Road to Recovery

One Day At A Time” was my graduation theme and I have kept that theme on my road to recovery. June 26, 2002 will be a day that I will always remember. On that day, I was competing in the bull-riding at the Ponoka Stampede. While riding, I lost my balance and was struck in the head twice by the bull’s head. I was rushed to the University of Alberta Hospital, where I would spend three weeks in a drug-induced coma. Shunts were inserted into my brain to control the swelling of the brain. From there, I was sent to the Glenrose Hospital where I started all over again.

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In the beginning it would take two nurses to get me out of bed. They would push my wheelchair to physical and occupational therapy. I rode that wheelchair for three months touching a balloon back and forth for balance.

While in the wheelchair I started walking with a quad cane and then a single cane with a physiotherapist walking alongside me teaching me how to walk step by step. I progressed to walking on my own, wearing a helmet in case of a fall. It took a year from the two nurses getting me out of bed to where I was eventually walking on my own with no assistance. Now I have walked 3.6 miles in one hour and fifteen minutes.

In the beginning, I was unable to move my left arm. In therapy, I would toss bean bags from the edge of a table to a pail, while trying to keep my balance; now I can carry two pails of grain with my right hand and one with my left hand and tie my own hockey skates.

Every time my Uncle Les Anderson would visit I would squeeze his hand testing the strength I was getting back.

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In October, I was transferred to the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka. While there I learned to swim again, starting out with a life jacket and a life guard watching over me. With hours of therapy and determination I am now able to spend an hour and a half getting the most movement and functional use out of my arm. I spend a half an hour on my balance. While doing this, I listen to the music of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings. Johnny Cash said it best, "I have mountains to climb and I always will."

The mountains I have climbed in my recovery have taught me that what you put in is what you get out. When your back is against the wall, you raise the bar of excellence while believing in yourself, family, friends, angels and GOD.

There is no reason to feel sorry for yourself, you just have to "Cowboy Up and Keep On Keepin On." Just when you think you are in bad shape, have a walk around a Brain Injury Centre and see happy survivors and how proud they are of themselves and how hard they work on their recovery.

There are not enough words, phrases or quotes to express the thanks I owe to my parents.

Regarding my speech, I learned to talk over again. In the beginning I wrote things down in a scribbler to communicate, putting vowels into words and words into sentences. I have now written two songs and a multitude of poems. My penmanship has come a long way. For a while, only I could read it and it is now legible.

I started fluids such as ice chips, thickened water and then the real stuff. I started eating puréed foods, then diced food chopped up into little pieces. I am now able to cut my own steak.

Johnny Cash also said, "Walk that second mile, turn a frown with a smile and give more than you take."

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There are steps that I follow every day: Proper rest, diet and exercise.

I learned early in my recovery "Fight a Good Fight, Live One Day At A Time and Make Each Day Count." My hero, the king of cowboys, John Wayne said “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyways.”

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, b ut making the most of the cards you have been dealt.

An old cowboy once said "If it's not true do not say it."

Here are some quotes that heroes and friends of mine have said that have helped me along the way.

Lane Frost said "It is just as easy to make someone smile as it is to make them mad."

Kelly Armstrong said "I may not ride bulls forever, but I will be a cowboy forever."

Chris Ledoux said "Each step that I take isn't worth the ground I walk on if I don't walk it on my own way."

Merle Haggard hit the nail on the head while singing "Hold my head up and be proud of who I am."

Do your best every day and then better the next day. The best way to heal is from the inside out. People may not remember what you said or did but they will remember how you made them feel.

I learned to transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle and in the Fall of 2010, I regained my driver’s license.

On my long road to recovery I learned to appreciate what I have today because tomorrow it might be gone.

Until you face some challenges in life you will never know how strong you are. There is no price on your health.

With determination and dedication nothing is impossible.

The bottom line: there's no such thing as “I can’t.”

Jeff Brooks