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November 10, 2016  in Personal Stories

I had a TBI in 1976 as a result of a severe Motor Vehicle Accident, but let me begin my story a few years earlier.

I was born in Kenya and as a result have got their long distance running gene in me. We lived in South Africa when this all happened. At school I excelled in running and cross country. I had already started mixing with my future drinking and smoking buddies. I left school in 1973 and made a choice to pursue my drinking and smoking habit and become a pisshead. I could always run later as the gene was in me.

Fast forward to 31st May 1976. All 3 pissheads were out drinking, playing darts and drinking more. It was time to go home and all 3 sat in front of a Ute. This was before compulsory seatbelts. I was on the left by the door, my drinking buddy in the centre and my other drinking buddy was driving. On the way home the driver fell asleep and hit a one way concrete bridge. On impact we all got flung out. I went through the left door after opening it with my hip and head, the person in the centre went through the front window and the driver went through the door that I opened.

We were all knocked out for a time. The centre passenger was knocked out for a few hours. The driver was knocked out for 3 days and I was knocked out for 30 days. Upon awakening, most of my functions were there but my whole right side had a perpetual tremor. I had to lie on my right arm to stop it from jumping. I had to be led to where I had to go as I could not walk. I mentioned that my hip was sore on doing physio but nothing was done. A few months later my local GP noticed it was shattered and as a result the one leg is 32mm shorter.

I was in hospital for 2 months and then was discharged. I still could not walk as my balance was non-existent. It was a further 6 months before I could walk. I also had to learn how to write and spent hours copying out of a book. I had always been left handed but my initial writing was so terrible that it really would have made no difference.

Fast forward to April 2012. It is now 36 years later and a lot of both positive and negative things have happened. I started running again and achieved marathons in under 5min/km with a built up running shoe. I also ran 56km Two Oceans Marathon in under 5min/km but the 90km Comrades Marathon was a bit far. I finished in the first half of the field which was the goal I set myself. My later running career was over the years 1979 till 1982. I now ride bicycle but will never shine. The perpetual tremor has diminished and is now what I call an intention tremor in my right arm. As soon as I intend to use the arm for a task like picking up a cup of water, it goes haywire and jumps all over the place. I have over the years learnt to control it but I still get senseless comments that do hurt.

I am a draughtsman by profession and did master the art of drawing with one shaky arm. As long as one edge was held I could manage the drawing instruments. The problem really started when the industry moved more towards computer software. Now I continually am told to hurry up. Some employers are understanding, while others aren’t. It is getting more and more difficult to stay in continual employment.

I managed to get contract work most of the time but the rate of pay has varied dramatically.

Another problem I face is being told I am intoxicated when I have not had a drop to drink. I still have a slur in by voice and my balance sometimes is a bit shaky. It all depends on the type of day I have had. In November of last year I was booted of a GoBus as the driver gathered that I was intoxicated. It took 4 months to get a written apology from the driver and an apology from management. Some good seems to be coming from my own misfortune. GoBus is starting a programme to make their drivers more aware of brain injuries etc.

I am very fortunate to have most of my functions intact and am blessed with a caring wife and family.

John Fiddes

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