I’ve fought and won an extensive battle with my injuries from a car accident 12 years ago. My traumatic brain injury was one of the most difficult impairments that I’ve ever dealt with. It took years to accept the new me and find my “happy place.” It took a lot of hard work, tears and understanding. I am very happy maintaining my new quality of life. You have only to read a few of my previous posts to see the hell that I went through to get to where I am now. I thought I had rehabilitated myself as far as I could and so I’ve been coasting through life very happy to have what was left. Occasionally, I wished for the old me, for things to be different. But I had accepted my lot in life and was making it the best life I could. Enjoying my new normal. Appreciating every second of my second chance. Maintaining feature complete.
Feature complete: a version of a software in an advance version, which contains all intended functionality of the final version, but is not yet final due to bugs, performance or stability issues.
I am blessed to have this amazing friend. Her name is Heidi. We met in high school and have been inseparable since. But the strange thing about us is, we keep showing up in each other’s lives, right when the other needs it the most. It is uncanny the way it all happens. Sometimes we go a year with no connection at all. Life gets busy, other things need our attention. Then BAM! Cosmic forces, karma or the good Lord above crashes us together right when we need it. And it is never an ordinary experience. Just ask Heidi. She will smile and wink at you and giggle. I just love her with all my heart.
So here she came again. We were meeting another good high school friend for lunch. We always have fun no matter what we do but as we ate I could not help but wonder what was going to be compelling about this particular meeting. She told me about this study she had been accepted into that was happening at the Idaho Doctors Hospital. She was accepted into a study of the effects of HBOT onTBI and PTSD and would receive 80 hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments. It all sounded very cool to me. I had tried every treatment out there but had only read about HBOT for possible treatment for my TBI. Along with all the other therapy I was doing and not being able to work, hyperbaric oxygen treatments were just out of reach for me. Depending on the treatment center and size of the chamber, treatments run anywhere around $150 to $1500 each. And my insurance would not cover it.
We finished our lunch, hugged goodbye till next time and I climbed in the car and sat that brochure in the seat next to me on the drive home. I thought about it all the way. I began to hope for some relief and wondered if I could get into the study. The very next day I filled out a questionnaire online. Now, I am hoping again. A week later I opened an email that told me I was not a candidate. In the reply was something about my lung and diaphragm injuries. But, a few months later two things happened almost simultaneously. First, I received a letter in the mail from a good friend. She has no idea how much I love this little sticky note. Especially the part that says “I have no idea if this would help your situation or not.”
Underneath the sticky note was a newspaper article with a picture of Heidi’s beautiful face. I was instantly drawn to her face and amazed at how wonderful she looked. Something about her was different, very different. Second, I received a phone call from Heidi and all I can remember about it is “Diane!!! You have to call this Jeff guy and get into this study, today. It has been amazing for me!” So, I called this Jeff guy. After talking for an hour about HBOT, veterans, and all the disparities of health care, I had an appointment to go for testing. I also had this big huge helping of hope show up. What if this works? How would I change? How would I feel? Would I look and feel as good as Heidi? If I only acquired half of the relief she did I would be overjoyed. But, I know my limits now, or so I thought. And I tend to be very realistic with myself so I folded up that feeling and tucked it away and tried my hardest to ignore it.
After my appointment, permission from my Pulmonologist, some testing and peek inside the chamber I was accepted. There came that hope thing again. Numb, I left to drive home. But then on a whim (I am a little spontaneous at times) I turned my car around and stopped at Petco. Not knowing what I was looking for I wandered the isles. But as soon as I saw him I knew he needed to come home with me. Oh, my poor husband. I have at one time or another brought home almost any animal my heart desired. I purchased my new little guy and headed home with a fish. A beautiful blue fighter. We had a lot in common him and me. He was a Beta. I named him Bari after Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. He was a symbol of my hope. A symbol of desperation. A symbol of this chance to erase some of my bugs. Dan did not roll his eyes this time.
Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software, as well as speed/performance issues and may still cause crashes or data loss.
