Truth, Love, and HOPE about Traumatic Brain Injury
The truth is I have one of the scariest diagnoses in the medical community. I am diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The brain is the most critical organ in the body. It contains everything that makes us human. I want to share the story of how this injury has positively and negatively affected my life. I want, in turn, to help show you that it is about perspective. By reading this book, you will hopefully receive a different mindset about your life.
I share things about my family history and my experience in the hospital. Then you see how my brother’s and father’s first-hand perspectives of that tragic day. I then dig deep to help give you a different outlook on life. You will hopefully develop a deeper appreciation for living life. The reason why I will impact your life is that I love you. I love people with a force that feels unnatural. I try to love effortlessly. You will not live the same once you have read my journey. My story might be troubling for some because they do not like to be vulnerable.
When love is a theory, it is safe. It is free of risk, but love in the brain changes something. I believe that love is a concept that is not supposed to be locked up in our heads like a prisoner. I want you to remember that love does things. Love writes letters. Love gets on a plane to fly halfway around the world. Love orders pizza and buys ice cream. Love hugs and kisses and cries and sings with and for us. This emotion is what love does to people.
Most importantly, I offer hope for those who need it most. People who have suffered a TBI, caregivers, family, loved ones, friends, and when hope is the last thing to hold onto in life. The idea of hope is not logical and makes absolutely no sense but is extremely important to us. Granted, we are not purely rational creatures, but we still need hope to nurture our happiness and well-being. For example, if we were robots, we would not need hope. I offer support because everything in your life will become uprooted at some point. You will take the most brutal test known to any human.
Trauma overwhelms listeners as well as speakers. Trauma stories lesson the isolation of trauma and explain why people suffer the way that they do. Stories of trauma provide people with a target to blame. Blaming is a universal human trait that helps people feel good while feeling bad. Pain does not always dissolve on its own or diminish with time.
The optimist sees the opportunities in every difficulty, and the pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.
It may be hard to imagine a point in my life when I had no idea what a TBI meant. I was oblivious that people could have disabilities – that something so horrible such as this could happen to a person. The diagnosis is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This diagnosis is complicated because of the complexity of the brain. On the one hand, the person may appear normal, but inside their head, 1,000 alarm clocks are going off at the same time. In addition, an individual with observable physical limitations wants to think independently. TBI’s are undoubtedly the scariest diagnoses in the medical profession. It affects you physically, cognitively, and socially.
With most TBIs, the first thing to see a decline with many others is short-term memory. However, severe trauma can leave victims with more prolonged lasting physical disabilities. In other words, as a result of my TBI, I am given an unstable gait and excess muscle tone. I walk with a cane and a nighttime arm splint and ankle cast for my left side. I have an electrical stimulation device that helps my left foot.
My TBI has impacted every aspect of my life. I was a confident, well-spoken, and outgoing individual who thrived on person-to-person interactions. I fought tooth and nail to extricate myself from those dark depths. Still, acceptance after my traumatic episode has been patchy. I have lost many, many friends, and I gained a few new ones. I look at how people squander away their blessings or moan about “misfortunes” these days. Admittedly, I have become their most prominent critic. If only they knew what I go through every day.
This book aims to acquaint my readers with the tip of the TBI iceberg. We know about TBIs when writing this book remains modest, given the complexity of the brain. We might never understand the full spectrum of TBI symptoms and their cases. Our current knowledge of the brain consigns us mainly with the symptomatic treatment of TBI injuries. One of life’s greatest ironies is how much more energy gets devoted to milder brain injuries. People know these relatively more instead of focusing more on more severe TBI victims who are genuinely worthy and desperately need more help.
There are no percentages, no miracle cures, no accurate ways to predict to what degree a person will or will not recover. There is no timetable for when a patient will wake up from a coma and no way to assess the quality in terms of “old self.” Having a TBI, or being connected to someone who suffered a similar event, is an exercise in extreme patience. The slow process of recovery makes “watching paint dry” feel like the speed of light. I am always in a constant state of seeking. What I failed to realize at the time is that when we try to resist feeling something painful, we often protect the very pain we are trying to avoid. Doing so is a prescription for continued suffering.
