Monday, October 24, 2011

TBI vs. Dance Competition by Maddi

Horns blared, cars were packed like Sardines on the road. This is how it feels inside my head when I get over stimulated, except in my head there are six lanes of traffic instead of a one-way road and I can't move.

This is the worst my day will bring, I think, ballroom competition, here I come!

Finally, we, my parents and I, arrive at the high school. We walk straight to the gym, get our hands stamped, and walk in to the gymnasium.

 Never mind, I think this is the worst my day will bring.

The gym had bleachers on both sides with a person in each seat. Above the bleachers, in the upper deck, I saw flashes of red, blue, and green, the costumes for the Open routines. Tables were on the back side and the dance floor had rushes of energy on one side and graceful movements, the other. At the on-deck area, dancers were anxiously awaiting their chance to shine. I could tell this was going to be a straining day. It was loud, crowded, and I was sure the florescent lights were going to give me a headache.

We spot my team and walk past rows of people in the bleachers to reach the table. I set my things down and find a seat. I am immediately engulfed in conversation. I had people fixing my hair and my makeup almost instantaneously.

There were so many people! My heart pounded loud in my ears adding to the stimulation. It's going to be a late night, I thought, these things always end late.

When the competition finally started, my friends weaved their way into a sea of black and white.  They were so good! The music began and my friends started bouncing with the beat, they were dancing the cha-cha. My heart pounded with excitement. I was positive they would get called back! People were wooping and yelling, cheering and clapping, the noise could have given a deaf man a headache, but that was OK, I needed to support my team.

The music ended and my friends eagerly checked the screen for their call-back, it wasn't there. With long faces, they walked back to our table, “We didn't get called back.” they said.

“Really? I thought you would, you were fantastic out there!”

The next round of dance began, the music started, and people were cheering for their respective teams. Rounds and rounds of dancing followed. The anticipation was beating on me like a drum . The competition was put on hold for lunch, there were more rounds of dance, and then it was my turn.

My partner and I walked onto the floor. We were in position, the music was blaring, and we started at a syncopated beat. The monster of frustration over-came me, but I kept my cool, we tried to get on beat but it was a complete failure. I knew, deep down in my heart, we would not get called back. When the music ended, my suspicions were confirmed. We walked back to the team's table to watch the hours of dancing to come. Even though, the dance competition was mostly just repetition, it was still extremely fun.

As I was watching, a partnership seemed quite familiar. As I watched that couple more and more, I realized it was Mason, my brother! I searched his back for his number and once it was in view, I began cheering for him with all my heart. His partner's dress looked as though it came right off the screen of a silent movie! It wasn't the uniform black skirt and white shirt that was the requirement for syllabus, it was the uniqueness of the Open competitions.

All in all, I felt the competition was well worth the over stimulation. Even though, I was tired, it was a success! I mean, I danced, supported my team, and watched Mason get fifth place in the Open Standard. That's a lot to do with a tired and injured brain. What a day!

If this is the worst a dance competition will bring, I will do it over and over again!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post Accident Testing

We had Maddi’s in depth evaluations in September. I can’t believe we are knocking on the year mark door. Thanksgiving will be here before I even blink! It has taken me a while to figure out how to interpret all the technical terms and testing scores for the laymen reading this blog. I am very familiar with academic and cognitive testing through my profession as an Educator.

One thing I have learned with testing is that it is just one piece of the puzzle. It is information and predictive but not set in cement. I have seen kids who are brilliant but are terrible with follow through. I have seen other kids that work their tails off and outperform some of those spontaneously brilliant people. Testing doesn’t have much to do with REAL life and how things work, effort is the real indicator. Testing gives us information to help make pertinent and intelligent decisions that can influence the desired outcome.

We met with her neuro-rehab doctor and we met with the Neuro –psych doctor as well. It is really hard to explain all the details of these tests. The Rehab tests are the easiest because we could see Maddi perform the physical tasks she was asked to do. For example; stand on one foot, measuring flexibility, heel/toe walking, tiptoe walking, heal walking, follow her finger that sort of stuff.

