The truth is I have one of the scariest and unpredictable diagnoses in the medical community. I was diagnosed with severe traumatic brain injury. A person’s brain controls everything! The brain is the most important organ in the body. It controls and coordinates every action and reaction, It controls everything that makes us human. I share truthful information about myself and how this injury has negatively affected me even though it is hard for some to see the positive effects in my life.
The reason why I will impact your life is because I love you. I love people with a force that feels unnatural. Like waterfalls or wind and waves on the ocean. I love effortlessly, as though love packs annually like snow on top of a mountain and in the springtime, melting and rushing in an infinite loop through me. I do not know how to explain my love except to say it is utterly and delightfully devastating. You will not live the same once we have met. My story might be troubling because some do not like to put hands and feet on love or open him or herself.
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 foreheads 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 prays and cries and sings. All these things are what love does to people and things.
Lastly, I offer hope for those who need it most. People who have suffered a TBI, caregivers, family, loved ones, friends, people who you have neither met yet, and when hope is the last we can hold on too. The idea of hope is not logical and makes absolutely no sense but is extremely important for us. Granted, we are not purely logical creatures but we still need hope to nurture our happiness & well-being. For example, if we were robots we would not need hope. In other words, it is a balance between rationality and irrationality. I offer support because everything in your life will
The truth is I have one of the scariest and unpredictable diagnoses in the medical community. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. A person’s brain controls everything! The brain is the most important organ in the body. It controls and coordinates every action and reaction. It controls everything that makes us human. I will share truthful information about my life. I will show how this injury has positively and negatively affected my life.
The reason why I will impact your life is because I love you. I love people with a force that feels unnatural. Like waves on the ocean. I try to love effortlessly. You will not live the same once we have met. My story might be troubling for some because he or she does not like to put hands and feet on love.
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 foreheads 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. All these things are what love does to people.
Lastly, I offer hope for those who need it most. People who have suffered a TBI, caregivers, family, loved ones, friends, people who you have neither met yet, and when hope is the last thing we can hold on too. The idea of hope is not logical and makes absolutely no sense but is extremely important for us. Granted, we are not purely logical creatures but we still need hope to nurture our happiness & well-being. For example, if we were robots we would not need hope. In other words, it is a balance between rationality and irrationality. I offer support because everything in your life will become uprooted. You’ll be given the hardest test known to any human.
The optimist sees the opportunities in every difficulty and the pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.
It may be hard for some to imagine that there was a point in my life when I had no idea what a TBI meant. The diagnosis is Traumatic Brain Injury. This diagnosis is complicated because of the complexity of the brain. On one hand the patient may appear normal but inside his or her head there are 1,000 alarm clocks going off at the same time or an individual with clear physical limitations that just wants to think independently. TBI’s are undoubtedly the scariest diagnosis to be delivered in the medical profession.
However, with a TBI, the first thing to see a decline with many others is short term memory.. Severe trauma can leave victims with longer lasting physical disabilities. In other words, as a result of the TBI I am left with an unstable gait and excess muscle tone. I am dependent on a cane to walk and a night time arm splint and ankle cast.
My TBI has impacted every aspect of mylife. I used to be a confident well- spoken outgoing individual that thrived on person to person interactions. My TBI has stuck me in what is possibly the most dismal place in this universe. I fought tooth and nail to extricate myself from those dark depths but acceptance after my traumatic episode has been patchy. I have lost many many friends and I gained a few new ones. Look at how people squander away their blessings or moan about “misfortunes” these days, I cannot help but realize I have become their biggest critic. If only they knew what I go through everyday.
This book aims to acquaint, my readers, with the tip of the TBI iceberg. What is known at the time of 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 largely with a symptomatic treatment of TBI injuries. One of life’s greatest ironies is how much more energy gets devoted to milder brain injuries because people know these relatively more, as opposed to focusing more attention to more severe traumatic brain injuries victims who are truly worthy and desperately need more help.
There are no percentages, no miracle cures, no accurate ways to predict how well 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 what he or she will be left in terms of, “his or her old self” or “quality-of-life.” Having a TBI, or being connected to someone who suffered a similar event, is an exercise in extreme patients. The slow process of recovery makes, “watching paint dry,” feel like the speed of light. YES, it is that slow. Thank you for your time and here is my journey…..
Chapter 1 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 changed. I am in many aspects a shadow but yet, I am in other aspects superior to myself. If I were to liken myself now to a butterfly, then 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, me, I like to invite you into my skin and walk around in it. Specifically, I will try to show you five dimensions that my life evolved around– my personal and family history, my physical pursuits, my cognitive abilities, and my social life. This compilation would be a snapshot of the movie before the accident. This also gives 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 important. To me, taking stock of what used to be was important because this knowledge provided 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 there are some things that can or will never be. This book is therefore an important waymarker and consolidation point in my recovery.
My Family and Personal History
My paternal grandfather, Richard Francour, grew up in a small town in Crivitz, Wisconsin during the Great Depression. He stood 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 always 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 when he and she had been in there early to mid 20s.
My grandfather went to a train School in the midwest of the United States. At that time, trains had been a major form of transportation for goods and individuals. My grandfather has old (e.g., 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 the most captivating narratives.
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 all the way up to senior year of high school. 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 and even my grandparent’s 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 go drive 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. I hope to someday have the same work ethic as him. My grandfather at this present time is still challenging his mind with puzzles and reading books.
