Last Christmas Eve, my wife and I had just finished having Christmas dinner at my mother-in-law's, and were on our way to a Redskins football game (we live in Maryland). Apparently, I was hit by a speeding van on my driver's side door, and wife was in the car with me. I do not remember anything for almost a month due to Post Traumatic Amnesia. Anyways, I was told that I flown away by a helicopter to a hospital to be stabilized. My pelvis was broken in 4 places, my left scapula & clavicle were broken, the back of my head had a superficial wound that required stiches, my 2 front teeth were chipped, and I suffered a closed head injury. I was at the first hospital for 2 weeks and I do not remeber being there at all. Apparently a blizzard was occuring in early January of this year when I was transfered hospital #2 - to the brain injury unit at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington D.C. I was there for a couple of weeks, and about a week after coming out of my PTA I was discharged. Then I started attending outpatient rehabilitation in my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. The rehab is called C.N.R. or the Center for Neuro Rehabilitation. I attended on a daily basis and saw a neuro-psychologist, a speech pathologist, a behavioral/cognitive therapist, and a physical therapist. As time went by I started to get better and started going 4 days a week, then 3, then 2, then I went back to work 12 hours a week and went to CNR in the afternoons. My work hours increased from 12 to 14, from 14 to 16, from 16 to 18, and then from 18 to 20 hours a week. Even though I had suffered an unfortunate incident at the age of 25, things seemed to be starting to come back into place. Then, the worst thing that could have happened did: I had an emotional outburst (one of many that had occured since my release from NRH) towards my wife, and she did the only thing she could do to protect herself - she left. You see, I had been having violent anger outbursts at home, and I never had ones like these before the accident. This occured in June of this year, and things went downhill very quickly. I was so depressed that I couldn't work, I couldn't eat (before the accident I was 180lbs - now I was 140 lbs), I couldn't sleep yet I couldn't get out of bed, and suicidal thoughts raced through my head. Then in August, I was forced into being admitted to a 3rd hospital by my wife. While I was there, my medications were revised. No more crying spells for absolutely no reason, no more irrational behavior, my intense depression subsided, no more suicidal thoughts, I was able to eat & sleep again, I became stabilized, and I started to put my life back back together. We then saw a neuro-psychiatrist (1 of only 4 in the state). This Dr. sat me and wife down and explained to us how my irrational behavior was due to my TBI. He was the first Dr. to tell us that I'm not going to be all better in a year or two. Also, he explained that I could be having seizures very different than the epileptic type (body shaking, convulsions, etc.). He was pleased with what the 3rd hospital did, and the addition of Tegretol to my medications. He then explained things about TBI to my wife and answered all of her questions. I don't remember exactly when, but around that time - she came back home. The last couple of months have had their ups and downs. I have to get blood tests taken on a monthly basis for 2 of my medications and in September the Dr. had to make adjustments because both of the meds were below the "therapeutic level". Even though he made adjustments, I still didn't feel right for most of October. Once again after the October blood tests it was time to up one of the meds and he wanted to change the other completely. Med changes, med changes - I really get tired of med changes. I feel like the Docs are playing Russian roulette with my medications, but I've been told "it's not an exact science". That pretty much gets you up to speed as to who I am and what I've been through the past year. I need support since my insurance company wouldn't let me go back to the rehab after the 3rd hospital. I was hoping that the neuro-psychiatrist would take me on as a patient, but when I asked him if he would, he said that he really only does "evaluations", but that he would be willing to see me on a quarterly basis (4 times a year). Recently, I decided that I would turn to the internet for support - No insurance company could stop me ! So here I am, just like everone else, trying to get better one day a time, just like all of the rest of the "Survivors". I'm just a guy who has a TBI, and I'm trying to learn to live with it.
Since then I've had my share of ups and downs, but for the most part I have STARTED to regain a balance in my life emotionally. In November I had an MRI that showed that I had a ruptured disk in my back as well as nerve damage. I've had epidural injections into my back, and electrical acupuncture. It feels like I've gone back to step one with the physical injury stuff. I have taken painkillers and alot of Tylenol along with my normal medications, and continued moving along because I refuse to go backwards. Meanwhile, things have continued improve in my marriage, so my wife and I bought our first home. Often I've been overwhelmed by the whole "new house thing" and people would tell me "Oh, it happens to everyone". What they didn't realize is that I am not everyone - I am different. I am Jason Schwartz, a TBI "Survivor". I have started going back and visiting CNR, and I making friends with some of the male patients who are just like me, only their accidents were 6 months after mine. There are similarities in so many categories: The physicians, the types of injuries, who it affected, getting violent/combative toward others, medications, slow speech patterns, feeling like the rest of the world treats you like you are retarded, the anger, and the frustration. A month ago, the story of what happens to a TBI patient was on the Saturday night edition of NBC World News Tonight. They had a five minute segment that showed what happens to a TBI survivor after their life is saved. They showed CNR here in Annapolis, they showed my therapists, they showed the young men that I have befriended. Good things can happen. I keep having to tell myself that the glass is half full, not half empty. My back still hurts, but my neurosurgeon doesn't want to operate. I am working 30 hours a week and I hope to be back to full time soon. I am taking a class in college, and I am doing okay. Basically, I am still trying to get better one day at a time. In an odd way this whole thing has been one of the best things that could have happened to me. It truly has given me a new perspective on life.
Any comments may be e-mailed directly to Jason Schwartz