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By Blaise Evers, Innova House Founder and Director

My name is Blaise Evers and I am an acute traumatic brain injury survivor of thirty years. My brain injury occurred on the night of January 15, 1989. I was thirty-eight years old at the time. What had been hoped to be an enjoyable evening of listening to some rather excellent blues music at a local venue, turned into the worst day of my life. While on our way there, a drunk driver had ‘run’ a stop sign and slammed into our vehicle at an approximated speed of sixty-five to seventy mph. Our vehicle had been in popular jargon, severely ‘T-boned’. When the paramedics arrived, I nor my friend were found to be inside the vehicle. I had been seated behind my brother Terry, the driver at far left. My friend had been seated; same seat as me, but behind my brother’s friend at far right.

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”
— John Lennon

When located, the paramedics found me not to be breathing and exhibiting the typical signs of brain injury as I was unconscious and bleeding out my nose and ears. Following an immediate tracheostomy, which made it possible for me to breathe, I was put aboard a ‘Life-Flight’ helicopter, which then made a swift trip to the nearest hospital trauma center. Shamefaced, I will mention here that my friend and I were not wearing seat belts. Both of us were thrown from the vehicle as our vehicle violently spun and rolled. Both my brother and his friend were wearing seatbelts, and though injured, neither sustained any kind of life threatening injury. My friend was pronounced dead at the accident scene.

Upon my arrival at the hospital with a number of bodily injuries in evidence, a close examination by the attending hospital personnel determined my most serious injury to have been a subdural hematoma in the left temporal lobe of my brain. Following what had been a miraculous surgical intervention, I lay comatose for eleven days in the intensive care unit of UCI Medical Center, Orange, CA. An RN, who had been on duty the night I was brought in, had recognized me as a former boyfriend of a then current friend of his, Eileen Handy.

Eileen Handy, at that time was training to be a paramedic. She was advised to get to the hospital as quick as she could. He explained to her that my injury was so severe and my intracranial pressure was so high, he rarely saw anyone survive such an injury. I have been told by a family member, that a priest had also been summoned to administer to me the last rites the night I was brought in. The last rites are the prayers and ministrations given to many Catholics when possible shortly before death.

Be that as it may, and surrounded by friends and family members, I eventually awakened from the coma. But, I have no memory of that or of anyone, who may have been eagerly attempting to communicate with me. However, I have been told by my three daughters and their mother that while comatose, I did respond to their presence by making an effort to reach out and touch them as they spoke to me. The invincible power of love.

After having been at UCI Medical Center for six weeks, I was then transferred to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, CA. Rancho Los Amigos Hospital is considered one of the finest facilities in the U.S., if not the world for their work in the rehabilitative treatment of brain injury. I do not remember this transfer, and I have come to understand that the outlook for my recovery had not at all been favorable. I had suffered a paralysis that affected my entire left side; top to bottom. And worse, there had been talk of my possibly being confined to an institution such as Rancho Los Amigos, as the prognosis for my ever again ably processing information and/or any stimuli was not encouraging.

The tracheostomy performed at the accident scene, though saving my life, unfortunately interfered with my ability to speak during my hospitalization and for a period following my release from Rancho Los Amigos Hospital. While hospitalized, the neurosurgery and subsequent paralysis on the left side of my face, together with the great difficulty in speaking, along with my being bedridden did cause me much frustration, aggravation and feeling of loss.

But, the most severe impairment experienced, was my loss of self, subsequent to the amnesia that followed my brain injury. I later learned that the medial temporal lobe of my brain had also suffered trauma. This medial temporal lobe is located deep within the inner part of the temporal lobe near the divide between left and right hemispheres. One’s hippocampus can be found in this medial temporal lobe and the hippocampus is responsible for long term or declarative memory.

Though my memory was so terribly compromised at that time, I did recognize that I was alive. But, at the same time I understood myself to be experiencing an alarming and very bewildering state of perplexity. Nearly all details related to me and my life, were at that time in a distressing and frightful diaphanous state and unconditionally open to question. I couldn't add two plus two. To make matters worse, I had no memory of ever knowing how. Furthermore, I didn't know my age, exactly who I was, where I was or what had caused me to be where I was.

