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The New Normal

Heidi Qua & her sons

Heidi Qua & her sons

Today’s blog is written by Heidi Qua, mother of Jacob and Eric. Her son Jacob suffered a traumatic brain injury, in 2004 when he fell from a third-story window. To read her entire story, click here.

A few days after Suspect Number Two from the Boston marathon bombings had been apprehended, I was speaking to a friend who lives in Virginia. “So, are things returning to normal now that the suspect has been caught?”  I laughed.  Normal? Things will never be normal again. We are entering a chapter of a “new normal.”

New normal is a phrase I used frequently when my then almost three-year-old son was discharged from the rehabilitation hospital, Franciscan Hospital for Children. In September of 2004 Jacob fell from a third floor screened window to the concrete courtyard below. He spent 19 days in NICU, 17 of which he was on a ventilator. Then we were moved to rehab where he, we, stayed for three more months.

When we were discharged, four days before Christmas, people assumed that we would be going back to our “old life.” They didn’t seem to understand that we couldn’t go back to our old life. My husband and I were trying to figure out our new life, our new normal. Rather than working full time, I was now shuttling my youngest child back and forth to therapies, and welcoming other therapists into our home.  I had to explain to my oldest son, Eric, who all these people were, and why his brother needed all this additional attention. We were trying to keep things normal for Eric, but even his life was forever impacted too.

As Jacob grew older, my new normal included monthly visits with different doctors – neurologist, physiatrist, or primary care doctor. The therapies continued, several times a week.  This is not what I call “normal.” As a young woman, when I thought about becoming a mother, I never thought “what pattern should we choose for my son’s AFOs (ankle-foot orthosis)?  Where can I buy shoes big enough to fit his AFOs?”  In fact, before Jacob’s accident, the world of rehab, therapies and AFOs was a world I had never given a second thought.

As much as I lamented my new normal, I realized I only had one option, and that was to accept it.  I actually started to appreciate our new life. Nothing was going to make Jacob “normal” again, and I was beginning to be OK with that. I fell in love with his funny little walk, or the way he throws a ball. Even now, at age 11, all I have to do is hear his walk and I know it is him. I realized quite quickly, back when he was in rehab, that Jacob is a hard worker. He never once complained about all the therapy he went through. To this day he is the hardest working guy I know. This past weekend he hiked over seven miles with a backpack on, carrying his camping gear. He fell down, 10 times to be exact, but got back up each time and kept going.

As we approach the nine-year anniversary of Jacob’s accident, I can honestly say I am content with my family’s new normal. I would be lying if I said I wish the accident never happened – no parent wants their child to suffer any injury, let alone a traumatic brain injury. That said, we have found victories in the small things, in the quietest of places, and we have learned to celebrate each moment with all three of our children, as we take this journey together.

Get Involved With BIA-MA This Brain Injury Awareness Month


This March, which is Brain Injury Awareness Month, BIA-MA will be posting a lot of helpful, supportive and educational content on our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and of course, blog. The content will focus on all areas of brain injury, including concussion and TBI, stroke and ABI, caregivers, survivors and support. We’ll be talking about alternative therapies that some survivors find especially helpful, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, music therapy and yoga, and other issues, such as caregiver fatigue, depression and stress. Whether you’re a survivor, caregiver, family member or professional, you’ll find helpful and intriguing content on all of our social media channels. Make sure you follow us on all of our social media channels to stay up-to-date on Brain Injury Awareness Month and see all of our posts.

Our blog will also feature some guest bloggers, including some from our very own organization, as well as survivors, caregivers and family members who will share their experiences, tips and advice. If you’re interested in guest blogging for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts or if you have content or ideas for the upcoming Brain Injury Awareness Month, we would love to talk to you! Please e-mail us at socialmedia@biama.org.

And don’t forget to participate in our #BrainInjuryAffects campaign! Whether you’re a brain injury survivor, caregiver, family member or professional, you have a story to share. Please help us increase awareness of brain injury this March and participate in our exciting social media and advocacy campaign by clicking here. It only takes a minute to make a difference!