The Rehab Doctor gave her a once over and proclaimed that Maddi had a “perfect” exam! What that means in laymen terms is that Maddi has successfully recreated or rewired all of the physical pathways from her brain to all the physical parts of her body. She can move her hands and legs; she has regained her balance and her ability to track things with her eyes. She has a delay in processing speed and her fine motor skills are not completely there but many non- TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) people do as well as Maddi on that particular test. I personally would have failed it miserably but I have never asserted that I am normal. So the short story is Maddi’s recovery has been physically MIRACULOUS!

The Neuro-Psych doctor was a different kind of testing. His specialty is giving test that give information about what is going on inside the brain and how that affects Maddi cognitively, academically and logically. These tests are used to develop an academic plan for Maddi. It took a full day to complete the tests. Her appointment started at 9am and we walked out of his office well after 5 pm. These tests were specific and narrowly targeted. She actually scored extremely well in all areas except Math.

The only tiny detail is that all tests were given in a one-on-one setting with plenty of breaks. This has been a re-occurring theme in figuring out the best way to structure things so Maddi can learn. There are four things that affect Maddi and her abilities; distractors, attention, stimulation and fatigue. If any of these elements are in play her results are hugely different.

Based on these tests; Maddi scores in the NORMAL range for every aspect except Math. If you needed proof that God can intervene on your behalf, here it is. If you were wondering if MIRACLES happen today, not just in the “Bible”; Maddi’s recovery is a testament to the reality of miracles and a Living, Loving God in every respect.

I remember vividly wanting to pray for this kind of outcome but I feared I would be asking too much of the Lord. Instead we prayed to be able to accept God’s will in Maddi’s recovery. The only way Maddi was able to score this well based on her injuries is through God’s intervention!

There aren’t enough positive “CHANCE” cards on life’s Monopoly board. We “did not pass go, nor collect our 200 dollars” more often than not and we definitely didn’t have a “get out of jail free” card. I don’t believe in coincidences or fate and I don’t believe that we did anything to deserve this great blessing.

This MIRACLE was and will always be, because of God’s mercy and love for us. God, in his goodness, saw us in our time of trial and had compassion on us, just like he did for so many others in his earthly ministry. Faith was the only component needed. I knew God COULD, I just didn’t know IF he WOULD. That IF has been answered with a resounding YES!

Yet, even with this miracle there is work and struggle. Maddi isn’t 100% but she is more than half way there! Gratitude and the Miracle have not erased all indication of the brain injury, perhaps what is left is just enough to keep us from forgetting the MIRACLE.

Maddi’s biggest strength for learning is verbal language. The struggle is the duration of attention and the ability to keep information in her short term memory and retrieve it at the appropriate time. If she gets loaded down with too many things at one time the brain and memory tend to dump it all.

Maddi’s logic is good in the small details but she tends to miss the big picture especially when it isn’t blatantly specified and she is rigid in her approach to problem solving. Learning to alter her approach is needed.

She also struggles with social structures and language. She is very blunt and extremely literal without much tact right now but she will learn. The skills that were the most practiced and unchanging are the ones that have been relatively unaffected by the TBI.

Those skills that are constantly in motion are more difficult. Social things with people, in general, are difficult to navigate, but with teens, specifically the rules seem completely arbitrary with no predictable results. One person can say/do/wear something and it is deemed as “cool” but someone else is seen as inappropriate. How do you teach that?

Maddi reads, spells and comprehends above a high school level. Maddi was a great reader before and that skill was easily rewired or may not have been affected much by the injury. The experts can’t really explain it. There are big fluency and speed differences that affect how much information she can learn and understand in one sitting. She often uses the information to reference her answers. This is a result of that new and old information paradox. She isn’t sure if what she “knows” is based in the most recent information or if it is something she knew before. It is difficult to “verify” information in that context. It creates uncertainty in her decision making. Besides that little hiccup, Maddi’s short term and long term memory are within the normal range as well.

We are truly blessed to have her testing come out so well even though we understand it is just one blip on the landscape of information about Maddi. It is a MIRACLE for sure.

The most difficult are those four major issues; fatigue, attention, stimulation and distractors. They infiltrate all areas of learning. If she is fatigued her scoring falls to the severely impaired range.