Many times, the exacting demands on my mind, body and spirit seemed insurmountable. Fortunately, the memory of my three daughters and their mother had not been lost. While not whole and being rather scant in detail; enough memory along with an unsubmissive emotion attached, inspired me with an empowering advantage. The marvelous stamina of love.

The challenges following a brain injury call out for such a formidable, unyielding response from its victims in their having to face what predominately equates to a quite disturbing, long lasting and outright isolated ordeal. I was for a good while, not only a stranger in a strange land, but worse, I was then a stranger to myself. I lingered in a state of denial for ten years.

My being up against this tsunami of a challenge, I believe my pride compromised what otherwise had been a valiant, heartfelt effort to get whole again. Though, it got me to where I could then button my shirt, and walk using a rolling walker; I couldn't effectively understand all of what then was so very real and so miserably confounding.

It was during that time, that my youngest brother Paul confronted me, in regard to the condition of my then state of recovery. In a very candid, direct manner, Paul called me to task and directed me to account for the state of my recovery. He then challenged me to be wholly honest. In short, the question was: was I truly satisfied and content with where I was and how I was doing?

Following a bit of honest introspective reckoning, I understood I really was not doing well. I was not at all thriving in a quality of life that I so desperately had been seeking, Paul then asked me to seriously consider seeking help from any one of the many brain injury resource/support centers, he and I were both aware of.

My attitude at this time unfortunately was: "Nah, that is for those other guys who really need help! I don't need help, I've never needed help!" I realize now, that was my ego along with other aspects of my 'core' that were expressing their survival and need being recognized. Looking back, I understand I was then simply revealing how lost, desperate and frightened I was. What likely served me so well prior to the injury was simply a soft-spoken, personal pride in my ability towards being an able individual.

At that time, I did not possess any fixed attachment to what had led me to understand a pride of any strength or degree. I simply and comfortably had understood it as part of my essence and subsequently I had no issue towards it. I later found my presumption in this matter to be confirmed, and this idea of a hale and hearty pride rising to the occasion was merely a feature of my core. Nevertheless, for a while post release from the hospital, I feel this pride was perhaps a bit too effusive towards wanting to be acknowledged.

It finally happened in 1999 that I got myself involved in an Acquired Brain Injury Program at Coastline Community College in Costa Mesa, CA. I find myself today, so very, very thankful my brother Paul stepped forward and encouraged me into getting involved in a TBI recovery program. My involvement in this program led to my getting my hands on my hospital records. My review of these records ten years post injury disclosed that my left temporal, medial temporal, my right parietal along with my frontal lobe had all suffered trauma. It wasn’t until sometime in 2015 that I learned from Eileen, of her getting the phone call from her RN friend alerting her to the extreme state of my injury.
At this time twenty-seven years later, am I fully recovered? I don't know and I wouldn't know how to determine an effective, good answer to that. And, I will question the real possibility of that ever happening. Full recovery implies a full/whole retrieval of the someone that he or she was at time of injury; along with a whole recovery of whatever their personal affairs amounted to at the time of the injury. The trauma related to brain injury and its impact leaves an indelible imprint upon one's person that is permanent. How can it not?

The core essence of the person may remain, but there is change endured in areas of one's personal well-being, one's outlook on life and all that his or her life had given rise to, etc. Other than that, it's an unforgettable event in one's life that for too many remains haunting. However, just as Ms. Marilyn Lash MSW publisher of ‘Brain Injury Journey, Hope-Help-Healing’ expressed in Issue 5, Winter 2014 of ‘Brain Injury Journey, Hope-Help-Healing’: “While life may never go back to the way it was before the injury, it still holds the promise and opportunity for improvement and growth”.

Yes, I still struggle and who doesn't? Life is an everyday challenge and a struggle for all/anyone. But, I am no longer haunted by the injury nor am I having to think about it every day for the entire day. Though on occasion, my injury does rise to be noticed, it does not 'hound' me anymore. I am at peace and have much to look forward to, and that is the direction of the bulk of my focus for the entire day.

