Jerry had spent most of his adult life as a firefighter, rescuing people, pets and property. He loved what he did, and he was good at it! He did not mind the long commute to work and found fulfillment in helping people in crisis. He just never expected to become one of those people.
It was a typical drive to work on the two-lane highway when a car pulled to the side of the road suddenly made a U-turn driving in the wrong direction into Jerry’s lane. Jerry was unable to avoid her and she hit Jerry head-on. Jerry was airlifted to the trauma center where he underwent thirteen hours of surgery to repair the numerous fractures and shattered bones of his body. In addition to the many fractures and other injuries, Jerry suffered thirteen strokes as a result of fat emboli from the numerous large bone fractures.
Later, Jerry’s family realized life was going to be very different now. Many months later when Jerry was released from the hospital and then put into physical rehab he knew his job would now be trying to get out of a wheelchair rather than up a fire ladder.
His pain, frustration and depression were only accentuated when he went to court. He wanted the driver who hit him in this head on collision, to pick up the tab on some of his lost wages and medical bills. He was shocked to see her get off the hook even though she had no driver’s license or insurance when she hit him. He watched as she left the court house, get into her car with her child and drive off still without license or insurance! His life now in shambles and she’s off scot-free! Sometimes life is just not fair.
There are people who have survived horrific circumstances and something I have seen is that they made three decisions to help them overcome the hurdles of the road ahead of them.
1 – Recognize the Anger
Jerry, like so many people who have had tragedy come their way, had a choice to make: he could be bitter and resentful, or he could turn things around. He knew the hatred and anger he felt but he did not allow that to take up residency in him. He simply acknowledged it was there and then made the decision to not let it be a part of who he was on the inside or that poison would kill him.
2 – Release
Jerry along with other brain injury and stroke survivors have found ways to experience a peaceful resolution. Some find it through prayer or meditation, others through music, or expressing themselves through art. Some love to write, others simply go to a quiet place to calm the storm in their head and seek solitude and healing that way.
3 – Redirect
Most of the people I have met who have been in a traumatic situation had made a choice at some point to redirect their energy away from being a victim towards another focus. Energy is a powerful force in life. It can be move us into a healthy direction of strength and healing or it can direct us into some dark paths of confusion. Jerry, like many others I have met who could have chosen to be bitter and angry the rest of their lives instead found ways to redirect their own energy toward good. If you were to meet Jerry, you would never know the hell he went through. Instead you would see a person who is happy, friendly and always looking to be a resource for others in crisis. He has indeed turned a horrific situation into an avenue to help others, not an easy task when life’s not fair.