Shaina’s road back

Courtesy of Paul Buchanan, via Facebook

Life doesn’t get much more poignant than the situation facing Shaina Briscoe and her family.

She was badly hurt when her bike collided with an SUV during an impromptu bike race in downtown Minneapolis last July. She’s been hospitalized in one fashion or another ever since, spending a lengthy period in a coma before awakening, but even then not fully “back” from wherever it is she went.

Her friends and loved ones want progress, but sometimes progress is incredibly painful to bear.

We know this because her father, David, has been incredibly open about it on her Caring Bridge site.

The road back has reached a difficult point, he writes today: The point where Shaina asks “what happened?”

Saturday, while I was sitting with her, she suddenly got a worried look on her face. As she looked around the room the expression turned into one of panic – she wrote on a pad of paper: “What happened to me?” I explained gently, but without sugar coating it: “You were in a bike crash in July, it’s March now. You got hit by a car, and you’ve been in the hospital for 7 months. You’re safe, and you’re going to be OK. Your friends and family are here with you, we come visit you every day.”

Ten minutes later she looked around the room again with that look somewhere terror and despair and started to cry. I got the pen and paper – she wrote: “What happened to me?”

The fifth time she wrote: “WTF happened to me?”

The questions have evolved over the last 5 days making me think that Shaina is starting to regain some connection to her self awareness. “Is Phoebe still alive?”, “How long have I been here?”, “What’s going to happen to my house?”, and my personal favorite: “Get a job, Hippy!” after I’d been giving her crap for a while. These questions and the fear come at odd times, and I haven’t been able to track an event that prompts them.

I believe strongly that we ought to face our fears and demons squarely, and I take this emerging awareness as a sign of progress. At the same time though, I can hardly bear seeing my daughter so fearful and distraught. I’m pulled between wanting to see her progress & rebuild herself, and the temptation to be satisfied that this happy and uncomplicated person we’ve been getting used to for the past months is better than having her come to understand the depth of her loss.

Bearing my own sorrow is … manageable. Seeing hers … well, that would be a whole other circle Dante wrote about.

She has significant problems with motor skills; she can’t move much. The house she owned for only about a year has been turned back to the bank.

  • Thomas Mercier

    One of the differences my wife has taught me between those with a TBI and those with developmental disabilities, albeit it is generalization. The DD community sees their current state as their “norm” not having experienced anything different even though they recognize their differences from the rest of society. In the case of TBI they are often aware that they’ve lost something they once had. Sometimes this is physical skills, mental capabilities, etc. but there are some who have lost marriages, careers, etc. and know they’ve lost it.
    I hope Shaina and her family can focus on what they have, immense love in community. But even as I type this I realize that it doesn’t make the blow any less.

    • Diana

      While this makes sense, it’s good to recognize this is a generalization. There is some loss whether someone has a TBI or is developmentally disabled. My oldest brother was born with profound developmental disabilities and has been institutionalized since he was 4. We have no idea if my brother even recognizes that he is disabled, or feels any sense of loss, but our family sure does. While we have acceptance of it, there is still a lot of sorrow for my parents over having to institutionalize a child (support services were a lot different in the 60s), all the normal life experiences that could never be for him, and the trauma he has to go through for simple things like dental exams that he can’t understand. (Interestingly, my mom became a speech therapist who worked with many TBI patients. I’m going to have to ask her if she was motivated into her line of work by having a developmentally disabled son.)