My involvement in the Acquired Brain Injury program mentioned earlier was when I first understood any real, forward gain in my recovery. I am no longer stuck in a state of delusional, self-serving contentment/fantasy. What I now feel good and excited about, I know is real. The survivors that I met in this Acquired Brain Injury Program were the most courageous, steadfast and extraordinary people I'll ever know. And, it was such a remarkable instantaneous fellowship that occurred as we gifted one another with an affinitive fellowship and a genuine support towards one another’s unnatural, onerous journey of recovery from brain injury.

"There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the best as the past withdraws"
— Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Charles Darwin, the originator of the biological theory of evolution at one time proclaimed: “It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Man's story in his adapting to change, both collectively and singularly, typically speaks of daring and unrelenting effort. One's achieving an effective adaptation to a suddenly transformed reality such as is experienced by the survivor, is a challenge and a change that is rather daunting and quite distressing. An able recovery calls for a significant amount of operative hope, along with a sizeable measure of an enduring, inflexible belief in the strength within one's self. Recovery from brain trauma is an involved and decidedly difficult trial.
At the time of my injury I had been keenly involved in an effort to develop a conceptual project that brought together art, science and time. I am pleased to say that subsequent to my injury, this conceptual project blossomed into becoming a Fine art sculptural tribute to Ancient Peru’s unrivaled contribution to the early evolution of the neurosurgical arts; particular to the surgical management of head trauma. This involved the participation of the San Diego Museum of Man and the bronze reproduction of 6 pre-Columbian Peruvian trephined human skulls exhibiting the surgical procedure and 6 tumi, the surgical implements utilized in the surgery. The skulls are mounted on Black Belgian marble and the tumi are displayed in varied artistic presentations.

I am so proud of the accuracy of detail and of the elegance and beauty realized within the marvelous Fine Art presentation of these reproductions. However, the injury sorely compromised my effort towards an effective management of this wonderful project and I was forced to put the project on hold till I had comfortably put myself back together and freed myself from the remaining difficulties, demands and dysfunctions related to brain injury.

“I have always believed and I still believe that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way, we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
— Hermann Hesse

What I know from my own experience of brain injury, together with what I know from fellow survivors, has me understanding this. During the uncertain, burdensome days, weeks, months and most often years following a successful management of the physical trauma and release from the hospital; therein yet remains a period of unpredictability and harsh struggle, sometimes lasting a lifetime. The remaining emotional and cognitive impairments associated with brain injury are the most difficult to struggle with.

I remain hopeful of establishing an effective, pro-active resource center that would provide a personal and virtual community where brain injury survivors along with their families, friends and caregivers would find a ready access to much needed resources, inspiration and support. In short, I wish to kindle an ambitious, operative hope for those who face such as I did and provide them with an empowering motivation, inspiration and knowledge; all within a sense of community.

My goal for the 'INNOVA HOUSE' is to be a clearing house for information and resources intended for TBI survivors and their families, friends and caregivers. In addition, I look to offer them through my own personal struggles and triumphs; faith, hope and the fact that they are not alone. I will be continuously networking to meet other like-minded individuals and their charities in effort to provide an optimum of services. It is important that we at the INNOVA HOUSE understand and reflect upon the challenges faced by all. We will strive towards engendering a robust hope, as well as providing a vital encouragement along with a host of resources; so as to effectively complement a survivor's quest in their seeking to realize an able, rewarding recovery. I love the name INNOVA. INNOVA is Latin for renew; a word synonymous with revive, refresh and restore.

Throughout my recovery, I have been uncommonly blessed to a point that I can look back, and be thankful for it! Of course, I would have preferred a different cause, but, I especially enjoy the effect. If that is what it took, then that is what it took! And, I must say that I am a better man for it. During the arduous process related toward gaining a comforting, prosperous and responsible relationship; not only with myself, but with the outside world as well, I felt it necessary that I be upstanding and wholly honest. This attitude allowed me to understand a personal fault that had eluded me prior to the injury.

