COMMUNITY STORIES | 9.24.2015 | BY PETE DAIGLE
My earlier life had brought me to become an avid skier. I started skiing at five years old and was at the mountain most winter weekends. I raced on the ski team in high school, and also played soccer for four years in high school. I frequented hiking expeditions, was a strong swimmer, and was always looking to better myself. I did well in school and planed on going to college to become an engineer. My 19 year-old dream was to become an engineer so I could survey all summer and ski all winter. Thus, the 19 year-old life goals! I feel I had good morals and lived a healthy lifestyle, but at that age was not mindful of my existence.
Then, my life was taken from me, then given back to be reconfigured! Thirty nine years ago, when I was 19 years old, I suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Riding home from my first week of college, I can remember being exited about the path I had chosen. Math came easy, and I was pretty confident. This I can remember. I was high on life as we drove home from school that first week.
Then came the accident in which I was propelled from the car traveling at a high rate of speed, after we hit the base of a bridge going over the interstate we were driving on. My body was found 150 feet from the car, and the emergency crew pronounced me dead at the scene. Apparently, God had a different path for me. A friend of my family (a rescue team member) happened to be driving by, and decided to try again to find some life in me.
They found a heartbeat and got me to the local hospital, where after no success, they immediately sent me to the nearest medical center with brain injury experience. This was risky, since there was very little chance of me even surviving the ride. However, I did arrive, but in very serious condition and deeply comatose. They had to drill my skull to relieve the pressure, I underwent five hours of brain surgery, plus I had a punctured lung, bruised kidney, and a fractured skull. After surgery, when most of my right frontal lobe was removed, the temporal lobe was stitched up, lung and kidney patched up, and I was connected to multiple machines to keep me alive, I was moved to super extensive care.
It's said that I was the first one to come out of that place alive. Alive in my case having a very minimal definition. I was still deeply comatose, but alive. A condition I stayed in for almost three months, dying once or twice during that time, but brought back each time. However, I did finally come out of the coma, but paralyzed, blind, weighing 80 pounds, and with no connection as to who or what I was anymore. The only memories I have, after leaving school, started many months after the coma and some intensive rehab, in some ways it was just like being born again. The hospital story is from my Mom's diary. Everything was new. So, to just become semi-whole again meant a lot of work for me, my family, and my friends.
From there, I have come to be the person I am today. I've been through years of rehab, the most intense of which was the months in the medical center rehab. The remainder of my rehab, (which will never end,) has evolved through my great family and lifestyle choices. Recovery is a lifelong journey. I've found that self-awareness is key to recovery. The first part of recovery is the part, that in the past, was all I thought to be possible, meaning the physical aspects of life. I found these physical elements first in rehab, later walking, now hiking, biking, and at the gym. Then there was the need to become mindful. I found meditation to be a powerful tool in bringing the mind back to oneness. In meditation, there is a calming structure, a discipline that helps me function emotionally, and that also helps my brain develop other neural pathways to deal more effectively with life.
Then I found yoga! The ultimate mind/body integration tool. Yoga has been key to developing my Self. It has helped me finally find the answer to that question I have had all my life, "Who am I?" I am Pete Daigle, and I have a brain injury. The injury does not define me, it is something I have. Even though I have a brain injury, it has not disallowed me from being great due to the integration of my physical body and mindful wellness through yoga! This practice has brought my body, (developed through physical exercise) and my mind which has been opened up (thanks to the new neural pathways through meditation) to work together to create me. This practice that allows all people to bring it all together, physically and mentally, is essential to a TBI survivor. Loving my brain and LoveYourBrain is making it possible for all of us. Just do it! I am well, I am happy, and I am free of suffering!
Peace & Love! ☀🌻