Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year's Message from My Friend Jamie

(The following is a guest post timely with the New Year. The post below this one also is new today & gives you the update on Brian's move into a different, less traumatic, I guess you'd say, level of the trauma-icu floor today.)

To the friends & family of Brian...Happy New Year!

I am Kara's new friend, Jamie, & the sister of her (Kara interjects: absolutely wonderful) employer...that's how we met. My sister asked me to connect with Kara when Brian first got in the wreck because she knew that my being a nurse, medical social worker, administrator--plus--having had a catastrophic illness four years ago that caused me to have to retire & live temporarily in a nursing home at 50 years old (K: Which I understand took a lot of self-advocacy & work to get released from)--might make me somewhat (K: more than somewhat) of a resource for the family during this traumatic new experience. And so, for the past couple of weeks Kara & I have been passing resource information & suggestions back & forth. Most all of what I know I learned from being a patient and not from years of college, a wall of degrees or licenses & 30 years of experience working in the field.

Last night was New Years Eve & I thought about my experience & Brian's future. I wanted to be able to tell all of you some things that would make it easier for him & maybe even for yourselves as you struggle to make sense of what happened & how to best support him:

Today we set up our 2009 calendar, most of you probably did the same. I am going to suggest that you take out your 2009 calendar & choose one or two days each month (for the whole entire year) & on those dates write "GO VISIT BRIAN." I say this because in the beginning I had tons of visitors, but they slowed down & eventually some people stopped coming over all together. For those people who truly can't visit or who just want to do something else in addition to, write "SEND BRIAN A CARD" at least once each month for the whole 2009...& then DO IT!!!

Another thing to think about in a couple of months is finding things you can do with Brian while you're visiting. At our house we make pinatas for charities to sell (K: Well, I don't know about pinatas, but I do know Brian has always flitted with the idea of being a Big Brother, maybe something with's a start ;). We also weave newspapers into mats for the local no-kill animal shelter. Why am I telling you this? It is VITALLY IMPORTANT that people in Brian's long road to recovery are also on the GIVING end of charity. So much gets given to us that we become lopsided. It's important that once Brian works through grieving the loss of his old life he finds worth & possibilities in his new one (K: I think even making sure he knows what a blessing he has been & continues to be in your life right now is a great start!).

It's hard when life changes completely & everything you knew & did just suddenly is totally different. Some days it's really difficult to find the meaning & feel any connection with others.
Brian's situation is a little different than mine...he's younger & once we learn the extent of paralysis & he gets some rehab he will have all sorts of future possibilities... heck, he'll even likely be able to go back to college free...that opens endless potential. But first he'll have a long road of therapy, learning his new way of life, & how to make things work. It will be easier if friends & family stick by for him. Don't expect him to begin making motivational speeches in February...he might still be angry yet then. It will take some time. It always seems hard to watch families & friends want to rush us, with the best of intentions, through the grieving processes--even knowing every stage is necessary to get to the other side & resolve in an emotionally healthy manner (K: So many of you have been so good on this touchy subject already, thank you.).

Well, that's enough of my philosophy on the subject.

In summary:
  • Take care of yourselves.
  • Make a visiting shift schedule for the hospital.
  • Mark your calendar for future visits so that you commit to staying consistent.
  • Be consistent in telephone calls & cards.
  • Help Brian find meaningful activity where he GIVES to others at some point.Read up on grief & accept his reactions as they happen.

I hope you have a wonderful new year. Thanks for letting me into your lives.



  1. Sounds like great insight. Thanks. Kara, please be sure and post an address where those of us who don't know Brian personally, but who know him through Wolfpack basketball or other ways, can send cards and best wishes.

  2. Kara,

    Please tell Jamie that this is very good information to be passing along.


    Hang in there cuz.