If you’ve been around the Your Pet Brain community over on Facebook, chances are you’ve interacted with Virginia Carper. She’s pretty much been with us since the day we launched this Brain business, and we are continually struck by her sense of humor and appreciation for the small things in this life.
Virginia’s story is one of endless resilience. Her life changed forever when she suffered a traumatic brain injury. Rather than giving up and allowing the circumstance to define her forever, she instead dug a deep well of wisdom. Some gems she shares with us include:
- “Brains do heal, and become rivers with eddies, islands, rapids, and calm pools.”
- “Through all of it, the essence of who I am still remains.”
- “Living totally in the now, I take my boat to horizons yet to be explored.”
We always knew she had an incredible story to tell. Now, hear it in her own words.
Humpty Dumpty & Me: Virginia Carper
Q: What’s your name, friend?
A: Virginia Carper
Q: What is your Pet Brain’s name?
A: Brainie. (wearing a tam – Brainae, wearing a beret – Le Brainie)
Q: Please share your story here… Who are ya, and what has your human journey been like?
A: Like Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall, and could not be put back together. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, I did not have a great fall from a wall. Instead, the wall had a great fall on me. I was minding my own business when the wall collapsed on me. I woke up in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in which all four lobes of my brain were damaged. (Note 1)
Like Humpty Dumpty, I was in pieces. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, I had a closed-brain injury. Like Humpty Dumpty, trauma enveloped me. I had to cope with the randomness of what had happened. There was absolutely nothing that I could have done to prevent it. Now, how do I navigate in a world full of walls? (Note 2)
Solving problems is what people with TBIs are forced to do. As for me, I have an emotional support animal. My stuffed ladybug, Peasey, goes with me everywhere. Bright red with black spots, she attracts attention, but neither of us cares. We are brave together as we go shopping and in and out of tall buildings. When the world becomes too much for me, Peasey is there. All I have to do is put my face into her soft plush to shut out the stimulation around me. People who have TBIs have two lives – the one before and the one after.
We mark our lives in years post-TBI. (I am 12 years post TBI.) We grieve for who we were and live for who we are now. Life post-TBI is a kaleidoscope that spins and weaves the threads of our many lives into a new tapestry. Brains do heal, and become rivers with eddies, islands, rapids, and calm pools. I have memories that flow by and disappear, while other memories are now a part of the river banks. Some are islands that remain. During the winter, the river is frozen but it thaws in the spring. Through all of it, the essence of who I am still remains. Having a TBI is like being a sailor on the seas of fate. I am in my small sailboat, working with the winds and tides to go where I need to. Sometimes, I can sail directly there, while at other times, I have to tack to the winds. I get there eventually but in a roundabout way. Because of the variable winds, there is no returning to what was before. Living totally in the now, I take my boat to horizons yet to be explored.
Note 1. The frontal lobe is where the executive functions occur. The parietal lobe integrates sensory information. The temporal lobe processes the sensory information and memory. The occipital lobe is for visual processing.
Note 2. I did sue the company whose wall fell on me, and won.
Q: What are some of gifts, skills or lessons you’ve gained from the challenges you’ve faced?
A: How to have plan a, b, c, d, and then e.
Q: What words of encouragement or advice do you have for others going through something similar?
A: Life with a brain injury is an adventure.
Q: What are your favorite songs that give you courage, hope and inspiration? (Or just make your brain stem wiggle!)
A: Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart
Q: Any book recommendations that really helped you?
A: The Secret Strength of Depression
Q: Anything else you’d like us to know?
A: I am a squirrel in disguised as a human. (My family calls me “Squirrel.”)
Pretty amazing, huh? Thanks so much to Virginia for sharing her story, bringing us into her world, and promoting a life of positive resilience.
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