I have always loved mountain biking. There is something indescribably wonderful about being out on the trails. Fully immersed in nature you never know what you are going to see, and what you’ll experience. Every ride is a completely unique experience.
In late May of 2015, I planned on a day of mountain bike riding at Tewantin National Park. Located on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, Tewantin is a mountain biker’s dream. The terrain is varied, with some very aggressive climbs.
It was a perfect day for riding. But, unfortunately, fate had other plans for me that day.
My GPS speedometer indicated that I had been riding for a couple of hours. As I have no memories from that day, I can only rely on the data. My pace was slow and easy as I rode. The hills were steep and I was enjoying my ride. The speedometer data show an abrupt jump in my speed up to almost 60km per hour (almost 40 MPH). It was clear that I had entered into a steep downhill descent.
This was to be the last cycling descent of my past life.
The day that started so sunny and full of bright promise ended abruptly when I crashed my mountain bike and sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Little did I know that my life, and the lives of those who love me, would be drastically changed forever.
The type of brain injury that I sustained is called Diffuse Axonal Injury. I spent the next seven days in a medically induced coma. My injuries included a fractured skull, a wedge fracture to my T7 vertebrae, and a fracture to my neck.
Post Traumatic Amnesia affected my memory to the point of having no memory of that fateful day, with the memory of my mountain biking accident forever erased from my brain. I cannot tell you where it happened, how it happened, the pain I was in, the ambulance ride to ICU or being admitted to three different hospitals over the two months that followed.
About the only memory I have been able to retain was of being discharged from the hospital. I had met the recovery expectations of the medical staff, so I was allowed to leave to continue my rehab and recovery on an outpatient basis.
I was advised by my occupational therapist that to help assist with improving my memory, speech and fine motor skills, I should start to write a daily journal of what happened, and what I had done or supposed to have done during the day. To this day, I can’t remember when I started writing my journal however, very slowly the words started coming out. I did the best I could to put them down on paper.
My handwriting was adversely affected by my brain injury. Before my injury, I had very neat handwriting and could write very quickly and legibly. After my injury, my writing was the complete opposite. It was messy with numerous spelling mistakes. Just like my new speech challenges, it was not flowing easily or naturally. Using a computer brought no relief as I had forgotten how to use it and was suddenly unfamiliar with the keyboard.
I persisted with my new chicken-scratch handwriting, trying my best to remember and write down my thoughts. I don’t know how long I had been writing my journal, though I think it was approximately twelve months before I could sense some improvement with my writing, language, speech, and concentration. My memory and neuro-fatigue were still the biggest challenges I faced. It was at a point that I read several books about TBI survival and recovery.
Prior to my injury, I had never heard or read about TBI.
I said to myself, “Darron you need to write a book about your own TBI story as it will help you, but more importantly, it could help other TBI survivors and their families that are going through what you have gone through.”
This is when my book, The Day I Broke My Brain, started on paper.
I re-read my journal notes as often as I could because I couldn’t always remember what I had written. Diligently, I would pen chapter suggestions and topics to write about. It took me almost a year of writing. Writing a book was entirely new to me as I had never set out to do anything like it before. Like so much of life after brain injury, it was unchartered territory for me.
At this point in time, my story was entirely handwritten. I knew that to get the book project started, I needed to be able to email what I had written. My next step was to type up my scribbled handwritten notes so that I would have a readable format. I set myself up to type a few pages on a daily basis. I set myself a goal to have it completed within a month’s time.
The typing was very much a form of rehab and mental stimulation at the same time. Though the overall process was very rewarding, after a couple of long days of typing I suffered from bad neuro-fatigue. It knocked me out for days, I was so mentally exhausted. This happened several times as I worked my way through the typing out of my book. I took the required breaks to help myself recover, and then I would start again. I was determined to finish.
A full month later, I completed typing the first draft of my upcoming book. The Day I Broke My Brain was born!
I was feeling really proud of myself, given what I had already been through. While writing my book, I was still recovering from my brain injury and all the TBI difficulties it brings to me on a daily basis. Writing my book is one of the most satisfying things that I ever had done in my life.
My next immediate thought was this, “Who do I contact to try to get it published (as I do not know the book industry)?” I contacted David A. Grant from TBI HOPE in the USA. I had read David’s books and followed TBI Hope & Inspiration on Facebook. Additionally, I received the monthly electronic distribution of TBI HOPE Magazine during my rehab and recovery. I found it to be very informative and it helped me a lot. I finally felt like I was not alone battling TBI.
So, after a few emails with David, we agreed to work together to get my story to a book format using his skills and personal experience. David is a TBI survivor who also knows the book business.
I still can’t believe it really. I am actually going to have a book about my own TBI story. This is so exciting. The main purpose of writing my TBI story is to provide help to other TBI survivors and their families. My hope is that my new book may provide them with hope, motivation, and inspiration to keep positive and push themselves during their own recovery process. Readers may try something I did during my own recovery that assisted me, as it could help with their own recovery.
I have a framed quote in my lounge room. It was something I looked at regularly and read on a weekly basis.
It reads as follows…
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, just breathe and have faith that everything will work out for the best.”
I have used this statement as a kind of mantra to help me to live in the moment and not look too far ahead during my recovery. I still do it to this day.
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I often say to myself that I survived my TBI so that my experience can help others.
At this time, I am almost two years out from my accident; an accident that gave me life membership as a brain injury survivor. My recovery is still improving and today I love my life.
I hope to never forget that I am one of the lucky ones.