27: Family, Faith, Friends . . . Can

27: Family, Faith, Friends . . . Can

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

Family, Faith, Friends . . . Can

To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.

~Martin Luther

It had, so far, been the worst year of our sixteen-year marriage. We had both recently lost our jobs and a pregnancy we had waited years for. My mother was exhibiting symptoms of ischemic disease and we watched her fail daily. Things just couldn’t get much worse, in my estimation.

Then one afternoon, after finishing his paper route, my fourteen-year-old son Chris and his friend began “trick-riding” in front of our home on bicycles that were much too small for them.

Suddenly Chris’s friend ran screaming into our home. “Chris fell off his bike, Mrs. Matero! I can’t wake him up!” Wayne’s voice was hysterical as he told me how Chris had hit a manhole cover and was thrown headfirst onto its cleats.

In a panic I ran into the street just in time to see Chris sitting up, a dazed look on his face.

“What’s up, Mom?” he asked with a goofy smile on his face. I convinced him to sit still right where he was while I checked him over. He seemed a little disoriented, but otherwise he was fine. So I thought . . .

My husband insisted I call our doctor to report that Chris had been knocked unconscious by his fall. I none-too-gently reminded him that we had no insurance; and that Chris was just “bumped up” and not severely injured. Nevertheless, I ended up calling our doctor.

Our family physician insisted we bring him directly to the emergency room, citing the death of a basketball player from a closed head injury just the week before my son’s accident. I recalled reading the newspaper account regarding this young man; stating that no one had sought medical attention for him when he fell on the basketball court.

By the time we reached the ER, Chris had become so violent that it took four orderlies to remove him from our car and put him on a transport gurney. He kicked the ER nurse in the jaw so hard she had to seek medical attention herself.

Our doctor met us shortly after Chris had been taken for imaging studies.

“This is bad, guys,” he said. “He has a torn blood vessel at the base of his brain. We need to take him to surgery immediately. We have to find it and try to repair it or he may not recover.”

As we waited in the waiting room, we suddenly realized that someone had called our church and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by friends holding us up and praying for Chris. In that small, crowded room my husband fell to his knees. Holding up his hands, he prayed. “Lord God, my Father. Please heal my son. Please let him stay with us, Father. I know you gave your only Son, but I can’t give mine. You are God, but I’m just a man; and he’s my only son. I beg You, don’t take my son!” His voice was so plaintive and his prayer so heart-wrenching.

At this time, my brother, an Army officer at Fort Lewis, Washington entered the room. I was shocked to see him here, and so soon. My dad had called him to ask for prayer and he had caught a military flight within minutes of hearing the news. He felt strongly that we needed family support at this time.

The neurosurgeon reported to us that Chris’s surgery had gone better than expected, but that his prognosis was uncertain. I begged to be allowed to see my son but I had to wait until the following day.

The next morning when I saw Chris his head was three times its normal size. No one had told me that the head could swell following an invasive surgery and I was scared to death.

“What’s up, Mom?” he said. His smile was the old familiar one; and I praised God that my son was still “in there,” that he could speak and recognize people. The doctors told us that he might exhibit strange emotional behaviors for some time, and that his coordination might be impaired, but we didn’t care. God had spared our son!

We were so happy that Chris had survived that we didn’t give much thought to how we would pay all the expense, even though we had no jobs and no insurance. We realized after seeing what God had done for Chris that He would do the same for us if we only trusted Him.

During his recovery at home, Chris’s boss at the newspaper came to see us. He told us Chris had an insurance policy that would cover the amount our major insurance carrier didn’t pay. When I told him that we had no insurance, he said they would cover everything. It seems that Chris had signed up for full insurance coverage accidently, and had never gotten around to adjusting it to the more pared-down version, as he had intended to.

Our family, friends, and our entire faith community spent the next few weeks ministering to us in any way they could. We received gifts of meals, food for our pantry and our freezer, money for additional expenses, and moral support beyond measure. My brother, who owned the house we lived in, would not take rent money from us until Chris had fully recovered. We counted the number of states and foreign countries where prayers were being offered for him via prayer chains requested by our family and friends. It was truly humbling to know that the globe was literally encircled with prayer for him.

Chris suffered no physical problems from his accident. In addition to the torn blood vessel, there was damage to his prefrontal cortex from the impact of his fall. He has experienced some behavioral difficulties from that. He has rare, but definite problems with impulse control; and when greatly agitated, his reasoning skills revert emotionally to the age he was when injured.

It was not always easy for us or for those around him. We learned that his behavior was usually injury-connected and not willful. That made it easier for us to overlook some of his outbursts and help him through it, rather than correcting him. As he has matured, his problems have become less noticeable.

Today, Chris is an intelligent, stable and productive adult. He loves books, art, and music. You could never tell he had ever had such an accident, unless you noticed the huge scar on his head where the left side of his skull had been removed during surgery.

Our family would not have survived this time without the Lord, our faith and our friends. The love and presence of all of them brought us through this awful time. We believe that faith, family, and friends can not only witness a great miracle, they can be a part of it.

~Bette Haywood Matero

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