I Am My Own Normal

Since Jan. 2005 I have worked as an in-home caregiver for a young man who has a significant Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, sustained following a car accident. He didn’t have any broken bones, but his head was really shook up. The brain injury was so severe that he is not able to walk, talk, or care for his own personal needs. He communicates with eye blinks and facial expressions. Most people cannot understand him, but he and I developed a unique form of communication. From the start, we’ve shared a special bond. Little did I realize then, how much we had in common. he’s a practical joker. Some mornings I would arrive at his home and he would completely ignore me. He wouldn’t respond to his name. I would go through several names. finally, he responded…to my name. So that day he was me. My disability? I have a TBI.

In 1951 I was born with anoxia, no oxygen getting to the brain. I couldn’t breathe. The doctors took me immediately to a room with an oxygen tent and put me in it to help me start breathing. After 3 and ½ days in the tent I started to breathe on my own, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here to tell you MY STORY. The doctors told my parents during the time I was in “isolation”, that if I survived, I would be seriously brain damaged and more than likely be a vegetable. Hmmm, I thought, I could be a carrot. I didn’t know much about brain injuries until I started working for ABIL now AB ILITY360.

I learned that TBI’s are like snowflakes, no two are the same. I related to persons with TBI’s because I have one. I really care for them, one in particular. Throughout my life it bothered me whenever someone would see a person with a disability and say something like “if that was me, I wouldn’t be seen in public. Unfortunately, that still happens a lot today. It’s an ongoing task to educate the public to the fact that persons with disabilities are people too. We deal with the same things that “NORMAL” or differently abled people do.

I AM MY OWN NORMAL AND I WON’T BE ANYTHING BUT MYSELF, except of course when I am on stage acting. 0n stage I am a chameleon changing into who I need to be. Today, I’m Steve and right now, I need to be me.

UPDATE:  Our friend Steve passed away on 1/11/18.  We will certainly miss his smiles and jokes.  Our sincerest sympathy for his wife Liela Jo and their family.