Reader’s Digest. Canadian edition. Capt. Trevor Greene. Axe in head. Remarkable recovery. Against all odds. Miracle. Not.
I really shouldn’t read these kinds of stories; they just put me in a bad mood, and I have to admit I tossed the Digest down after it asked the question of how Greene did it — why did he have such a remarkable recovery? How did he defy the doctors’ prognosis of being a vegetable, of being permanently paralysed?
Simple. The doctors are ignorant, and they’re not all that interested in coming out of that comfortable place, using their uninjured brains to help those of us with injured ones have good, productive lives.
Capt. Greene recovered because he received the two most important things for brain injury recovery: (1) full-time rehabilitation over years, for as long as he needed, not for some predetermined prescribed too-short time period; and (2) the unwavering, committed, involved support of a family member.
No miracle. Just what happens when someone gets proper care.
The damaged part of the brain has to “grow up” again. It has to do all over again what happens in the first twenty years of life, and it has to do it with damaged or dead or missing neurons in an environment of bleeding and swelling and perhaps secondary damage too (current knowledge of what happens exactly in the moment of injury and months after is not that clear). The brain does have cells dedicated to reconnecting neurons — and it is a strange feeling when that last connection is made, like suddenly a part of you is plugged in and is no longer off or sparking — but these work very very very slowly. So there will be spontaneous healing. Over decades.
But you don’t have a child sit around, watching TV, expecting it to learn how to walk, bathe, eat, read, write, think all by itself. You teach it. Every single day. The whole day. For years. Even play is teaching. So why would you expect a person with a brain injury to be able to learn all these things sitting around or with one or two hours per week of rehab in only six months to two years (the prescribed length of time doctors opine is the window of healing; as I said, ignorant)? And why would you ignore the fact that a person with a brain injury has to relearn what a child learns in twenty years in way less time? Why would you throw away a life? Giving it back requires effort and thought, sure, but that’s part of a doctor’s job. Isn’t it?
Greene had his “miracle” cause his fiancée Debbie Lepore did for him what we do for our chidren: support them full time, encourage them always, teach them full time. Lepore was really the miracle. A person willing to do for him what she did is a rare bird and the most beautiful one anyone can find on planet Earth. What makes her especially rare is that it sounds like she did it on her own (with professionals doing some of the rehab) with no other family members to spot her.
What makes me so very angry is that most of us don’t receive that. We don’t have families who are willing to make that years-long sacrifice of full-time, hands-on rehab and caring. Some of us even have families who tell us to get over it or that we are thinking ourselves into a brain injury, as if we can reach our hands into our skulls and rearrange neurons.
Worse. No medical establishment is willing to provide that kind of intensive, years-long rehab, especially not cognitive rehab, in Canada anyway, not because of funding but because in their ignorance, they prefer to take the easy route, to think of us as fit only for day programs, not as having the potential to become members of society once again. I fought for my life; but few have my kind of background, and not everyone is persistently stubborn like me, to be able to do that for themselves. I don’t know if I will ever not be angry about that injustice.
Greene is no miracle. He is what everyone with a brain injury should be. Perhaps one day it will happen.