Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 7-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.
Sunday, February 23rd was Isabella’s 8th birthday. Recently it occurred to me that when Isabella turned 8, she will have had a brain injury almost half of her life. Another year older, we are still fighting to relearn everything and regain a sense of “normalcy”. Let’s be honest. Brain injuries suck. They rob you and your child of the simple joys in life like birthdays. Isabella had been waiting for her birthday for a month. We had the day planned for the three of us: her, myself and my fiancée. We planned on presents, cake, decorations, piñata and her favorite meals. What I didn’t take into account is that no matter how much you plan, brain injuries are unpredictable. The after effects of a brain injury are long lasting and do not discriminate or care that something like a birthday is suppose to be happy. Don’t get me wrong we had some great moments but as the day progressed things quickly went downhill. It was heartbreaking to watch Isabella literally fall apart because something like a birthday was too overwhelming and too much. She kicked, screamed, cried, hit and went hysterical until she would finally let me hold her. My heart aches for Isabella. I am choosing to hold on to the good moments that we had on her birthday and reflect on all that Isabella has taught me.
When Isabella was born I had no idea that this little person would become the bravest, strongest, most amazing human being that I would ever meet. I had no idea that she would endure more in her short life then most in their entire lifetime. You see Isabella’s brain injury has robbed her of many things in life, things that will never be ok ever again. What Isabella’s brain injury didn’t rob was that will to fight, her unrelenting determination, her strength, her endurance, and the ability to change and amaze those around her.
Isabella has taught me heroes come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages. Isabella is my hero. She has spent the last 3 + years fighting to regain her life and learn everything all over again. Isabella lives in a scary world filled with anxiety, hallucinations, inability to express herself, loss of control over her body and mind. Yet she tries so hard every single day. To live in a world like Isabella’s and still have good moments that is bravery. That is strength and endurance.
Isabella has given me the opportunity to appreciate the small things that we often take for granted. We stop and smell the flowers. She and I watch the sunset knowing Nana in heaven is making it beautiful for us. We take the time to laugh, hug and just enjoy each other. Isabella has slowed me down and made me see things that for years I never even noticed. Life takes on a greater appreciation that most will never know unless faced with the same uncertainty of possibly losing it all.
I was already a determined person, seeing Isabella’s determination only makes me fight that much harder for her. Isabella spent a day learning to sit up only to fall back over and then do it again. I have watched her attempt to kick a soccer ball to lose her balance and fall. Yet Isabella did it over and over again until she was able to kick the ball. I have watched Isabella struggle to find the right words to read a sentence in a book. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 tries to get her brain to say the right word but she sticks with it until she reads the sentence correctly. Isabella knows what she wants to say and she is determined to figure it out. That determination is inspiring.
My wish for Isabella in her 8th year is that she will start seeing how truly amazing and awe inspiring she is. I want Isabella to know that it is ok to be scared; doing it anyway makes you brave. I want her to know that strength isn’t only measured with how physically strong you are but also by the things in life that are suppose to stop you and yet you overcome. I want Isabella to know how very proud of her I am. I love Isabella more with each day; her brain injury makes me love her even more.
Brain injuries suck. They are gut wrenching to watch. As a parent it can be devastating to see your child struggle everyday with things that once were easy and done without second thought. I encourage you to find the lessons that survivors offer to everyone they know. Cherish the moments and recognize that in an instant it can all change.
“Most people never get to meet their hero. I was lucky enough to give birth to mine.”