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Katy Hollis

"My New Normal"

On July 4, 2007 I attended our town’s fireworks show with my children and friends.  We were leaving early the next morning to visit family so the plan was to sit, see the show, and come right home.  

Alex, then seven, Max, then three, and I hopped in the car.  We arrived at the park and quickly found a place to sit.

The fireworks were awesome -- we oohed and ahhed.  Max eventually made his way to me complaining about the noise.  I cradled his head in my lap -- his legs and body stretched out on the ground -- so I could plug his ears with my fingers.

The show was great -- there were bursts of fireworks so grand we were sure that each one was the finale.

And then everything is black.  I’m on my hands and knees and I’m burning.

There was a misfire during the finale and a three-inch mortar shot through the crowd.  It sailed over the heads of the crowd sitting in front of us exploded on Max and me.  People quickly came to our aid.  I was stretched out on the ground.  I was awake and trying to answer questions and repeatedly asked where my kids were.

I was asked the year.  I didn’t know.

I was asked who was the president.  I didn’t know.

I asked someone to call my husband, but I didn’t know my telephone number.

Prior to the accident I was a stay-at-home mom and ran our household like a master juggler.

My former spouse worked long hours and his work often took him out of the country for extended trips. I handled our household finances, grocery shopping, housecleaning, family calendar.

After the accident, I couldn’t remember what I was doing from one minute to the next.

I couldn’t calculate the tip on a restaurant bill.

I forgot to put gas in the car. I drove my kids to school on days they didn’t have school.

I forgot to pay our bills or -- worse yet -- sometimes paid the same bill more than once.

I was sleep-deprived.  I had no problem falling asleep, but woke up between 1 and 2 in the morning, unable to fall back asleep.

I had a headache that would not go away.

I was struggling.  I talked to our family doctor and she said I was depressed.  True.

I confided in a close friend and she told me “I do stuff like that all the time. Mommy brain.”  Friends and family all said “everything is fine.  You’re doing great.”

In December 2008, one year and four months after the accident, Max and I were diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injuries.

It was a mixed blessing.  It was such a relief to know why we were struggling. But it was also very scary because I didn’t know what that meant for the future.

It was time to learn about Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, make changes and explore therapies.

I was referred to Brain Injury Services by my neuropsychiatrist.  I am thankful for the support we’ve gotten with our Pediatric Case Manager for Max.  I attended the monthly Brain Injury Services Recovery Group meetings -- which were helpful beyond the monthly topic because it was a reminder that I wasn’t alone.  And with the help of the monthly cooking group I had prepared meals in our freezer. And one of the best things that happened to me was becoming a member of Brain Injury Services Speaker’s Bureau. It gave me the opportunity to share my story with medical professionals and other survivors.

And I have truly come full circle with Brain Injury Services. I started as a client, I am the parent of a client, I became a volunteer, and in 2015 I started working at Brain Injury Services.

Acceptance of my new normal: I can’t tell you the precise moment that I made the switch but I can tell you that it happened. And Brain Injury Services was a part of that switch.

You can become a supporter of survivors like Katy today! Join our Monthly Sustainer Program for as little as $10 a month and help survivors of brain injury, stroke, and concussion get the services they need to thrive!

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