we have done a few times since my injury, my wife, Sarah, and
I recently made the trip over to the Main Street Fire House
here in our small town in southern New Hampshire.
And as every time before, I was barely able to escape before I
broke down in tears.
Our last trip there found us bearing a couple of signed copies
of my first book, Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury. In my
book, I chronicled that abysmally tough first year-and-a-half
of life after I sustained my traumatic brain injury. As the
actions of our local first responders were detailed in my
book, it was only natural that we present them with a couple
This most recent trip?
A signed pre-release copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul,
Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries was our gift to the
first responders who saved my life. This new title features a
couple of my stories and was released in June of this year.
Finding the front door to the fire station locked, we had to
be buzzed in. As Sarah and I shared with these brave souls the
reason for our visit, more and more of our local firefighters
and paramedics crowded into the small entry room.
“C’mon out back,” called out one of Salem's finest as we were
led into the main dining area, where you could hear a couple
of the guys talking a as they ate dinner. “He’s the guy who
was hit by a car out front,” one of them said.
For those who might not be familiar with my story, it was only
a block from our fire station that I was struck by a teenage
driver back in 2010. We met most accidentally when I was part
of a twisted mess of bent metal and broken glass.
Several of the first responders there that evening when we
brought the book were on scene the day I was hit. They spoke
of some of the details of that fated day and talked as
nonchalantly about my accident as if they were talking about
what was going to be on TV later that night.
To them, it was just another accident. To me, the end of life
as I knew it.
I presented the book, inscribed by me, in part, on the inside
front cover: “Thank you for the gift of my life ...” I could
feel my emotions intensify, surging under my skin. I struggled
to hold it together for just a few minutes longer. Bite the
inside of my mouth, look at something on a wall ... just don’t
cry ... not yet.
Then another piece of the puzzle that my life has become
clicked into place. “My wife has a traumatic brain injury,”
shared the captain on duty as my Sarah and I stood there a bit
slack-jawed. He was also one of the first responders who
scraped my broken and bleeding body off Main Street in 2010.
Since our first meeting, traumatic brain injury is now become
part of his life.
“It’s been three years,” he continued. I quietly did the math.
Six months after I became a card-carrying member of the TBI
Club, so followed the captain’s wife. She had been involved in
a head-on car crash.
His next two words summed up more than he may have realized.
Don’t we all?
“I read your book shortly after her crash,” he said. “It
helped me a lot.”
Click. Another puzzle piece falls into place. I told the
captain about our local TBI support group and told him I would
be happy to bring his wife if she was interested.
As Sarah and I started to say our goodbyes, another fire
fighter asked for my phone number and email address. He asked
if I would come speak about traumatic brain injury.
You already know my answer.
Sarah and I were buzzed out of the fire station following a
long round of heartfelt “thank yous” and warm handshakes.
These men are on the front line of life — and death. Not every
outcome has a reasonably happy ending. Tonight they saw
firsthand a life they helped save.
And as it has done since so many times before, the station
alarm went off and the heroes we had just spent a few minutes
with were clamoring onto the truck and heading out to perhaps
save another life.
I watched the fire engine scream out of the bay. In the
passenger's seat was a man whose hand I had just shaken. He
was smiling at us broadly and waving as the fire truck sped
Inch by slow inch, I am healing. It took a good 10 minutes for
the wave of emotion to recede. Fewer tears than last time and
more unbridled gratitude.
Sarah and I wound down our night holding hands on a local
nature trail, mostly in the dark. Breaking the silence, I
said, “I am happy.”
We spotted what must have been the first fireflies of the
season. They darted about, blinking in the darkness.
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