  • Being unable to differentiate between superfluous dialogs in a classroom vs. important information hinders learning in a huge way.
  • If the amount of time she is required to attend to a specific topic, task or skill exceeds her “built in” timing the rest of the information tends to fall out of the brain.
  • Having lots of stimulation requires extraordinary effort on her behalf and that leads to……..fatigue.

She had a global (meaning in all areas) Traumatic Brain Injury which has produced global weaknesses but she also has some amazing strengths.

It is actually interesting that her strengths and weakness seem to be complementary. It is almost as if for every issue the Lord has provided her a work around; a way to compensate. If I didn’t understand the Law of Opposition before…….. I do now. If she can sort out the HOW then she will be unstoppable in whatever she decides to do. I know this is a lot of mumbo-jumbo but the long and short of it is:

Maddi can learn and be productive in all areas of life. She just has to do it a little bit differently with a little more fine-tuned approach, but ultimately she is capable of learning, doing and becoming anything she wants to be.

Here is the FAQ section.

  • Does she still have a Traumatic Brain Injury? Yes, but comparing the outcome to what could have been, we are thrilled with Maddi 2.0.
  • Is she back to normal? No, she never will be, but she will learn to be effective and productive regardless of the TBI issues. The newness will become normal for her.
  • Will this ever go away? No, as human beings, we are all designed to adapt and adjust and Maddi is capable of both. Fatigue, stamina, stimulation, attention and distractions will always be a part of her life. Knowing her she will turn them into strengths!
  • Can she go to college? Absolutely, but she may take two classes at a time instead of four, not a big deal we have at least 80 years of learning. Why are we always in such a rush? Geesh!
  • Does she still have recovery work to do? Yes. But in reality, don’t we all? We are all trying to adjust to our own insides. Learning happens in days, months and years.
  • Can she go back to school full time? The answer is yes, but would she be able to learn well in that environment right now, no.
  • She needs time to develop coping strategies and new tolerances for stimulation.
  • She needs one on one instruction to fully retain the content and she needs extra time to get it in long term memory.
  • Six hours of daily frustration would just convince her that she is unable.
  • Re-teaching everything after hours is not an option. As Maddi’s stamina and skills increase, she will increase her time spent at school.

Life is supposed to be about JOY!

Hopefully, I didn’t create more questions than I answered. Maddi is doing amazing! Life is looking good for her. It has been a long stretch on this road but by taking one moment and step at a time we are further down the path of recovery for Maddi!

I personally am glad we are here and not still there.

Testing Completed…………….Bright Future Ahead!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Music and the Spirit

Many times during this journey  the Spirit spoke to me, answered my prayers and gave me comfort through music, specifically hymns. I want to document one of those tender moments. First, there is something you need to know about me. My life is lived with a constant backdrop of song and lyrics. I can’t remember a time where music wasn’t a daily function in my life. I am not particularly talented but I love the lyrics which read as poetry to my soul and I love each musical resolution in the chord progressions. In my youth, not to insinuate that I am in any way old, I sang and sang, probably to the complete irritation and annoyance to everyone around me.

I learned to read the written word through the hymn book at church. Each time we sing, “I Need Thee Every Hour”, it reminds me of the astonishment I felt as a tiny little girl when I realized that the first 3 words were all long vowels and that Need and Thee were from the same “family”. Church was hard for me as a kid. I am hyperactive and have never sat well. I am impulsive and have difficulty keeping my mouth shut since I process and experience my world through words. If I was truly listening and understanding I NEEDED to verbally summarize and apply was what being said……not completely appropriate in a quiet setting.

Each Sunday walking dutifully behind my parents I only saw the two leather bound books in my mother’s arms. There were no quiet books, snacks or colorful pictures to capture my attention. The only entertainment was the scriptures and the hymnal. Being a person with a 10 second attention span, the pages and pages of seemingly millions of words found in the scriptures were just abstract works of art done in black and white. I didn’t find the magic in them till I could truly read. The hymnal, at least, had a rise and fall of the notes on the page. There was the top and the bottom and then the lyrics settled beautifully in the middles of the two. I loved that beautiful blue book.

The hours spent on the bench each week truly were agonizing for me. My legs dangling from the bench went numb but it wasn’t respectful to put your feet up, “no sense stepping on Jesus”, yes, I was raised in the Bible belt and there has been some southern Baptist influence. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the importance. My heart and spirit were “there” I just hadn’t learned to master my body yet and the tingling legs didn’t help. I am sure I felt many ear tugs or “taps” on my head to correct my bad behavior.

