From a Traumatic Brain Injury to a Burst Of Butterflies - Gratitude Every Single Day
Sometimes our lives can take a sudden and unexpected turn. I worked very dilligently at setting up my life the way I wanted it to be...years of setting and achieving goals, always a list maker and enjoying checking items off of my list every day, week, month and year. I had reached a pretty nice plateau at the beginning of 2013 and had plans for a long-desired trip to Ireland. My finances were stable, business was good, everything was in control. I was very grateful for the career path and goals I had achieved.
However, on June 21st 2013, I received a call that my sister had just been airlifted to a trauma hospital. I had no info on what happened or what her condition was, but I knew that if they had to airlift her it could not be good. I quickly called my Mom at work and told her I was coming to get her. The drive felt like it took forever even though it was only 7 miles. I picked up my Mom and she was shaking and neither of us knew what was going on. Arriving at the hospital, we were escorted to a room with couches and dim lights. We were told that my sister had been catapulted head first into a brick wall in a serious accident and had sustained major injuries. They needed approval to perform surgery on her brain to release the pressure and that she may not survive the procedure. My Mom was squeezing my hand so hard I thought it was going to break, but I didn't say anything or stop her as I knew that this news is something that no mother wants to hear.
Over the next several weeks, my sister had three brain surgeries, facial reconstruction, clavical surgery, screws installed throughout her back bones, and lay in a coma. We lived at the hospital and everything else in our lives suddenly went on hold. I went to court to legally become her guardian and conservator so that I could make decisions and take care of her finances. After eight weeks, she came out of her coma but couldn't talk, walk or eat food. She spent six more weeks in neurological rehab learning to do all of these things again. I am so grateful that my career afforded me the flexibility to be at the hospital each day to help see her through all of this and to assist my Mom.
She was a 33 year old woman working as a manager at a Starbucks, attending college for a business degree, getting her entire life and future positioned the way she wanted it. In a second, it was all gone. While she was in the hospital, I moved her household of furniture and belongings to my house, planned for our Mom to retire from her life-long career in order to become care-giver for my sister, bought another house for myself and my teen-age son to live in, and set everything up for what life had presented to us as a result of this tragedy. It was exhausting and time-consuming and I am thankful that I was able to do it all. My trip to Ireland just has to wait for a while.
It is now 17 months later. My sister is doing well relatively, but is permanently disabled, suffers from short-term memory issues, semi-frequent siezures, has a shunt implant to stabilize her brain fluid, and has difficulty understanding daily concepts that you and I take for granted. She has lost her independence that she worked so hard to obtain and cannot work a traditional job or drive. We are grateful that she survived against the odds.
However, I have bought a commercial building and we are opening a family-operated pottery painting and art studio shop in January which my Mom and Son and I will manage, and my sister will be able to work there as well and regain some of that sense of having her life back. It has been a huge investment, and I pray it works, but giving my sister the ability to have a "job" in a way that she is still cared for and looked after by family will be huge for her. She has even taken an interest in canvas painting and seems to enjoy it very much, so we are planning on offering canvas painting classes at our shop. We are naming the shop Burst Of Butterflies as a tribute to the metamorphasis that has taken place in our lives and a theme around turning something ugly into something beautiful.
I am grateful that I had the time and the means to be able to take care of all of this, allow my Mom to retire and take care of my sister, and work toward building an outside-the-box way to give my sister back some sense of independence with a job which accommodates her new disabilities. It has not been easy by any stretch of the term, and I have definitely aged in the process, but am thankful every day.
Through all of this, I have definitely become more patient, understanding and less inclined to sweat the small stuff. My daily interactions with others comes with more empathy and a comfort calm outlook in the idea that things will work out the way they should and with time. These adapted qualities have much more positive results in my daily interactions.