Editors' note: Deseret News Staff Writer Brooke Adams visted a head injury support group sponsored by the Quinney Rehabilitation Institute at Holy Cross Hospital. Here are some of the stories of injury survivors and their families:
LindaLinda, whose son suffered a head injury in a car accident, puts the experience this way. "Saying there is a mild head injury is like saying it's possible to have a mild nuclear war."
Kathy doesn't go four-wheeling any more - not since she fell 365 feet off a cliff 12 years ago. She was unconscious for five hours and was later diagnosed as having a severe head injury. Doctors discovered a 2-inch-long scar on her brain about eight years ago when she began having seizures.
It helped explain why she'd felt so "dingy" every since her accident.
"People will say `Oh, I forget, too.' And I say, `Not like I do.' . . . I got lost coming up here tonight."
About a year ago Nancy hit her head when she was bucked off her horse. She was knocked out for five minutes. She was diagnosed as having a head injury at the emergency room, but she thought she'd be OK. Four weeks after the accident she knew she wasn't OK. She had short-term memory problems and was uncharacteristically disorganized. Her husband thought she was going crazy; they fought a lot. Her boss, telling her she seemed like a different person, fired her.
It was a blessing in disguise. She was able to sleep a lot and her stress levels dropped. Her husband realized she really had a problem and became more supportive. Her problems are slowly decreasing.
Larry had brain surgery about 3 1/2 years ago. He used to like to ski and go fishing.
"I can't even go fishing because if I lose my equilibrium I might fall in the water," he said.
Because he looks fine, some of his friends can't understand why Larry can't do certain things.
"I'm always having to justify myself to others," he said.
Janae was in a car accident more than a year ago; she was "blown off in the emergency room." For six months after the accident, she couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, and thought she was going crazy. Finally, she was diagnosed as having a head injury.
Adam, 14, got hit by a car while crossing the street with some friends last March. He was in a coma for three weeks. His little brother, Max, says Adam "acts a little bit different" since his accident.
"All those things I used to do with friends - football, basketball - padding or no padding, they are cut off, no more," he said.
His feeling about not being able to engage in contact sports: "There goes everything. At 14, that's pretty much everything." Adam adjusts: He plays lots of video games now. He is learning there are things he can't do like he used to.
"Just this morning in OT (occupational therapy) I said `How do you spell checkered?' I don't know. That is something I always used to know."
It took Michelle a year to realize she'd suffered a head injury in a car accident.
"I was doing all kinds of strange things," she said. Some times she still does.
"I flooded the house the other day," Michelle said. "I didn't remember I'd left the water on."
She's learned not to take life so seriously. "I used to be a meticulous person. I never made mistakes like this. I've just learned to try to cope with it. I just try to laugh about it," Michelle said.
Will's son asked him to come to the support group. His son spent five months in a hospital nursing center after being injured in a car accident.
Will couldn't understand why his son acted the way he did sometimes after the accident.
He left the meeting with a great understanding of what a head injury is all about.
"The sense of humor which you've indicated must be the greatest relief you can have from the day by day problems you face. I commend you," Will said.
John fell off a mountain two years ago.
"It was only 80 feet, but it was straight down," he said. "I really smashed everything I had."
When he began attending the support group at his wife's prompting, he realized something was wrong with him: He could relate to everything everybody said.
"This group saved not only my life, but my marriage," John said. "It was you guys that brought my sense of humor back.
"If you don't develop a sense of humor when you've got a head injury, you're not going to get better."