I write as the parent and caregiver of the survivor of a severe brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident.
Sam was 19 in 2006. He was out that Saturday afternoon enjoying the freedom of the road, and the fresh spring air. He was found hanging from his shoulder belt in his overturned car on our rural road.
Sam was in college, he worked both full time and part time, and owned his own business. Ultimately, he planned to teach high school biology here in North Carolina.
This is not a freedom issue. There is no freedom in brain injury.
For 11 years, his Dad and I have spent our lives and our money caring for the youngest of our seven children. Sam is 30 now. We would like to retire. We cannot. We don’t have that freedom. We will be caregivers forever. Sam will need lifelong 24-hour care.
Sam does not have the freedom to make his own decisions any longer. He cannot choose to scratch his own nose. Or what or when to eat. Or what to say. He can’t say anything except “Mom” and then only when he is upset. He can cry, though.
Sam was always an avid outdoorsman who spent his life in the sun and fresh air fishing and camping. He also spent hours on his beloved tractor, grooming the rolling pastures. Now he can barely control his own body temperature.
Spring and summer events like Thresher’s Reunions and car shows, riding a bike on a clear day – those things that are North Carolina, those things that are so wonderful are distant memories.
Regarding the April 25 Under the Dome item “Motorcycle helmets may be optional after 21”: I’m not sure where the $10,000 amount came from. That’s about enough to cover an ambulance ride and admission to an emergency trauma unit.
We stopped keeping track at $2 million, and that was just the first month in the hospital. Think about what a lifetime of 24-hour nursing care, adult diapers, formula, therapy and equipment will cost taxpayers. That’s the cost of the wind in your hair.
I liked the idea of adding the requirement of a motorcycle rider showing proof of organ donor endorsement on his or her license. At least some good might come of this.
There are not adequate services for those with brain injuries yet in North Carolina. Perhaps, with the passing of House Bill 91 however, there would be so many with brain injuries that the need would not be ignored.
Please don’t let that happen. Please.
The state legislature should help one more family avoid this. This is a lonely life. Let’s keep it that way.
NC Brain Injury Advisory Council