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Mike Morrisey’s open letter to his caregivers

Editor’s note: This is the the second story from a brain injury survivor and his thoughts. To read more personal stories, please visit the index.

They say people who go through a traumatic event in their life actually have TWO birthdays – the day they were squeezed into this savage world, and the day their life changed forever. Well, today is my birthday2.

In late 1999, I was a 29-year-old bachelor living a king’s life in San Francisco, California. I had a cool apartment with three other guys my age, and an awesome job which REQUIRED me to play video games for living – and then to write about them. Not bad, eh?

On October 31, I took a taxicab to a Halloween party on 17th Street in San Francisco. Dressed as Roger Ebert, I had empty-frame horn-rimmed glasses perched on my face, a streak of gray in my hair, from some weird-gelatinous hair dye, and a lapel pin with the visage of my recently-departed cohort, Gene Siskel, inside a crudely-drawn heart.

I stepped out of the cab, went to cross the street to the party house, and was hit by a speeding SUV. The impact broke my right hip, and threw me approximately 30 feet down the street, smacking my head stiffly on the pavement.

The impact gave me what the medical community calls a traumatic brain injury (more commonly called a TBI), and my life was altered in ways I never could have foreseen.

I was in a coma for 17 days in San Francisco General Hospital, and the doctors and nurses in ICU struggled to keep me alive. More than once, they had to cut my skull open, to relieve pressure and fluid that was building on my injured brain. I have no memory of any of these things.

Not long after, I was transferred to the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Kentfield, California, just north of the city. There for about four months, I received speech, occupational, and other therapies to help me recover. I was still in a wheelchair, unable to walk much on my own, and barely able to even turn over in bed, without help, at first.

After another few months in a rehabilitation hospital in my home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana (with more therapy for good measure), I was finally released to live at my father’s house.

My point, I guess is not to dwell on these terrible events of the past, but to offer thanks and appreciation for the people who helped my through it. I never would have survived had it not been for the skilled medical professionals who steered me though those first few awful days, when I was within just a whisper of death.

Thanks for my colleagues and friends and Imagine Publishing and IGN who visited me in the hospital and the rehab hospital, when I still wasn’t even sure why I was there. Thanks to my former co-workers at the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald, who pooled their money to help send my two best friends, Chris Tisch and Merry Eccles all the way from Florida, so they could fly out and spend some time at my beside.

And thanks to my family: My mother, Pamela, my father, Michael, my grandmother, Donna, and my (favorite) aunt, Patty. Without their love, support, and unending patience, I would never have made it back to a normal live again.

What it comes down to for me, then, I guess, is this. It’s not only my second birthday, it’s my early Thanksgiving, too. I’m thankful for all the people in my life that loved me and cared enough about me to help me overcome this enormous hurdle. Because of you, I can drive again. Because of you, I can go to the grocery store. Because of you, I can walk around my house and play with my cats. Because of you, I can turn over in bed without help.

And because of you, I’m still alive. Thank you … I love all of you more than you’ll ever know …– Mike Morrisey

 

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