Our son's (Rob) accident and head injury was the most stressful and traumatic experience we had ever experienced. Recently we were asked what we did to take care of ourselves during that time.


We looked for things to laugh at, tried to find the laughable in the unlaughable. Sometimes it was something Rob did because he was so confused. I wanted him to be surrounded with positive, happy people, not people who would infuse him with negativism. On Christmas, a couple of months after his accident, when we left him, we headed for a movie, which was a comedy, of course. We used "gallows humor," which probably was tasteless, but very helpful to us.

Careful with relationship with spouse

I don't think we talked about it, but we were pretty gentle with each other. We didn't say or do anything that would cause more pain - we had enough. We were "there" for each other and gave each other the credit for doing all that they could.

If I said "I just can't go there tonight," he either went himself, called someone else and asked them to go or no one went. We sometimes hit the wall. I had heard this term during the Iron Man Triathalon, when there is nothing left to race with. Sometimes we would stop for some bread and milk on the way home, walk into the store and realize we couldn't do anything else. We could only go home and go to bed and let the rest take care of itself.

My being with Rob was not keeping him alive or keeping him safe. As parents, and especially with mothers, it is hard to remember this.

Belief in God

People from all over called and told me they were praying for Rob. Knowing this I was able to sleep through the night. Before I went to bed, I pictured all of the people who said they were praying, standing in a circle and raising Rob, in his bed, up closer to God. (Presumably to get more attention, I guess). It helped me sleep, which in turn gave me more to give to the situation.

12 step group

I was already in a 12 step group, and I was able to use slogans and principles learned there. I had a ready made support group - they prayed, cried, laughed with me and cared about me.

One Day at a Time

Don't spend time and energy worrying about how this is going to turn out, concentrate on what needs to be done today.

Keep it simple

Take the path of least resistance when you can't do anything else.

Serenity Prayer

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

What I couldn't change is that my son was gone and I had a new one. I intuitively knew that I needed to get to know the new Rob almost every day. I didn't know and I still don't know if we will ever get the old one back.


I'm not recommending anyone go out and get a pet, but if you already have one they are a source of comfort, laughter and a stress reliever.

Physical needs

It's hard to concentrate on good nutrition when your stomach is in a knot and all of your time is taken up. But good nutrition helps your body to heal from the stress.

Because of stress and driving so much to different institutions, I began to have physical symptoms, loss of memory, a phobia about being a passenger in cars, fatigue. My doctor lives in EP and saw the newspaper article, so she's been aware of it the whole time.

Before Rob's accident, I was walking twice a day, at least a mile each time. I got up and walked the dogs before work (I'm not a morning person) and again after work. The first thing to go was the morning one and then we spent so much time at the hospital or whatever medical institution he was in, it was hard to be regular at night also. I started walking at work during lunch. I was working for a temporary office service, so I walked wherever I was. Many times I found someone to walk with me, but my exercise time was cut at least in half. And when I hit the wall, I couldn't even do that.

After about a year, we found a new activity which I will talk about next.

Time for activities

Look for activities that give you pleasure and healing.

Rob's accident happened during the time that country and line dancing became so popular. I had always loved dancing, but not country music. Jerry loved country music and had never danced in his life. We signed up for some lessons, every other week through community education. We started going to bars and ballrooms to practice. Usually just for an hour or two. The first time we showed Rob that we knew how to two-step, he laughed out loud.

Benefits? Exercise that is fun, something we were learning together, something that took the focus off Rob and put it onto ourselves. We made piles of new friends. After a couple of years when we started taking real vacations, we stopped in cities we've never been in and found a place to country dance.

Although Jerry's always been a drag racing fan, he has concentrated more on that in the last few years. I tried taking singing lessons and then switched to flute lessons. (I had played flute in school).


What we learned in our support group is that you should never give up hope. Hope for improvement. Hope is what keeps us going.

Last year I spent some time with Jerry's sister, who was my friend before I met him. She asked me how I came to accept that Rob would never get any better. I said I never have. I don't know how this is going to end. There are people who go to the dentist and inexplicably come out of a coma. I want my son back. I feel like he is still in there, trapped. I live for today and accept him for what he is today, but I will never give up hope for tomorrow.


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Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

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