New Normal

NEW NORMAL

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COMMUNITY STORIES | 3.23.2016 | BY TONI BURKHOLDER

My son Mark Burkholder.

My son Mark Burkholder.

My son - Mark Burkholder suffered a severe TBI after falling while riding a long board in our neighborhood. He was holding onto a moving car while he was riding on the skateboard. When the car slowed down, he lost his balance, fell, and hit his head on the pavement. He was not wearing a helmet. He was 15 years old. At the accident scene he lost consciousness for about 1 minute. He immediately threw up and 911 was called. Mark's brother Kevin was in the car when the accident happened, but he was not driving the car at the time of the accident. Mark was then rushed to Children's Hospital in Columbus Ohio where he was awake and talking - he knew his name, birthday, and address. We were told he would be fine. We were told he would not be able to play basketball during the upcoming season because he has a skull fracture, but that other than that he would be ok. During the first night in the ICU - even though he was on constant watch - Mark's brain started swelling and he was rushed to the ER for an emergency craniotomy. He was then in a coma for 1 month - in rehab for 5 more months - in outpatient rehab for 2 years. He had to relearn how to breathe, to swallow, eat, talk, walk, and try to remember where he was and what he was doing every day. His recovery continues today although very slowly.

Mark playing lacrosse before his accident. He was hoping to play in college.

Mark playing lacrosse before his accident. He was hoping to play in college.

Mark has made a tremendous recovery from a physical standpoint. Cognitively, things are still very difficult for him. He has all of his long term memory and all of his personality from before his accident. He knows he has a brain injury but refuses to believe that it will have a long term affect on him. He believes he will recover and be "back and better than ever." However - his injury to his frontal lobes was extensive. He has little to no short term memory (unless music is involved!) He has little to no initiative or ability to decide what he is supposed to do, and he can't made decisions on his own. He has no confidence to make choices because he can't remember what he has done or is supposed to be doing at any point during the day. This requires him to have 24/7/365 care to keep him safe. He has behaviors that are "OCD-like" which he can't move past, and require him to have around the clock care.

A family photo of us from right before Mark's accident.

A family photo of us from right before Mark's accident.

For Mark, moving forward means gaining the ability to make his own choices on a day to day basis. He is still very positive and happy regardless of the circumstances. For him, a lot of his recovery is coming to terms with his "new normal," and working to reach his goals.

Mark working on his recovery with a yoga instructor.

Mark working on his recovery with a yoga instructor.

Mark's recovery has been helped immensely by rehab. He's been in OT, PT, Speech, Art, Music, and Massage therapy. He has attended cranial sacral therapy, reiki, functional neurological chiropractic therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and transcrainial magnetic stimulation. He lifts weights every day and he does multiple computerized cognitive behavioral therapy. Anything and everything I can find to help him we try! Yoga and meditation are the newest additions to his recovery routine, and we have a yoga teacher who comes to our house to work with him. 

Getting the benefits of meditation in as part of recovery.

Getting the benefits of meditation in as part of recovery.

Mark is the happiest guy. He is fun, smart, witty, funny, and an all around good guy. He did graduate from high school, although now all of his friends are juniors in college, and he also has four siblings who are all seniors in college. Life is passing in new and different ways for him, but it is my life's work to keep life from passing him by. My husband and I want the best for all of our kids, so we are doing everything we can to make life as full and happy as we can for all of them. Readjusting to this new reality has been hard for Mark, who was hoping to play college lacrosse on the East Coast, at Maryland or Johns Hopkins. It's now about readjusting to new goals, and we are working for independent living for him and for the happiest life possible.

We have a Facebook page for friends and family to follow Mark's recovery - Prayers for Mark Burkholder. We also have several progress videos on YouTube: Mark Burkholder - recovery from a TBI.