Like it or not, my TBI and I was beginning to feel calm. No matter what my TBI was doing it no longer had to be the defining factor for how I was doing. On many levels, having a TBI is a great metaphor. I eventually learned that it was less about what I could or could not do and more about the way I saw things. I am beginning to understand that no experience is ever wasted. Everything that happens to us has merit, whether we recognize the surface significance of it or not. Everything in our lives ultimately leads us somewhere.
Thank you for your time, and here is my journey.
My Life before the That Accident
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
My freshman year (e.g., 2003) of high school
I would never have understood my story had I not been walking in my skin that day when my life changed when I was 16 years old. If I look back at that skin I walked in, much has been altered. I am, in many aspects, a shadow. And yet, I am in other parts superior to myself. Suppose I were to liken myself now to a butterfly. In that case, the pre-accident self must have been the strongest alpha caterpillar. The stage where I battled first for my life and then to get back would be similar to me nestled in a cocoon awaiting metamorphosis.
To know the caterpillar, I want to invite you into my skin and to walk around in it. Specifically, I will show you five dimensions that my life revolved around: my personal and family history, physical pursuits, cognitive abilities, and social life. This compilation would be a snapshot of the movie before the accident. Sharing my story with you will also give you an idea of the pressure that I was under before my accident to perform.
It might not be immediately intuitive to you why this “life review” was necessary. Taking stock of what used to be is essential because this knowledge provides the energy to fuel my initial determination to overcome my injuries. The existence of a good pre-accident life provided standards to which I aspire on my subsequent recovery journey. The knowledge of a past life finally led me to accept that some things can or will never be. This book is, therefore, a vital waymarker and consolidation point in my recovery.
My Family and Personal History
I will start sharing my family’s history. I believe this is essential because it gives you a snapshot of why I had to be great. I am sharing this with my reader to provide a more holistic approach to understanding my story. My paternal grandfather, Richard Francour, grew up in a small town, Crivitz, Wisconsin, during the Great Depression. He stands at 5’10” with brown hair and has an excellent memory of stories, experiences, and names. He played basketball, baseball, and football. He lived on a farm, so before and after school, work was a necessity. My paternal grandmother, Barbara Mans, was raised in Marinette, Wisconsin. When she was not working, she behaved like a tomboy. She would always be outside swinging on trees and getting dirty. I cannot remember a day that my grandmother did not have permed hair with glasses. After returning from the Korean War, my grandfather met my grandmother in their early to mid-20s.
My grandfather went to a train school in the midwest of the United States. At that time, trains had been an effective form of transportation for goods and individuals. My grandfather has old (e.g., the 1950s- 1980s) notebooks with the weather reports, gas prices, and of course, my father’s and uncles’ statistics from sporting events. If it was meaningful, my grandparents documented it somehow. My grandmother even took statistics for most of her grandchildren’s athletic events. The stories that I hear from my grandfather and grandmother are captivating.
Outside my grandparents’ home as a young child.
The work ethic of the “Francour” name goes back to my father’s parents. My father’s parents said that the Francour family (e.g., Dick, Barbara, David, and Jim) picked and sold nightcrawlers from third grade until senior high school. My aunt Jean had to stay home and watch the baby Paul. My father sold enough worms to have enough money to pay for his first year of college. My family was so involved in the nightcrawler business that individuals would line up down the street to buy my family’s worms. Even my grandparents ordered special worms from Illinois during the winter months. The Francour family would be picking nightcrawlers till three in the morning, and then my father and uncle had to go to school, and my grandfather had to drive a truck at five a.m. At that time, my grandfather owned an oil business called “Francour Oil.” My grandmother worked as his secretary for the company. My work ethic is developing, and someday I hope to emulate my grandfather’s. My grandfather is still challenging his mind with puzzles and reading books.
