21: It’s Worth Fighting For

21: It’s Worth Fighting For

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

It’s Worth Fighting For

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.

~Thomas Carlyle

I was your average six-year-old boy without problems or worries. The world was mine and I lived with a hunger for knowledge. On my walks home from school I took the scenic way, despite my mother’s protests that I had to cross two streets. In the town of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, with 9,000 people, you were lucky to even see a car drive by. I enjoyed my walks and discovered the world for myself a little bit at a time.

I have no memory of that day or even that week. All I recall is seeing the ceiling of an ambulance and a flurry of activity around me. I had been struck by a truck going thirty miles per hour. How fortunate I was to be alive. My local hospital was not equipped to handle my broken body and sent me off to Sault St. Marie, Ontario. Despite the severity of the accident, I only sustained a broken femur, collarbone and mild fractures of my neck, all of which simply needed time to heal. However I did get headaches often and falling asleep was strangely difficult. After a two-month stay in the hospital, I had finally healed enough and was ready to get home and play with friends.

School wasn’t like I remembered. Everything seemed so difficult. It was as if I had forgotten everything. My body cast was replaced with a wheelchair but I still could not run around with everyone. After several months, my leg was strong enough to play but no one would play with me. I was often alone on the playground. The constant teasing and my inability to understand the simplest concepts in school made me sad and confused.

It hurts deeply now, knowing that I wasn’t the only one suffering through my childhood. On occasion I would remark to my parents that I wanted to die—drown myself in the public pool and be done with it. My strongest wish, I told my mother, was to turn into a toy; that way I could exist without the knowledge of living or the pain of emotions. It was my way of saying something was wrong with me though I didn’t know what. I can’t imagine the heartache and helplessness they must have felt at my remarks and calls for help.

I transferred schools. The new students were worse. They took a strange happiness in their ability to exclude me and steal my things while the teacher screamed. After another year I was forced to do strange tests with grown-ups. The tests went something like this: What do you see? What’s wrong with this picture? I enjoyed them because I was taken out of the class and asked questions I could actually answer. My mother sat me down one day and told me that I had suffered a traumatic brain injury from the accident. My brain was bruised and there really wasn’t a cure. That meant very little to me then; after all I had just failed third grade.

Ms. Brand, my first special needs teacher, taught me how to read and write again. For the first time, I met someone who understood my condition and was able to give me hope. After an entire summer, seven days a week, for three hours a day, I could learn and understand school again. However it wasn’t enough.

The next few years were a blur. My family moved away from Kirkland in pursuit of special needs programs for me. I had many teachers and therapists with little success. In my eleventh year I met an interesting lady named Mrs. Price, a highly educated special needs tutor. She gave me the ability to truly learn again. For years on end she forced knowledge into my brain until it ached. She gave me the platform to grab onto and rebuild myself. For the first time in my life I had a direction, the willpower, and ability to learn and move forward on my own.

I still have migraines and sleep problems. My brain injury is on the frontal lobe, the part that makes you, you. I was no longer the same person after my accident. I understand now that my classmates were too young to understand what had happened to me and why I was different. It even took the professionals two years to diagnose my condition. Having a better understanding of my condition might have helped. I now know why I suffered like I did for the first five years after my accident and am able to forgive those who don’t even remember me anymore.

Today I am twenty-five and in my last year of college. Every day I am thankful for what I have and where I am. Every day I continue to recover from my TBI. I will myself to stay strong and confident and I find happiness with my family and the friends I have managed to make at college.

Persistence. That is the only advice I can give. There is no easy way. Push yourself. Force your way through despite everything and harden your mind against the negative. You are you and that is something extraordinary. Grind your mind, body and soul to their limits and overcome whatever stands in your way.

I wanted to give up: ignore school and just stay in a bottomless hole. My parents dragged me around, refusing to give up on me when I gave up on myself. They had the power and willingness to push me when I would not push myself. I would not be where I am now without them. To those not blessed with people to push you, push yourself. Carve your own way through life, fighting with everything you have. After all, it’s your life you’re fighting for.

~Tyler Tatasciore

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