Each week, as I recognized more and more words on the page the difficulty of the quiet was filled with the sound of music. For me those lyrics were like an ancient day “Where’s Waldo”. It was like a multisensory learning game. I, not only, started to knit the words together with meaning but as I was “reading” the tune, harmony and melodies would play in the background. It is the same for me today.

Generally, if you were to watch me during the Sacrament, you will see me with my tiny personal hymnal. During the quiet times I read and re-read the lyrics to my favorite hymn. It is always interesting to me that each week I am drawn to different hymns and most often the lyrics are exactly what my heart needs to hear.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with Maddisized. I cannot even begin to articulate the number of times during those most difficult days that a hymn would spontaneously and without conscious thought begin to play in my mind with the lyrics complete and in the undeniable, recognized voice of the Holy Ghost.

One of the first songs to occupy that unconscious space was, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” (104). This song has always been a favorite. The familiar and easy melody with its hypnotic harmony made its way into my heart as a teen.

The first verse rang true to me because I could visualize being tossed and thrown against the waves. That was my exact feeling.

Jesus, Savior, Pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea.

Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rocks and treacherous shoal.

Chart and Compass came from thee, Jesus Savior, Pilot Me.

My life felt like a dangerous sea that was out to swallow me and my family whole. I had no idea where this journey with Maddi would take us just like the angry waves tossing a helpless boat over its blue canvas. There were too many hidden and dangerous things that I couldn’t see.

With the PROMISE of direction in the metaphor, “Chart and Compass came from thee”, I knew that Jesus WOULD Pilot me through this journey. Actually, this song is where I came up with the idea to use Journey to signify what we were going through.

I wanted a neutral term that would allow me to focus on the positive rather than a word like “accident or tragedy” and I needed a word that signified movement and that this moment was temporary and things would get easier.

“As a mother stills her child, thou canst hush the ocean wild.

Boisterous waves obey thy will, when thou say’st to them “Be Still”.

Wondrous Sovereign of the sea, Jesus, Savior Pilot Me.”

Even though Maddi was “still” and in a coma at the time, I had the deepest desire to comfort, fix and communicate with her. I was desperate to hear her voice or see her eyes. It gave me great hope that if the Lord can hush the wildest ocean and water must obey him then if it was HIS will, Maddi could recover………… and if not, he could hush my metaphorical “ocean wild” and I would obey and I, too, would be still.

The usage of the Sovereign and Wondrous in the last line along with the plea for Jesus to take over at the helm created the deeply personal and internal picture of me relinquishing my boat to his expert care. When the anxiety, fear and despair would creep in I would return to that picture of handing it all over to my Elder Brother who knew me and loved with a love I hope one day to be able to return in kind. I need a great artist to capture that moment for me so I can hang it in a prominent spot in my home.

“When at last I near the shore and the fearful breakers roar.

Twixt me and the peaceful rest, then while leaning on thy breast.

May I hear thee say to me, I will Pilot thee”.

Nearing the shore the waves are sometimes the most dangerous. You have to get through those “breaking” waves to reach your destination. To brave those waves you have to put aside your Fears and take them head on or else you are likely to capsize with your goal within sight. For me, the promise of leaning on the Lord for strength and putting my fears aside felt like manna. I didn’t eat much during that time but spiritually I was on life support for my strength. To further the little video clip going on in my head, the feeling of being held by my Savior and the peace waiting after I rode those terrible waves of recovery….. gave me an incentive and strength to press forward.

In spite of the day to day relevance and the history this hymn has for me there is a story attached. I have a nephew that received his mission call and his “un-farewell” was schedule just shortly (a little more than 3 weeks) after the accident. Maddi was still at Primary Children’s in the Neuro-Trauma Unit. She wasn’t really improving much. She had experience her first bath and John and I were enrolled in a crash course. We were learning the basics for long term invalid care, brain injury and the far reaching adjustments looming in the future. We had endured the worst case scenario and learned that Maddi would live but the HOW of that life was still in question.

John and I were torn about attending. We wanted to support our nephew and we wanted him to know that we love and care deeply for him but leaving Maddi at that time was so difficult.