My grandfather’s personality reflects the time period. He is a veteran and has gained the respect of most individuals in the area. He started Francour Oil in his mid 20s and the business thrived through most of the 1950s to the early 1990s when my grandfather sold the business to my uncle Paul.
Now switching to my father. My father grew up in Marinette. My mother resided in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. My parents went to the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities for Education and that is where both met. My parents were brilliant academically. My father received a 4.0 and my mother received a 3.8 grade point average in college.
My father tried out for the baseball team as a third baseman as a freshman. He received an athletic scholarship for his three years of college. He was an exceptional athlete playing football, baseball, and basketball at Marinette high school. He was on the Boston Red Sox. My mother grew up in Blaine, Minnesota. My mother was a cheerleader at the University of Minnesota. My mother and father had athletic talent. My father states 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 was later drafted by the Oakland Athletics organization farm team but threw out his shoulder and could no longer pitch. My other uncle went to University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and to play football. My aunt, even though, was not athletically gifted she was musically inclined. She later 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 period questioned things like women’s rights. Knowing the athletic and academic history of my family I believe a reader can assume that I was placed under a lot of pressure to perform at a high standard.
My older sister was involved in ballet and dance along with softball and ran track but was not the best at either sport. My older brother played football, baseball, and hockey for a few years and played football at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. My younger sister participated in dance and ballet and was just starting out playing softball. In other words, if a person had the last name, “Francour” he or she had to perform in every facet of his or her life.
I grew up in somewhat of a large immediate family and a huge extended family. I had a mother and father who had been in her or his late 40’s, two sisters, and one brother. My two sisters’ ages had been 11 and 23 and my brother was 20 at the time. My mother and father had been teachers at Marinette school district. My mother taught sixth-grade science and my father taught elementary physical education. My sister was finishing her collegiate career at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities for nursing and my brother was in college at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I was a sophomore at Marinette high school. My sister was in fifth grade at Park elementary school.
I grew up physically, socially, and academically equipped to take on my childhood and adolescent years. Being a Francour, my family and I was involved in the community in sporting events in Northeast Wisconsin (e.g., Peshtigo, Marinette, Menominee, and Crivitz) so I was very well known for my physical presence. I grew up from a young age being very involved in sports. My earliest memory of myself being involved 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 spring time 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. In the fall, I played Pop Warner football. I was on the team called the Eagles. I had an excellent group of players and coaches. My sixth-grade Pop Warner career was capitalized with a championship victory over the Steelers. I idolized players like Brett Favre and Barry Sanders. I love the athlete Brett Favre because he made horrendous plays look magnificent and I feel he got a bad rap for his indecisiveness.
In the winter, I played hockey and basketball. I have been told that my older brother was signing up for hockey so I got into line and was signed up as well. Skating with ragtag equipment I managed to develop into a quick coordinated hockey player. My second year was great playing hockey as a squirt. The hockey team and I won state for squirts 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 basketball career 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 a majority of my baseball career I played catcher. My baseball team and I won one state championship my Major Little League career and 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 my other nostril.
Noodle up nose
If a person has ever seen the television show, “Jackass,” my friends and I emulated sketches from that television show (e.g., riding my little sisters tricycle down a set of stairs, riding my bicycle into a curb and being catapulted forward six feet, or riding down a sledding hill in a shopping cart that was borrowed from a local grocery store) are just a few instances that reflect my personality and friendships.
My friends and I had a great time together. I have also been interested in some animate (e.g., Dragon Ball Z) was a television show that I really liked to watch starting about my middle school years. I was known as Chad Ball Z.
I loved to hunt and fish. In the fall, I could be found in the water wrestling Salmon or Brown Trout at a local crick. My mother’s extended family would always spend one weekend during the summer at my other grandparent’s cabin on a lake in Minnesota where we would play cards, go fishing, and of course sight see. A person always could 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. I felt at times often forgotten. I suffered from middle childhood syndrome. My father was tough, demanding, and showed little emotion. My mother was more supportive and listened to any of her children. 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 somewhat short (e.g., 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. My baseball career was played as 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 make contact with the ball and that I had power and speed. I had a strong gift.
As for hockey, the sport that I love was played as a 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 even after my accident, I was still the leading goal scorer on my hockey team. That fact could be interpreted two ways. One way may be I was just that good at hockey or 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 like I did to my sports I would have easily been the top student of my class. 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 to not study much but I did work hard with what little time I was given during school. I did not have much time to really excel in my academics because I was so invested in my athletic career I really 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 extremely active. With being in sports, I mostly hung around athletic friends. I had the type of personality of quiet, confident, and collective 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 neighbor or childhood friend was 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.
My freshman year (e.g., 2003) of high school
As a freshman in high school sometime in October I asked the most beautifulest and intelligent female if she would like to hang out. She said yes knowing who I was (e.g., a Francour, who was athletic, popular, and intelligent) and we dated (e.g., 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 other individuals (e.g., Joyce Winters) privately, go on many adventures to football games, and just 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 in retrospect it was nothing more than a high school love.
I hope you understand the constant pressure that was felt to perform my best but to have a level head while doing it. 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. Being able to reflect on what I was like before my accident makes me try that much harder to get back to some normalcy.