93: Seeds of Benefit

93: Seeds of Benefit

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

Seeds of Benefit

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

~Napoleon Hill

I can’t say I’m glad the accident happened to me—not totally. Of course I’d rather have had a life that was less of a struggle, one where I wouldn’t have to fight so much with organization or be overwhelmed with terrible fatigue. However, there’s a part of me that is glad it did change my life. I’m not saying I was a bad person before the car accident that destroyed so much of my brain, but I was vaguely indifferent to people who suffered. I’d think, “That’s sad, but what can I do?” Then I’d go on with my life, disconnected from those suffering people.

When you have a brain injury, you don’t always know what skills or memories or aptitudes you’ve lost until you need to call upon them and they aren’t there. That’s the part of brain injuries that many people know about. What may be less known is that you also gain things you never had before. You don’t know what you’ve gained until something happens—some wonderful or necessary moment—and you discover an entirely new gift.

I found one of my new gifts when flying back to Vermont from Miami reading a newspaper about a girl in a coma with a traumatic head injury. The disconnected me was gone. There was no time to waste. I was struck with purpose like a bolt of lightning. I immediately took a taxi to the hospital.

I asked the nurses about this girl, who happened to be the same age I was when I’d had my life-changing accident. “Can I see her family?” I asked. Her family and friends were all in the waiting room—ten to fifteen people at least—and I introduced myself and told my story. I was like their daughter once. I was pronounced dead at the scene of an accident but at the last moment the paramedics found a slow faint heartbeat. I lost part of my brain and remained in a coma for months. The doctors didn’t expect me to survive, never mind thrive.

They looked at me standing there, the newspaper in my hand. I could speak clearly and well. I cared about them. I was fit, and most signs of the devastating accident had been visually erased. I couldn’t promise them miracles, but I could show them they are possible. I could show them that they didn’t have to fall into having no hope. You have to have hope or you have little else.

The girl’s mother cried and held onto me. She called me an angel from God, but I was just me—but a me with a new awareness and connection to that power that I’d never realized I had before. I wasn’t just Pete Daigle. I was part of humanity and all living things and realized I had an inspirational message that could help people. By sharing it, I could make a difference.

There are two major reasons to work hard at rehabilitation, and neither of them is to become the person you were before. First, there is the need to rebuild your brain as best you can and to find ways to cope with what you’ve lost. The second reason is to discover the person you are now and to create the environment for new thoughts, feelings and abilities to gather and grow—because there are good things inside you waiting to be discovered like some kind of treasure hunt prizes.

I found out later that the girl in the hospital came out of her coma and was doing well. I haven’t contacted her or her family since, but I wonder sometimes what she’s discovered and gained. I hope her journey has been as rewarding as mine.

~Pete Daigle

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