My grandfather’s personality reflects the time. He is a veteran and has gained the respect of most individuals in the area. He started Francour Oil after the war. The business thrived most of the 1950s to the early 1990s when my grandfather sold the company to my uncle Paul.
My parents went to the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities for Education. My father received a 4.0, and my mother received a 3.8-grade point average in college. My mother and father were athletically gifted. My father tried out for the Minnesota Gophers baseball team as a walk-on for third base and received an athletic scholarship for his three years of college. He was so good at baseball the Boston Red Sox drafted my father to their farm team. My father said that he could have played professional baseball but instead married my mother. My extended family was also athletic.
One of my uncles also went to the University of Minnesota on a baseball scholarship for being a pitcher. He entered the draft by the Oakland Athletics organization farm team but threw out his shoulder and could no longer pitch. My other uncle went to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to play football. My aunt, even though she was not athletically gifted, she was musically inclined. She stated, “being the oldest of the four children, I had no reason to get involved in sports because the school system did not have female athletics.” No one at that time questioned things like women’s rights. Knowing my family’s athletic and academic history, I believe a reader can assume that I was expected to perform at a high caliber.
My older sister was involved in ballet and dance and softball and ran track but was not the best at either sport. My older brother played football, baseball, and hockey for a few years. He played football at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. My younger sister participated in dance and ballet and was starting out playing softball. In other words, if a person had the last name, “Francour,” they had to perform in every facet of their life.
The four kids were growing up. The order goes left to right; Katie, Angie, myself, and Ryan.
I grew up in somewhat of a large immediate family and a vast extended family. I had a mother and father who had been in their late 40’s, two sisters, and one brother. My two sisters’ ages were 11 and 23, and my brother was 20 at the accident. My mother and father had been teachers at the Marinette school district. My mother taught sixth-grade science, and my father taught elementary physical education. My sister was finishing her collegiate career, and my brother was in college. I was a sophomore in high school. My sister was in fifth grade.
I grew up physically, socially, and academically equipped to take on my childhood and adolescent years. My family and I were involved in the community in sporting events in Northeast Wisconsin, so I was well known for my physical presence. I grew up from a young age being very involved in sports. My earliest memory of myself engaged in a sport was swimming at the YMCA. I was five or six, and I started swimming so vigorously when I heard the starting horn. I swam past the required finish line. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. I cried so hard and was so disappointed in myself that I quit after that incident. Looking back, I believe it shaped my personality to be a diligent athlete.
In elementary school, in the springtime, I played flag football. I had a quiet, reserved coach that allowed me to dictate the team and practices. I played the quarterback position. I was quick and could move around opposing players that tried to grab my flag. Then, in the fall, I played Pop Warner football. I was on the team called the Eagles. Again, I had a fantastic group of players and coaches.
In the winter, I played hockey and basketball. I saw that my Ryan signed up for hockey, so I got into line and signed up. Skating with ragtag equipment, I managed to develop into a quick, coordinated hockey player. The hockey team and I won state for Squirts (ages 9-10) and later would place high in the league and state tournaments. When I was a Peewee, my hockey team and I took third place in the state tournament.
My peewee hockey picture
My career as a basketball player was short-lived. I was not the best at shooting the ball, but I was a hard-nosed defender. I remember, however, twice in elementary school throwing up the basketball half-court and sinking the shot to win the game before the buzzer.
In the springtime, I played baseball. I was the leader of my team and worked as hard as I could every play. Baseball was a great time. For the majority of my baseball career, I played catcher. My baseball team and I won one state championship in my Major Little League career. We went to the regional tournament down in Indiana. The following year in the state tournament, my team would lose to Middleton, placing third.
As my athletic career prospered, so did my social life. I reaped the benefits of being well known in my community. I had many childhood friends, and we had a lot of fun. I loved to make hilarious videos. When I was 13 years old, I snorted a noodle up my nose, and the noodle came out of my other nostril.