At the time we could only tell from the monitors that Maddi was distressed when we left. Ultimately, I called either my mom or my sister; I can’t recall which of them came. Knowing that we weren’t leaving Maddi “alone” was such a blessing for us. How grateful we were for those many family members who stayed with Maddi when we absolutely had other things we had to attend to.

Going to the “un-farewell” was a symbolic gesture of accepting the life we were engaged in at the time. It was an attempt to look past our survival mode and for us to re-enter the world of other people. John’s family is huge and many of those people we had not seen since the accident.We didn’t want to miss an important event but we feared we would overshadow the joy of his day with our situation. So, we intentionally arrived with very little time before the meeting started. We found seats by some dear friends and the meeting began.

My favorite part of church is the singing of the hymns. If they ever stopped the music I would seriously think about worshipping in the mountains or something. I am sure the songs fit the season and the occasion but the only song I could hear was “Jesus, Savior Pilot Me”. The ringing of it in my ears drowned out any other music. The Spirit was conversing with me and supplying me courage. I don’t know that you are ever ready to embark an unexpected and undesired journey but that day and with that song, I found a very relevant story woven between the music and lyrics. I was hanging on each chord and word for strength.

I don’t recall much of what was said in the meeting, the stress of the situation made everything a fog. I remember reading and re-reading the words to that hymn throughout that entire meeting. I don’t remember if I even spoke to anyone directly except for my nephew. I hugged him and wished him well and told him that I knew he would make a great missionary, that his service would change him forever and that I loved him. It probably didn’t mean much to him but I meant every word of it.

I thought about him and prayed for him and his family when he entered the MTC just 3 short days later.

I thought of my own missionary son out in the field and how our experience was affecting him.I reflected on the short phone call when we told him about his sister with emotion and compassion pounding in my heart. I prayed for him to find a working place that would allow him the peace as he finished his work. I worried about how strange our life and family would seem when he returned six months later. I contemplated the idea that perhaps Maddi’s recovery would be seen as one of the missionary blessings.

As the meeting ended we exited “stage left” quickly not wanting to cause a scene and we purposefully didn’t go to the luncheon afterwards because we wanted it to be HIS day, not a Maddi press conference. On the drive back to the hospital I desperately wanted to find this experience to be a nightmare instead of my reality.

My heart was heavy missing my other kids who were more than 100 miles from me. I missed my own ward family and the familiar rock behind the pulpit. I missed the comfort of my own bed. I missed the laughter of my daughter. I missed our “nightly” family scripture and prayer together and the weird irreverent humor that always seems to come out at that time. I even missed the heated debates that happen across the dinner table.

I wondered about our life if Maddi didn’t improve and how that would affect my dearly loved but nearly grown children. I wondered how we would recover ourselves. Life seemed so uncertain.

“Jesus, Savior Pilot Me”…. continued as we parked in our usual spot and walked the long succession of steps to the doorway leading to a different life.

As I paused reaching for the handle the cadence and final resolve of the song rang through to center of my soul…….

“Fear Not, I will pilot thee.”

…..and I knew HE would.

Monday, October 10, 2011


One of the most beautiful results of this unfortunate event has been to see the deep love and caring that people have for each other.  We have been the recipients of such service and love in so many ways.  It has been a testimony to the goodness of the human family.

It is much easier for me to be the giver than the receiver so it has been a great lesson for me. I prefer the anonymous route for giving and have never considered how badly the person might want to give thanks for such a great blessing.

I wish I could detail out all the wonderful acts of service but I am sure I would miss someone.

This post is partly for the anonymous person that has been consistently helping us out. You know who you are and to what I am referring to.  I wanted to give an accounting of how you have provided for our needs. Sometimes you never get to know how your sacrifice helps but today you get a glimmer of you greatness.  Your selfless gifts have relieved some of our burden. Thanks you so much!

You have so graciously given us:

1. Clothes for Maddi, she has grown 6 inches since the accident.  A whole new wardrobe was needed.

2.  Gas for our car to get to the many appointments 100 miles away. Gasoline is the silent killer of our budget.

3.  All of Maddi’s school books for her continued education. Buying curriculum isn’t cheap.

4. Repairs and registration to the above mentioned car to allow gas to filter through the tank.

5. Ballroom dance lessons that are an important part of Maddi’s Rehab.  Dancing helps increase her processing speed and helps connect the brain to the body in real time.