While I was waiting for my treatments to start I could not help but wonder how HBOT would help me and my injured brain. A few of my “performance” issues were pain, fatigue, lack of organization and communication skills and a significant dose of PTSD. Just a few years ago I was having panic attacks every 5 minutes. That was the hell I was talking about earlier. One of my biggest battles was fighting those panic attacks and putting time and calmness between them. It left me totally exhausted and afraid to leave the house. I began hyperbaric oxygen therapy in January of this year. I was so terrified I could barely move. With Heidi practically holding my hand and encouraging me the whole hour, I survived my first treatment. You would think that sitting in a small chamber in comfy chair breathing oxygen would be comfortable. Well, not for me and my PTSD in tow. It goes wherever I do and rears its ugly head right when I am trying to hide it the most. I am not so sure I would have gone if Jeff had not promised me that Heidi could go in with me. Who the heck was this guy with a huge heart that acted like he cared anyway? I would soon find out his staff was just as excellent. And I never feel like I am just another name on the schedule. I do not remember much about the first treatment other than I was so nervous I felt like I peed my pants.
So, thankful for my husband’s urgings I started a journal so I would not forget what happened in the chamber, and to record the effects I hoped I would feel. This little journal was all about me. Soon I was enchanted by the lives around me. It became about them, not me. I was with heroes of all kinds every day at the chamber. All the heroes, strangers at first, became friends. Friends similar to me. You know the kind with brain injuries and PTSD. We are comfortable around each other. We kind of understand each other. We have a lot in common. I hear so many stories of horrible things happening to humans and how they survived them. They were maintaining their new normal. Just like me. Every day at the chamber I heard their stories. As they talked I could sense their hope, their desperation. I was not the only one hoping for relief. We all were a little desperate for anything to help us get through our days. So I un-tucked and unfolded my hope. Brought it out just to see what would happen. And soon I began to feel different. It was subtle differences at first. But treatments exhausted me. I was tired, very tired and hungry all the time. After treatments, I would drive home, shove some food in my face and sleep. Get up, eat some more and sleep again. Then get up and head to another treatment. Once I even left the stove on high with dinner boiling in the pot and fell fast asleep. The next thing I remembered was my son telling me something was burning. Well, we went out to eat that night. Jeff reassured my being tired was normal. It means it is working. I remember staring at him in disbelief. But I continued. January to April consisted of driving, treatments, eating and sleeping. At the end of March, that little whisper of change began to get louder. I was having a conversation with a few people and I realized quite suddenly that I understood everything they said. That was not normal for me. This was HUGE. Years earlier I had spent hours in cognitive therapy trying to gain skills to make it through conversations and respond. It was something about me that bothers me. So, I paid very close attention the very next time I had a chance to have a conversation and sure enough, I was handling conversations better and remembering what we talked about from the beginning of the conversation to the end. And surprisingly the next time I saw them I remembered what we had talked about previously. This was new and oh so incredible. I usually avoided people and conversations like the plague. But now, I looked for a chance to talk to a friend. I started calling people I had not talked to for a while. I have a lot to make up for. For years, I was busy taking care of me. Self-care and fatigue left me too exhausted for a conversation that would only end in confusion and a big headache. So I saved my conversation time for my husband and kids mostly. So many friendships were pushed to the side. But now, I just keep calling and texting. And they do not mind. And I love it. Connecting with friends is something I have missed.
I also noticed that I was calm. Very calm. It took me a while to recognize it. First I noticed that my shoulders were no longer hitched to my ears. They were right where they should be, relaxed with my hands by my side. I had not had many calm moments since the accident in 2002. My PTSD would not allow me many calm moments. This calmness came to me without me putting on a fake smile, without struggling to push aside my PTSD. It just happened without me doing anything. It just showed up as a gift wrapped in ribbon. Just for me. No more holding myself stiff as a board trying to keep it away. No more barely holding myself together. No struggle to achieve put togetherness, just the gift of pure calm. Every morning it was there. And at night it was there too. I was in shock. It took me a couple of days to get used to it. I became desperate for the feeling not to leave, thinking it might until I talked myself into a big deep breath and to just enjoy this moment. And I am still enjoying it. Every damn second I am enjoying it. The calmness is still here. It just shows up every day, just like it used to, as it should. Relief from my greatest enemy and my biggest battle is in the form of a hyperbaric chamber. I am trying to find the words to explain to you how much this means to me. Hope fulfilled. Broken pieces stitched back together. A big dose of relief. Desperation quieted. Dreams coming true.
