Friends for Life

Hi. My name is Billy Bridgewater. I am 49 years old. I had a schwannoma tumor that went from my balance nerve to the core of my brain. I was told that the surgery was going to take 4-6 hours and I would be in the hospital 3-4 days. The surgery took over 12 hours and I ended up in the hospital for almost a month. There were complications with the surgery that caused a CSF or CFS leak. They tried to plug it but that did not work. I then had a lumbar drain put in for three weeks and was in ICU the whole time. By what I was recently informed is that also while I was in ICU my brain had an infection that caused me to have a stroke.

The way that this affected me is that because of the surgery I now am a 100% deaf in the right ear, blind in the right eye and I have Bells Palsy, which is paralyzation on the right side of the face. When I was in rehab, I was told that I had a traumatic brain injury caused by the tumor and the complications and I was going to be there for up to 6 months and that I would be in a wheelchair. I worked extra hard and ended up coming out with a walker. I continued my PT and OT and got put on a cane. My son got me a walking stick and I have been using that. My doctor put me back on the walker and that is ok. I will continue to fight to go back to the walking stick.

After I got home from rehab, I did not have a lot of friends and I really started to get depressed and had a high amount of anxiety. I used to be really active and then all of a sudden it stopped. I had no one to relate to what I was going through. It made me very upset and isolated.

One day my son and I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I saw this gentleman there that had a scar on his head, and I asked his mom if he had his surgery at Barrow. He then introduced himself as Kurt and told me all about his injury. His mom then asked me if I ever heard of Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center or a program called We’re Moving Forward. I told her that I did not, and she told me that I need to get involved with them because I will get active and have support. My son and I went home and checked it out and I signed up for the first WMF event. It was the BBQ at Corey’s pond. When I got there, I never felt like I was out of place and I felt like I was welcomed into this big family. I felt like I finally found a place that will help me. I am glad to say that I am glad that I got to be a part of this family and now I am registering for everything and getting more and more active. I recommend We’re Moving Forward to any TBI survivor. It is really important to me to have the support and friendships. I feel that the people of W.M.F. will be my friends for life.