“I started this a few years ago to open up about living with a brain injury. The brain and emotions something people are scared to talk about” – @MyABI_byRH 18 June 2016
“I hope by being open and honest other people can feel less alone and be comfortable that it’s ok to talk.” – @MyABI_byRH 18 June 2016
At 0700 hours BT, July 21, 2016, a fellow traveller on the brain injury journey died from a fall caused by a seizure.
“Ppl not on social media talk about relationships on here not being real. @MyABI_byRH died this morn; it feels very real to me. #braininjury” – me on Twitter
I don’t remember how I, a Canadian, first met in the virtual world @MyABI_byRH aka Richard, a young Scotsman. This is why Search was invented: to help us remember that first contact, that first chat.
Memory like a misty ribbon emerges as I search back in time for our first exchange.
— Brainworks Rehab (@BrainworksRehab) September 22, 2012
Back in the day, @BrainworksRehab was active on Twitter. Weekly, they thanked various tweeps for RTs of their tweets. I decided one day to look for people to follow not just react to those who followed me; so I used to check out the tweeps Brainworks Rehab thanked. I looked for anyone with a brain injury whose personality and thoughts came through their feed, whose tweets were worth reading. That’s how I found @HammondsHead, what Richard used to call himself on Twitter. Seven days later I responded to one of his tweets about getting on with kids better than adults because I so related to that. Boy, did I relate!
@HammondsHead After my brain injury, I got along with kids a whole lot better. I felt so comfortable with them too (and them with me). :) — Shireen Jeejeebhoy (@ShireenJ) September 28, 2012
I followed him. And he followed back.
At some point, he changed his Twitter handle to @MyABI_byRH – that stands for My Acquired Brain Injury by Richard Hammond
A year later in 2013, his openness about his brain injury, his desire to get better, and him trying mightily yet not quite knowing how to overcome obstacles, sparked in me a desire to create a chat community for people with brain injury similar to Twitter chats I saw for people with diabetes. Because of a recent experiment in enhancing gamma brainwaves, I had become loads better and so felt I could do this.
I created #ABIchat, and Richard participated. But even when he couldn’t, his upbeat vibe for it encouraged me.
@hammondshead No prob! One day, it'd be nice to start a support chat gp for #braininjury like ppl w other health probs hv on Twitter. :)
— Shireen Jeejeebhoy (@ShireenJ) August 7, 2013
@HammondsHead Thanks for coming Richard! Would you like to be put on a reminder list for the weekly #ABIchat ? It wld be like today's remind
— Shireen Jeejeebhoy (@ShireenJ) August 26, 2013
Unfortunately, he suffered another head injury only a few months after we got #ABIchat off the ground, and I did not have the energy nor the ability to keep it up (a typical brain injury problem, which I really wish would go away).
“I’ve been made aware of this account by my sons. My son Richard uses this to post about his experiences as a (cont) http://tl.gd/n_1s0arc4” – 6 Feb 2014
I had to drop #ABIchat.
But I kept following Richard, although for a long while, his brother Scott or his Mum tweeted on his behalf after his second head injury – keeping up his tweets about his brain injury journey was so important to him that his family tweeted for him though they were not as into Twitter as Richard was. It was my first glimpse at how unconditionally his family rallied round him. I honestly didn’t expect to see him recover to his former baseline. But he did! And I believe it was the daily, active, loving support of his family that made such a diff.
It’s something too many of us don’t have. And I believe it gave him the bedrock he needed to keep tweeting and persevering after such a devastating setback.
It was a delight to see him sneak on to Twitter and begin to write his own tweets again when he was supposed to be resting. And it was a bigger delight to see his written language skills return and to see his thought processes begin to sharpen and mature.
— Richard H (@MyABI_byRH) June 7, 2014
But though the re-injury set him back, Richard never lost his genuine positivity. He invented his hashtag #adaptandovercome not as some sort of feel-good motto I see too often on Twitter but as a natural outflow of the way he viewed himself in the world. It wasn’t just a phrase, it reflected his thoughts, his essence of innocence, his determination and drive to improve, his desire to nurture and his compassion for others suffering from brain injury – well, anyone really, including remarkably, people who misused his trust. His compassionate-forgiving spirit flowed through his tweets to all of us who read them.
This past Spring, he unexpectedly became a father. Though scared, he didn’t hesitate to be there in every way for his daughter, even before she was born. He loved her like crazy; in only a few weeks, she changed his focus. She became, for him, the reason to redouble his efforts to #adaptandovercome.
“I have such a fantastic life right now, and such a beautiful daughter. Luckiest man on earth.” – @MyABI_byRH 20 July 2016
Our last exchange was about his daughter, naturally.
@ShireenJ some of the faces she pulls are hilarious
— Richard H (@MyABI_byRH) July 20, 2016
There are few like Richard on Twitter or in “real life,” and his spirit is what I will miss the most.