6. Therapy appointments, $35 copays add up fast, new glasses and prescriptions

That is just a sampling of the ways your kindness helped us adjust to our new life.  We don’t know who you are but you know and we want you to feel our deepest appreciation. 

Our journey would have been much more difficult and dark without all of the kindness from so many different people; spiritually, emotionally and temporally.  A huge thank you goes out to all of you;

  • those who have prayed and are still praying for us
  • those who call or use any manner of technology (email, texting or Facebook) just to see how we are doing
  • those words of encouragement that you may not even know you gave but made the biggest difference
  • those special friends who know how drag me out of my house
  • those people who have taken the time to get to know and love the new Maddi.
  • those of you who have been there and listened to our heartfelt struggles and loved us through it all

We, as a family and myself, personally want to thank you.  I hope the blessings of love are returned to you in the time that you needed it most.  I hope to be able to see the needs around me and be quick to serve as well.

The song; Old City Bar from Tran-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) summarizes how we feel and how we hope to find ways to “arrange it” for others around us in their time of need.

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it
If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last

By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
And to know who needs help
You need only just ask

This is a shout out and thank you to ALL who have “arranged it” for us, anonymous or not!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Otherwise–By Maddi

Adjusting to Maddi 2.0 is hard, for everyone. That means my friends, my family and myself. Sometimes my days are good, sometimes they're bad, and sometimes they're something in between, just kind of otherwise.

Sometimes, I start reading “Smile on My Forehead” a book written by a woman who also had a TBI named Jennifer Mosher, and I end up in tears. This is not because the story is terribly sad, it is simply because a lot of the experiences she went through, I am going through right now. But other days, I come home smiling and bubbly as ever but sometimes I am just in a melancholy mood.

Despite all the kinds of days I have, they are all hard. They all have fatigue, forgetting and learning. But even on the worst days; I get to see my friends, my family.  I am thankful for how far I have come. Some people may think that just because I am walking and talking, I am fine and just the way I was. This could not be farther from the truth. The long-lasting effects of my brain injury will be my shadow for the rest of my life.

Adjusting is the hardest part. The learning is not over, and it probably never will be. But, the giant metaphorical hill (my hospital stay and all the hard things with it) is behind me. Although this is the case, I think that this part of my journey is the hardest. To what part am I referring?

The mental/emotional part. Everyone says that the teenage years are the hardest, but teenage girl plus TBI equals……………….bad combination.

There are many, many, things that are hard for me. Some are:

  • Remembering both short-term and what happened to me
  • Following Conversations
  • Having to stop participating in certain activities because of headaches
  • People expecting the same out of me as before
  • Getting my point across
  • Not being able to do certain sports like skiing

Despite all the hard things, there are quite a few good things as well. Such as:

  • Everything is getting easier over time
  • My friends support me & try to help me
  • I can still do lots of things
  • I have more confidence
  • I know I can do hard things
  • My family is super supportive

If I was asked to say something supportive or helpful to some one struggling with some difficult
trial, I would say;

“Everyone's got something that they are going through.”

“Everything gets easier over time.”

“Just keep pushing through, it will all be worth it in the end.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lapse of Time

I haven’t blogged for a while. There is this critic in the back of my mind saying that there isn’t an audience and by continuing to blog about our journey, I am trying to drag out this experience (not that it will ever go away) or that I haven’t accepted the past or that I am completely self- absorbed to think anyone even cares. I am finding out that none of the above mentioned things are true. Actually the blogging is all about acceptance and people are interested in the rest of the story. Brain Injury is a lifelong journey just like any other disability with its good days and bad ones. This blog started out to give information but it quickly became a way to document, reflect, accept and adapt to our new life.

I have recently been asked why I haven’t done an update and it truly goes back to that critical voice and the vulnerability I feel as I share the details of our story. Maddi was injured but that injury has created a new experience each one of us. This isn’t about me but as the writer of this blog I can only write from my own perspective. I don’t want to come off as a “whiner” or a “super hero”, nor do I want to seem self-important or give the impression we are unique or special. One thing this experience has taught me is just how many people are struggling with hard things in their lives, most difficulties originating from no personal fault or choice. All it takes is a listening ear to hear about ordinary “Davids” facing their “Goliaths” all around us.

