Although we were relieved when our son was released from the hospital, it was only the begging of the struggle. I had seen the results of brain injuries before and knew that they were never the same.
My son, Josh, went from being an above average student to one who struggled. He developed behavior and concentration difficulties that he never had before. My wife described his new struggles in her November 2011 deposition testimony:
Q: Now that it’s 15 months post-accident, I know everybody has a little bit better idea about Joshua’s recovery. As the mother and a person who is taking a prime interest in his recover, would you say that he’s fully recovered to his pre-accident status?
Q: And why not?
A: He is now ADHD medication, he has very much difficulty in school in terms of remembering and comprehending, he has been recently determined to have hearing loss in his left ear, he is hot-tempered and can be very difficult to deal with.
Q: And what are the issues in school that you say he has difficulty with?
A: He has difficulty with reading comprehension; he has difficulty remembering almost anything, which would be including addition facts, multiplication facts; he has difficulty writing his thoughts down on paper; he has some difficulty paying attention and focusing, which is related to the hyperactivity attention problem; and he is struggling in virtually every academic aspect of school.
Q: Is he confident in his physical abilities after the accident?
A: I would say at a reduced level.
Q: Why do you say that?
A: He’s been a soccer player for his entire – – because our older children are so Joshua has been playing since he’s been old enough to play and he has changed from a very – – he’s a small boy, but a very aggressive type soccer player, somebody who goes out there, to a kid who we are now considering moving from the team because he is absolutely the worst child on the team. He’s just not the same child as he used to be.
Q: How has the accident with Joshua affected your life?
A: In the immediate, obviously, time after the accident, he was in the hospital and then he came home and he had rehab, considerable numbers of rehab and he needed constant supervision. So for a period of time, he – – his accident consumed my life. I mean, if I wanted to do anything, I needed a babysitter because we really could not trust him alone at all. After he went back to school, tremendous amounts of time with the schoolwork, with the tutors, working with the school to get Joshua the help that he needs, which we continue to do. And his behavior, I mean, he’s very difficult, I mean, being trapped in a car with a child, you know, screaming at you every single day multiple times a day, just the stress level of dealing with a child who gets upset very easily and goes off the deep end, you know, is very difficult to manage, that – – you know, it’s not an all-inclusive, but, basically, he’s just very difficult to deal with every day.
Obviously, Joshua was kept nearly in a coma for what ended up being almost two weeks with the meningitis and, I mean, during the initial time before the meningitis, when he – – the brain was swelling, it was every day not really knowing who was going to – – if he was going to wake up, which we felt he was, but who was going to wake up, are we even going to recognize this person. Not really knowing how badly he was hurt because there was no quantifiable way to know that, what was going to happen after the brain swelling went down. We lived – – between my husband and I, we lived at the hospital for the duration, which, I believe was like nearly three weeks. Juggling one us taking care of – – you know, going home at night with the other kids and the other stayed. Joshua was never alone in the hospital. Our lives revolved around being there with him. I mean, everything else took a backseat and it was very frightening.
And then when Joshua started coming out of the drugs and he was just really goofy, again, not knowing is this the person, I mean, is this who he’s going to be or is he going to come back and be Joshua again. And then the terrifying moment when they told us that he had the meningitis and we thought we had kind of gotten to a point where, okay, maybe we’re going to be okay here and they told us that it could end up now being worse than it was. So another week of waiting to see if – – who he was going to be when he woke up, if he was going to know us.
And when he was first out, I mean, he was just – – he was unable to walk, I had to feed him when he left ICU and moved into a regular room, I fed him. We had to walk with him to the bathroom, we had, I mean, to put a strap around him in case we lost the grip so we could grab him.
So it was very emotionally challenging time for all of us and he – – because he is such a fighter, he learned quickly again, but he had to relearn a lot of language, some words, he had to learn how to walk, he had to learn how to run, he had to learn how to climb, he had to learn how to eat by himself. It was difficult watching that because no one could give us a definable, okay, two weeks from know, this is where you’re going to be. It was just every day, let’s see how we do, let’s see how we do, let’s see how we do. And, Joshua is a fantastic fighter and he moved along quickly, but it certainly could have been different. That’s it.
Q: As far as the physical self, can he do everything physically normally now? You’re talking about walking, climbing – –
Q: – – jumping, that type of thing?
A: Yes. He’s – – I mean, I don’t think he’s as physically strong as he was before, but, yes, it was part of the process we worked with the rehab, you know, he was not able to leave rehab until he could do all the things so that he could function in life.
For example, one of the criteria for him leaving the hospital was the rehab people came in and they worked with him because we have a step from the garage into the house, he had to be able to go up a step or we couldn’t take him home. So that was one of our big challenges, go up a step.
And then when he came home, we had to relocate, he slept downstairs because the bedrooms are all upstairs so we slept downstairs with him.
We altered our entire life until he was able. And then when he went upstairs, we had to be with him for fear that he would get up and go somewhere at night and, you know, there was a period of time where if he would have fallen, he could have ended up in worse condition than the original injury. So a lot of worry and just a lot of vigilance by the entire family.
(End of my wife’s deposition testimony)
As my wife said in her deposition, Josh continues to struggle, but I believe that he also continues to improve. With the help of a tutor, he is still in school and working hard. He has begun to enjoy playing soccer and basketball again, and my wife and I have a lot of hope that a happier and bright future is ahead for Josh. He’s a fighter and I am confident that he will lead a successful and productive life. He is just the type of kid where when life throws him lemons, he makes lemonade.
Lesson to be learned: Even after a settlement, the struggles from the injury often continue on.
After your case is resolved, your loved one may continue to struggle for weeks, months, years, or a lifetime. It can be difficult. At least you will be able to move forward taking comfort in the fact that the at-fault party has been held accountable and some form of justice has been done.