I STOPPED DROOLING IN PUBLIC
I Know Who I Used To Be: But Who Am I Now?
By Dick Schmelzkopf
Copyright © 1999 - 2008 Dick Schmelzkopf
This is a true story about brain damage, cognitive deficit and impairment. This is my story of the wild swings between the unknown, elation, and depression. My story will help others by showing them how to handle these swings and how to create a new self.
For the last twenty years I had been a successful sales person in the hi-tech, computer arena. My life was the picture, of the American dream. A loving and supportive wife, both of us in good health, with a wonderful home and some extra money to do the things we wanted.
One Sunday I came down with a monster headache. The pain was so excruciating that we rushed to the hospital. We found this was due to a ruptured pituitary tumor. The situation demanded immediate brain surgery. I didn't know it then, but the old me was on the way out and the new me was about to be born.
I had to deal with the blood-curdling fear of being totally or partially impaired. Would I be a burden to my loved ones and friends? Most of all I was afraid for myself. I didn't want to live without what I thought of as quality of life.
When I woke up in ICU, I was confident that I had made it; everything would be okay. Little did I know the problems I was going to face. At that point, I was glad to be alive. The moment I could get out of bed, everything was different for me, my wife and the world. I had gone from the "American Dream" to my worst nightmare. I was dysfunctional. Major depression set in. My short and long term memory were disastrously impaired. I had lost some of my vision. My hand-eye coordination was substantially reduced. My sense of humor was totally nonexistent. My executive decision making skills and my planning capabilities were gone all together. In short, most of my cognitive abilities were seriously impaired. I didn't recognize myself. Who was I? What had I become?
I thought coping without these abilities would be impossible. It was obvious to me I could never be the professional that I had been. I'd be on medication for the rest of my life. I would have to take testosterone shots as well…I had lost my manhood. I felt I had lost everything. Should I end it, or go on?
The first years were spent in a perpetual state of negativity. With my wife's help, I finally awoke to realize an opportunity to create the new me. The first step was testing, lots of testing. This was to show me exactly what I had lost. The next step was rehabilitation. I was told it would be a long and arduous task. Probably never-ending.
The elation I felt when I saw improvement, or got "atta-boys" from my counselors, was a new kind of high. The disgusted and irate feeling I got towards myself and my situation was previously unknown to me. I had to learn to deal with this new situation if I was to survive.
The overwhelming knowledge that the old me was gone forever was almost more than I could handle. Who was I now? Part of my rehabilitation has been to do creative writing. I have now finished my first book, a fantasy. My counselors at Project ReEntry, are elated. The delight of having a goal to be a writer is something I can grab on to. This is a foundation, something to build from. Something to shoot for. Having the total support of my wife and the Rehab folks is of the utmost importance.
Drooling is the culmination of a positive focus, in the process of creating the new me.
Book Review on Brain Damage.
Hilarious Insight into Brain Injury Recovery, September 26, 2001
Reviewer: Richard Ferguson from San Antonio, Texas
This is not a boring review of a medical rehabilitation process. Rather, it is a collection of humorous anecdotes from the life of a person who has lived brain injury recovery and is willing to tell on himself, his loved ones and the professionals that worked with him. I laughed all the way through the book and was given a peek into what must be anything but a laughable situation. He has such a colorful way of describing his difficulties with recovery from his brain tumor surgery and invites you to laugh (and learn) along with him. If you know someone that has suffered a brain tumor, a stroke, or a car accident that has left them with serious brain functioning problems this is required reading.
Book review by Dr. Jim Barrick, Psychologist with 30 years experience.
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Dick Schmelzkopf interview on Dick's book. This is a MP3 file that is 76.64 MB.
Project ReEntry also has information on Dick's book. They do brain injury rehabilitation and have helped Dick on his road to recovery.
Head Injury Hotline is a non-profit clearinghouse founded and operated by head injury activists since 1985.
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