Friday April 11th I completed 40 treatments. I tested again. Jeff showed me my results and the testing confirmed what I was feeling. I was in shock. It is real. It is working, really working. That day began my thirty-day break. I gave Jeff a big hug and drove home in a daze. Not wanting to leave my happy place, my new friends or my chance at healing what I hate the most about me. But my hope was huge now. My hope was bigger than the fear. A balance that I tried to achieve for 12 years happened in just a few months. During my break, I began to notice other things that were different. After the accident, my brain decided that it just wasn’t going to wake up each day. Thank God there is a pill for that. Some days I just wake up on my own now, wide awake. And I stay that way all day. Just the other day I had a huge list of errands that I just knew I would not get all the way through. I set out to do them until my usual raging headache sends me home for a much-needed nap. But before I knew it I was done, completely done with all of my errands. Usually just a trip to the grocery store is way more than this injured brain of mine can handle. But I completed all the errands and had energy for more. I was in the parking lot at the bank about to head home. Instead, I grabbed my phone to text my family the good news. Then I just sat there in the parking lot of the bank and enjoyed the moment. I did not have the usual headache that screamed at me to go home and take a nap. My head was not fuzzy with confusion. It was clear, so very clear. I could finally do errands again like a normal person. Weird, but wonderful.
Others began to notice. My son in California mentioned that he could tell from our recent phone calls that mom is more with it. This is HUGE. Jon had the worst time of all my kids when dealing with the new mom after the accident. So this is very huge. He deserves a mom that’s with it. After his phone call, I stopped everything I was doing and just enjoyed the moment with a few, maybe a lot, of happy tears and counted my blessings. Katie just clings to me recently enjoying the new mom. A teenager that likes being around her mom. Hmmmm? Maybe because she does not need to be her own mom anymore. We traded places once. Now she gets to enjoy being a kid and I get to enjoy being able to be her happier, healthier ‘with it’ mom. Shellie, my oldest daughter, has noticed changes too. She can instantly tell when I am just too tired to listen to her on the phone. I hate being too tired to be a mom when they need me. But now, she noticed that I am not as tired and even when I am tired I can still hear her and really listen. I get hear my children now. Hear and understand. I am not too tired for conversations or listening to my kids. This is significant. Very huge. I never miss a chance to stop and enjoy the small things, because they are the big things. So, recently, every day I have been stopping everything and just enjoying the new me. And exploring the new me. And I like it. I am thankful to be whom my kids need me to be when they need me. When I am done talking to them I pick up the phone and call an old friend. You know. The one I’ve been too tired to call. Then I pick up the phone again and call another friend that I have not talked to in a while. Dan just rolls his eyes just like when I bring home all my animal friends because nothing is getting done at home. Then the next day I wake up and start it all again. And I remember what I did the day before and where I left off with friends and family. It has been a long 12 years. And I have a lot to make up for. So, I call my friends again. I call my kids again. I cannot get enough of this after years of avoiding conversations. I am having a ball, a headbangers ball to be exact.
A release candidate is a beta version with potential to be a final product, which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge. In this stage of product stabilization, all product features have been designed, coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper-class bug.
On May 12th I begin my last 40 treatments. I hope it goes by very slow. I want to get all the healing I can out of this. Because, it works. But for now, I am enjoying every single day waking up and being awake. I am testing out my new features and finding out who I am now. I cannot say thank you enough. The staff at the healing center are heroes in my eyes. I will never forget them or what they have done for me. Nothing can stop me now. Soon, I’ll be golden. Even though my youngest daughter told me that people over 40 are not allowed to use that word. But I did. Do me a favor and just don’t tell her. But I think she will notice that her mom shines a little brighter.
The term ” release to manufacturing”, also known as “going gold”, is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered or provided to the public for distribution. This build may be digitally signed, allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software. The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume; it only states that the quality is sufficient.
Sometimes, as I sit and watch Bari swimming around in his bowl, I swear I see him wink at me.