I am just a regular person doing the best I can with the cards I have been handed. I just want to be real and honest about what is happening and the cascading effect that terrible day had on our lives. I don’t want to omit the hard stuff but I don’t want to linger there either. We experienced a great miracle that has been a huge blessing in our life personally and as a family. Even with the miraculous recovery this journey has required adaptation and sacrifice.

Maddi is against all odds, adjusting so well to her new brain. It takes daily work and struggle but she is figuring out how to deal with the memory issues and her ability to express herself within a conversation with many people. She is adjusting to her physical and mental fatigue and learning her limits as well. She is learning not to expect people to remember that her brain is injured and trying not to be hurt when people can’t deal with the change between before and now. She is learning to be strong in her choices and to ignore other opinions that could make her feel inadequate. She is learning not to define her life by anyone else’s standard and in the process she is learning to leave the judging to God because not only are her injuries invisible but most people have invisible “things” that affect their choices.

We are private people and don’t spread our business around, happy or sad. This blog really is out of character for us as a family but especially for me personally. As I write I open my soul knowing that there are those waiting to judge and criticize, but I feel compelled to continue.

Maddi spends time reading other blogs written by people with brain injuries and what they write comforts, inspires and helps her. It gives her hope that life will one day seem normal and that someone out there truly does know what she is going through and they are able to make it work too. Maybe for someone else this blog can do the same for them. If one person has a better day after reading, then it is of worth.

This miracle has been humbling, stressful, horrific, amazing, and illuminating for me personally and for our family. It has brought us face to face with the most basic human fears, death, separation and permanent changes in people we love. It forced us to take a good look at where we have spent our time, money and energy and whether they were good investments. It put our family to the test in terms of unity, understanding, and toleration. It has shown us just how equipped we are to support each other during a crisis and the lingering long term effects of this accident and any future difficulties.

I think every family whether they admit it or not deals with this unity test. It may not be through something catastrophic but in some way or at some time all families either bond together or pull apart. There is no middle ground, either you are moving towards or away from each other and that movement takes work. Sometimes the work is pleasant, fulfilling and delightfully fun and other times is it dirty, messy, disappointing and extremely difficult. Pretending one way or another doesn’t change the reality of it.

In honesty, my kids are amazing but definitely not perfect, but I am not perfect either! As a family we are still trying to adjust and maybe we just think about it too much but it takes deliberate effort to remember that things are not the same as before and forgetting that fact can create contention, division and hurt feelings.

We had to relinquish the idea that we can shape our own future in the most basic ways. The idea that if you do the right things everything will work out is true, in its most pure form, but not in the practical day to day living of things. Sometimes things just happen and they derail all of your best laid plans and changing past choices would have no real effect on the outcome. It is best to avoid anyone outside of the situation, who says “you should have done…..”. Being on the outside they have no understanding of the variables or reason for past choices. It has brought a deeper application of the terms; “endure to the end, thou shalt not judge and mourn with those who mourn.”

Looking forward is uncertain and looking back you see only shadows of what truly was. We can only live today in the best way possible and that is what counts. The great scripture that is known as simply, “Consider the Lilies” is applicable here. This scripture has brought me such peace in this wave tossed boat we are in.

One of the things that Maddi said Jesus told her when she was in her coma was that; “He wants me to succeed. He wants me to be happy.” When she told me this in the dim light of her room and in her raspy whisper of a voice, the impression came to me that success, of course, was defined from an eternal perspective rather than from mortality. Success would come from emulating our Savior and would be defined between people’s hearts in that unseen but important space. It is all about how much love, compassion and understanding we extend to our earthly brothers and sisters regardless of the situation, similarities or differences.

I don’t know about anyone else but knowing I have a loving Father in Heaven and a Big Brother who love me and “want me to succeed”, gives me such feeling comfort, acceptance and a deeper desire to be all I should be. If God can create a universe that functions so effortlessly then perhaps he created me to be eternally successful and happy too, even if it doesn’t register as success here on earth.