COMMUNITY STORIES | 10.13.18
By Andy Ward & Pattie Reagan
Andy’s Injury: June 9, 2001
Andy was at work in a parked car in New York City, when he was struck from behind by another vehicle. He recalls, “I remember eating a cheeseburger deluxe, fries with gravy, onion rings and a diet coke in a diner in lower Manhattan that was shiny on the outside. After we finished our boss told us it was time to head over to the location. I remember parking the car, I can't remember where, and that's it…”
Andy’s wife, Pattie, met him at the hospital where she was told that “he was unconscious for a very short time. He didn’t hit his head, but his brain hit the front of his skull from whiplash (they think).” He was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors thought he broke his back. “When I met him there, he kept asking the same question over and over. The doctors were focusing on his back, and only told me he ‘might have a slight concussion’, and nothing more was said. We walked out of the hospital that night. The next day he slept most of the day, and the following day symptoms appeared. Dizziness, trouble speaking, inability to focus, memory loss, still out of it. A week later he developed a debilitating stutter.”
Andy and Pattie’s journey with brain injury began that day, and they have have courageously offered to share their experience and guidance with the LoveYourBrain Community in this month’s Community Story.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Andy: I believe for me it is to remember to believe in yourself and be happy. You may have the best family and friends on the planet, the only one you can rely on 100 percent of the time, is you.
Moving forward is about acceptance. I do not like what happened to me. I lost a lot, a job that I so dearly loved. But, I am okay. I am alive. And things could be so much worse. I have a wonderfully amazing wife and two awesome sons, and a great supportive group of family and friends.
Pattie: My husband is a positive thinker. When he was in rehab, they were concerned about him because they said he was “too ok with his situation.” They said he should have been upset and angry about his situation. I explained that this is how he generally was, and after extensive testing they finally believed me. This has been an inspiration to me, because it is the only way we got through this. I was always the glass-half-empty person, and Andy has taught me how to let go of many things, especially the small things. When you are dealing with the enormity of a brain injury, and how it affects every single aspect of your life, no one can relate. It is invisible, and no one understands. We were alone in this, and if not for looking at all the positive things, such as that he was alive, he could be a lot worse, he was able to stay home and be with our children, he had a job that really cared for him, etc., and letting go the other small stuff, we couldn't have done it. I was forced to do this, and it changed my life for the better.
LoveYourBrain Yoga and the Importance of Support
Andy: Thanks to LoveYourBrain, Pattie, and I were able to attend a six week yoga workshop at the Jamie Surya Yoga studio in Sparkhill, NY, close to where we live. It was great for my wife to interact with others who have suffered injuries. And we both agree that we will continue with yoga.
Pattie: I have taken yoga a few times in the past, and never liked it. However, I loved the LoveYourBrain Yoga program. Because it is for brain-injured people, it is not that difficult, and no one is trying to show off, and no one is asking me to stretch far beyond my capabilities. Because of that, I was able to get the most benefit out of it. In other yoga classes it was so difficult for me, and I was only able to concentrate on how hard it was and counting the moments until I could get out of there. This time it was comfortable, I was able to focus on my breathing, feel the regenerative process, and really have the full experience of yoga and meditation that people were always telling me about but I never could understand. It helped me relax and feel better about myself. So much love, love, love!
It is very difficult to put into words how wonderful this experience was for my husband and me. The group talk afterward was my favorite part. We were with other people who were newly brain injured, and how I wish we had something like this when Andy was newly brain injured. The ability to share with other people who understand what it is like is priceless. And the studio (Jamie Surya Yoga), the teachers, everything about it was wonderful. I wonder if and hope our being there was to help the newly-brain-injured people see what living with a brain injury looks like 17 years down the road, and that we are happy, still married, and in a good place. LoveYourBrain has thought of everything, and including the caretakers is tremendous. I thought I was attending for my husband, but I got just as much benefit from this as he did.
What we’ve learned and can share with you.
Andy: Being my injury happened almost 17 years ago, its very difficult for me to believe that. My short term memory was affected and my new memories last for only about 4-5 days. But post-it notes and relying on others helps. And although I cannot work doing what I truly loved to do, I have found other ways to maintain a positive attitude, happiness and my commitment to help others. And I am very happy to be alive.
Pattie: My husband’s injury was 17 years ago. One of his symptoms is vestibular problems. For about 13 years he couldn’t run or ride a bike, because he would fall over. He had to sit in the shower because if he closed his eyes while standing, he would tip over. One day about 5 years ago, Andy took a shower and didn't sit down. He hasn’t needed to sit down since. About 3 summers ago he told me he wanted to try to ride a bike. I told him (since he has short-term memory loss) that he can’t ride a bike, but he didn’t want to listen. The next thing I know, he rides past us all on a bicycle. Around the same time he went fishing, and stumbled down an incline. Normally running down a hill would cause him to fall, but this time he didn’t fall. Tried it again, and now he can run again. Even though doctors told us that the most recovery occurs in the first six months, and after five years there is no recovery, Andy regained these abilities after over 10 years. You never know what will come back. Don't give up!