Yesterday I flew to Las Vegas, NV to spend the day with my brother Sam. Almost two months ago Sam was involved in a solo motorcycle accident and nearly died. He spent 32 days in a hospital trauma unit in San Diego, CA most of that time spent in a medically induced coma. Mike and I were living in Spain when he had his accident.
Sam is incredibly lucky. He was not paralyzed; his broken ribs, punctured lung and fractured orbit surrounding his right eye have all healed. The brain injury he suffered lingers. Doctors say that many people take up to a year to recover from such a dramatic brain event.
I flew to Vegas for a few reasons. One being to see him for myself and second to see the therapy he is receiving. He receives therapy in balance training, strength training, brain exercises, brain cognition and counseling for how to assign, relate and deal with living with a brain injury.
As is quite common Sam kept asking when he could return to his normal life. He was frustrated with the therapy because he didn’t see the value in it because it had no bearing on helping him get back to work. What he missed, and what I foolishly forgot to say to him, was that they were doing therapy that would help his whole life, not just his work life.
Because the therapists didn’t know Sam before his accident they have no way of knowing what he was like beforehand. I was asked from time to time to tell them if Sam was acting the same as usual or was he different. I told them Sam looked tired and even a little sad. I told them that our father had instilled into each of his children (there are 5 of us) an incredibly strong work ethic and Sam was just doing that which came naturally to us all, he spends his time working hard.
It was while I was hearing therapists talk about what Sam’s new normal life would look like that I realized that there was a lesson in there for me as well. In all my past jobs I would work 60 hour weeks and think nothing of it. I would work hard and vacation hard but I worked harder.
I realized that a real work life balance needs to exist; I realized that in the blink of an eye the so called normal life we all think we have could change instantly and perhaps permanently. I realized that if my whole life was my work life I had no real life and no real balance to that life.
Brain injury patients, depending on many factors, make remarkable recoveries and might have some lingering impairments but nothing that they can’t be taught how to compensate for or how to reassign their brain to help them get the job done. Sam will work hard to make a full recovery. I know my brother. I know how determined he is to get back to his normal life. I will be praying that he gets his wish. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone who loves him and perhaps even more so from those that work with him.
For me I will try to remember the lessons I learned that day as I move forward and I look for work. I will remember that at the end of the day a job helps me pay the bills and helps me take those great travel adventures Mike and I still want to take. I will try to remember that when I’m not at work those hours are for me to do as I please and for Mike and I to have some fun. I will try to sit and read without thinking about how much work I could be doing; I will go out to movies and social events and make more of an effort to have a social life.
While Sam might have been the one who received the blow to his head I received my own wakeup call that day. I have decided to work hard, but laugh harder. I have decided to work hard, but live harder. And mostly I have decided to work hard, but love family and friends harder.