Subsequent to all that I endured, I experienced a number of epiphanies or moments of gracious enlightenment. Nothing I ever did or didn't do was with ill intent. I was simply blind to the cause and effect upon others; most particularly my wife and our children. My eyes/heart were now OPEN! It is with a proud heart and a clearer emotional mind that I can say: "though I cannot change what was, what I can change is that I'll never be like that again". It is absolutely so wonderful that my children have, with open arms welcomed me back into their lives. As well, I remain so very thankful for the lasting respect and appreciation between myself and Renee', my ex-wife. We had divorced a short time prior to my injury.

On occasion, I'll joke around with Renee': "If I could have known then what I know now, I would have gone out and bought you a baseball bat!" And how much I was missing and didn't know it! We now have a good number of awesome grandchildren, and, how sweet it is to be an active participant in their lives, as well as their mothers’ lives. We brought into the world three lovely, sweet and smart girls, named Erin, Katie and Kelsey. They've grown up to become lovely young women, who are now themselves’ mothers.

To continue with a number of other unexpected benefits and pleasures subsequent to my injury. Back in 2004, I had befriended a co-worker who is responsible for many fine, extraordinary experiences. His name is Dr. Milenko 'Mike' Karanovich, Professor of Philosophy/Intellectual History, San Diego City College, San Diego, CA. It was subsequent to a good number of our conversations/discussions, that I discovered I yet had a curious, able mind. This was a hugely wonderful thing for me to understand, as well as a formidable boost to my self-regard.

The idea of losing or having lost this quality tortured me. But, Mike's patience, care and curiosity towards me, was and still is, immensely appreciated. He remains such a Fine gentleman, scholar and dear friend. Over a number of years which included so many wonderful talks and conversations regarding a wide variety of subjects, Mike became fascinated with my project with the San Diego Museum of Man. In the wake of that, Mike arranged for me to present a lecture at his San Diego City College.

Never, had I ever imagined myself delivering a lecture on any subject. However, I must and will say that I found this experience to have been a most memorable occurrence and now to remain a cherished memory. I had titled my lecture: "The Development of Neurosurgery during the pre-Inca and Inca periods - Ancient Peru and the Neurosurgical Arts".

At the time I met Mike I was working with abused, abandoned and/or delinquent, ‘at risk’ male youth aged 13 to 17. I have since, again lectured, but till I effectively get the INNOVA HOUSE operating, my lecturing again and my project with the San Diego Museum of Man will remain on a temporary hold.

Though my mother had passed on in 1981, I have no doubt that she as well was issuing me wondrous amounts of support and encouragement, such as she did when she was alive. My memory of her contains such vital amounts of lasting love and inspiration that yet guide and motivate me still. During what remains of my life, it will always be my desire to know that these timeless and remarkable living aspects of medicine are never forsaken. I strongly hope that we never lose sight nor touch with this profoundly humane property of life.

I have recently found myself to have been influenced by a quote from noted author, Sherrilyn Kenyon: " Life isn't finding shelter in a storm, it's about learning how to dance in the rain." I love the message here and find it applies to everyone and most particularly to anyone involved in a recovery from any traumatic disease or injury. In my effort with the INNOVA HOUSE, it will be our focus to effectively encourage/inspire all TBI survivors to want to “DANCE in the RAIN”.

I like to believe I have found my way here on purpose and that I am principled and of able strength. Though I have experienced a journey that I wouldn’t wish on anybody, I remain ready as ever to realize a powerful positive from what may have been, could have been a terrible, terrible negative. And, though it is that one will never be guaranteed a perfect life. I choose to believe that I now have important work to do; and that is to serve (support, foster, minister to, succor) my fellow survivors and most especially my family. And, that will remain for me as close to perfect as need be.

My heartfelt best wishes to all traumatic brain injury survivors who presently struggle with the pointedly arduous and frightening circumstance of traumatic brain injury. Without exaggeration, it is a fully perplexing ordeal that presents a condition in life that is all too real and so overwhelming and so, so severely exacting.
I will welcome all comments, inquires and/or questions and I would be delighted to respond to all. My e-mail address: (blaiseevers@gmail.com).

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” - C. Jung

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