Noodle up nose
If a person has ever seen the television show, “Jackass?” My friends and I copied sketches from that show. We rode my sister’s tricycle down a set of stairs and my bicycle into a curb being catapulted forward six feet or riding down a sledding hill in a shopping cart. Those are a few instances that reflect my personality and friendships.
Stupid Stuff video
My friends and I had a great time together. I have also been interested in some anime. Dragon Ball Z was a television show that I liked to watch starting in my middle school years. Then, I was known as Chad Ball Z.
I loved to hunt and fish. I could be found in the water wrestling Salmon or Brown Trout at a local creek in the fall. A person could always find me out in the woods when I was not engaging in sports or academics.
My family life was alright as everyone was off doing his or her thing. However, I felt at times often forgotten. This is because I suffered from middle childhood syndrome.
My father’s personality was authoritarian, demanding, and showed little emotion. My mother was more supportive and listened. I was closer to my mother.
I am going to shift towards me specifically of what I was like right before the accident. I was muscular. In my first year and a half of high school, I was at the weight room regularly when I was not practicing for a sport. I was gifted athletically. I played football, baseball and loved hockey. I was a strong running back, quarterback, and linebacker.
I am 5’7″ but I would not be intimidated by anyone. I would punch you in the mouth playing football and level you on your skates. When I played baseball, I was a catcher. I was quick with my throw down to second base and could use my muscular body to drive the ball while batting. I batted third in the batting order. Hitting third in the batting order was a sign that I could hit the ball. I had power and speed. In addition, I had a substantial gift.
As for hockey, the sport that I center and wing, I was very talented on skates because I was hockey smart, quick, and had no fear. I used that to my advantage because I would sometimes check or hit or move around a skater. It is important to note that I was still the leading goal scorer on my hockey team even after my accident. So one, I was just that good at hockey, or two, my team was just that bad. I like to think that I was just that good at hockey. I felt I had it all. I was well-liked by everyone in the community because of my athletic ability and intellect.
If only I applied myself to my scholastic career as I did to my sports, I would have easily been the top student in my class. Instead, I was ranked 16th from the top of a class of 254 students. In other words, learning came very naturally. I did work at school but not to the extent of my other classmates. I took Advanced English and Biology, Spanish I and II, and Honors Advanced Algebra in my first year and a half of high school. I was intellectually talented enough not to study much. Still, I did work hard with the bit of time I had during school. I did not have much time to excel in my academics because I was so invested in my athletic career that I did not need to put forth much time towards school. Looking back, I feel like I cheated myself out of what could have been a prospering future.
The following video has to deal with drinking underage
My social life was highly active. With being in sports, I mostly hung around athletic friends. I had a quiet, confident, and collective personality until a person would get to know me. Then I could be a good friend or a harsh joker. I had many types of friends: my loyal best friend at the time was Briana, my fearless adventurer was Sam, a brutally honest friend was John or Ben, and my two friendly childhood friends were Jeri and Hans. I was a leader; most of my peers looked up to me. I rarely chose the easy path. I was a Francour.
As a freshman in high school sometime in October, I asked this beautiful and intelligent female if she would like to hang out. She said yes, knowing who I was ( a Francour, athletic, popular, and brilliant). We dated ( approximately 18 months) until a week before my accident occurred. My relationship with this female had its ups and downs. We would form secret clubs that would talk about others privately, go on many adventures to football games, and spend a lot of time together. She was my biggest fan and came to most of my sporting events, and we got lost in one another. The relationship had rocky points as well. We had been unfaithful to one another; she put a large scratch on her father’s BMW or our promiscuous behaviors. We would admit to loving one another endlessly, but it was nothing more than a high school love in retrospect.
Myself and Briana my freshman year
I hope you understand the constant pressure felt to perform my best and have a level head. I hope that you will take as many pictures and videos as possible of loved ones or yourself. I make this suggestion because who knows what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day. Reflecting on what I was like before my accident makes me try that much harder to get back to normalcy.