time Friday to talk about three of the greatest joys of her life: her son, caregiving and educating the world about brain injuries.

As I listened to the succinct, insightful and emotional words of Jenny Carter of Dallas, Texas, I was immediately captivated by her honesty to literally tell it like it is when it comes to the five years she has been a full-time caregiver to her son, Sean, who suffered extensive injuries in a 2005 auto accident at age 22. The most serious long-term evidence of the accident has been a traumatic brain injury, which has robbed him of the ability to walk and talk and placed other limitations on his physical body.

Ah, but not his mind, which is sharp and full of the same kind of witty and uproarious comments from a 20-something modern male. I know the vocabulary and style well: my own son is 28. The only difference is that Sean spouts all that with his communication board.

Jenny taught me more in that 90 minutes than college students can learn in years of pursuit of a degree. What many people do not realize is that something like a brain injury or stroke is an immediate life-altering situation. "Normal" ceases in that moment. That's it. There's no cure. There is only endless hard work and an ongoing hope for continued recovery, to reclaim portions of a life lost to a cruel injury that lies hidden from our view. And nobody knows what the future will bring.

Despite the initial heartbreak and daily challenges, Jenny and Sean have this amazing attitude: they live life. They absolutely refuse to wallow in self-pity and lamenting what might have been. Though she readily admits it's still an adjustment at times and there are always going to be some tough days, they've learned to move beyond the tragedy and truly appreciate life. The mom brought her three sons up to choose to be happy, and she and Sean have embraced that philosophy with even greater fervor.

And it shows in their radiant smiles, their shining eyes, and how they get out into the world and refuse to hide away. Yes, they're serious about warning of the dangers of drinking and driving, but they're even more determined to not let life pass them by.

My conversation with Jenny reinforces what I have learned about coping with strokes and brain injuries: attitude is 90 percent. Those survivors and caregivers who have chosen to focus on the positive, the possibilities and the gift of life itself are the ones who continuously make gains emotionally, physically and spiritually. Those who have faith and believe in something bigger than themselves also excel in everyday life and surround themselves with people they inspire and lift in unique ways.

What wonderful lessons for each of us, how we attract what we radiate. Bad things happen, but we human beings have been blessed with a capability to reach within and without to touch and enrich other lives … whether we're the ones lending or accepting hands of help.

What awesome powers we possess! What awesome people we can welcome into our lives! What awesome strides we can make when we give ourselves permission to live!

And thank you, Jenny, for giving me one of the most precious gifts in this world: you.

Written by Monica Vest Wheeler

Monica Vest Wheeler
Turning Empathy into Action
Find me now on Facebook
And on Twitter
Phone 1-309-682-8851
Phone toll-free 1-877-267-4640
Fax toll-free 1-877-636-0634
P.O. Box 276
Peoria, IL 61650-0276

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