This is the second part of a two-part blog post by Stephanie Deeley, whose sister Kim lived with, and ultimately died from a traumatic brain injury caused by domestic violence.
…During this same period, the domestic abuse escalated and we as a family were very concerned about Kim’s safety. Kim had always been independent and had always made her own decisions. We could not convince her that staying in that situation was too dangerous. She knew that environment, it was her home, and the idea of dealing with a big upheaval in her life was more than she could handle given all the issues related to her brain injury. Kim decided staying was the best choice.
In December of 2011, Kim’s husband held her captive in her own home for several hours. As a result of that event, he was charged with attempted murder and kidnapping, along with a slew of other charges. Kim was devastated, and went back and forth between being angry and wanting her husband punished, to feeling guilty and wanting him home. Again, the turmoil and the stress of an unknown and fluid situation was very, very difficult for her to handle as a result of her brain injury. The court took the decision out of her hands and brought charges against him and held him for 6 months. Kim found herself living alone, unable to drive, struggling with balancing her check book, and worried about having a seizure when she was home alone. Ed and I were always there, to drive her to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment, to help with finances or to listen to her when she needed to vent. But, she felt lost and dependent and she did not like that. When her husband was released from jail, she petitioned the court to let him come home. She was more comfortable being dependent on her husband than her siblings.
It was “normal” for your husband to take you to the doctor or the grocery store, and to balance your check book. She felt guilty asking us to take time away from our families to help her. No matter how many times we told her it was not a problem, she still felt bad. She had a husband, and he should be the one helping her. She could not see how ludicrous it was to be dependent on the person who caused her injury which took away her independence. And again, Kim was not going to tell people she was a victim of domestic abuse any more than she would tell them she had a brain injury. Her pride got in the way, as it would for any of us, I think.
Kim’s husband never met the expectations Kim had. He did not take her to her doctor’s appointments, he did not take her grocery shopping, and he did want to help her. In fact, he complained to his “friends” about how he had a wife who was disabled and how tough it was for him to be saddled with that burden. Never did he mention that her disability was caused by him.
On March 9th of this year we all got together at a restaurant in Hingham to celebrate my brother Ed’s birthday. After much discussion and back and forth, it was decided that Kim’s husband would not join us. Ed picked his “little” sister up as he had done hundreds of times over the last few years, and Kim spent the night surrounded by people who loved her and protected her and wanted the best the world could give her. She talked with her niece Catie about her upcoming wedding, and talked with her godson Patrick about his college classes, and chatted with her nephew Matthew about his house on the beach. She reminded Ed that he was getting old, and told me to stop worrying about her. She laughed and joked and teased and was the Kim we all knew and loved. I hugged her when we were leaving the restaurant and she got in Ed’s car and he brought her home. That was the last time any of us saw Kim alive.
On Sunday evening, March 10th, Ed received a text from Kim about a family event at 7:30. At 8:20, Kim’s husband called to tell us Kim was on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. By the time we arrived, Kim’s was gone. We may never know for sure what happened that night, but there are some things we are sure of. Kim was a victim of domestic abuse. Kim’s head injury was caused by her husband. Whether Kim died of a seizure, or some event involving her husband, she died as a result of domestic abuse.
According to the Brain Injury Association, it is not surprising to hear that a brain injury was caused by domestic abuse. The stigma of having a brain injury is still something we need to fight, as is the stigma of being a victim of domestic abuse. I cannot even imagine the difficulty in having to deal with both of those issues as my sister did.
Kim’s husband is still facing the charges from the December 2011 incident. As part of his defense, he is claiming that Kim had severe memory issues and could not possibly be sure of what happened on the night in question because of her brain injury. The injury he caused is now what he is using to defend himself against the charges of attempted murder.
Kim’s life was changed as a result of her injury. She lost her independence and her analytical mind, and she lost her job. But, Kim continued to move forward and try to find a way to improve her life. And on many occasions, she continued to share her love and laughter with the people who loved her most in this world, and who miss her the most. My relationship with my sister was one of the most important in my life. There were so many times I relied on her advice to analyze a situation or figure out a course of action. I trusted her judgment, and valued her insight. Most importantly, I loved her. As she grew from my baby sister to my friend, our relationship grew also, and as her life changed because of her brain injury, some relationships in her life were altered…some did not survive. But family was not one of them. She was always the fun one, the one who could make you laugh just as easily as she could make you see a need to change. She never judged and she always loved. She valued truth, even when it was tough to hear, or tough to tell, she was kind and forgiving, and a trustworthy keeper of your secrets.
Given more time, I believe Kim would have found a new success in life, and would have learned to live a full and productive life even with the limitations that were a result of her brain injury. Who knows what the future holds for new treatments and medicines. Use every resource available to you, including those offered by the Brain Injury Association. Every day is a new opportunity to grow and to improve. Don’t let your brain injury define your life. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Do not be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge your brain injury, or talk about how it impacts your life. What we tolerate, we cannot change. Don’t tolerate a life that is less than it can be. Someone once shared with me that if you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how truly amazing you can be. I hope to always remember that…