One Year Later - TBI Survival BLOG


-One Year Later-
TBI Survival BLOG

Tue - May 20, 2003

Well, here goes.. I never thought I could do this but with lots of time and effort I want to create a way that I can look back in time and remember what it was like.

The doctors predicted that I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life and I would be lucky if I could write my name, speak without slurring my words, and remember to tie my shoes for that matter.

And to think that this all started when I went out to the bar to say hi to some friends, have a single beer and then head home. No intention of ever staying the night but when I saw my friend who was about to call a cab and pay for it using their grodery/rent/utility money so that he could be with his partner who worked nights, the only thing I could do was to tell him to get on the bike and take him over there myself. Who would have ever thought that I would get hit head-on down the road from my home on my way back. Who would have ever thought that such a stickler to always have their helmet would be brought so close to death that 30 seconds more and I wouldn't be here.

Four Hundred and eighty seven thousand dollars in hospital bills and only a 20 thousand dollar check from the guy's insurance company. Not a single visit from the person who almost murdered me.. No caring at all, and the only thing this asshole got was a ticket. How's that for such a lovely society we life in? Hey, just goes to prove that you should feel free to hit the next guy you see on a motorcycle or the next paperboy you see on his bicycle... After all, the most it's going to cost you is a ticket.

All I can say is that if there is a thing such as Karma I'm sure the blessing will return to him three times over. Who knows, maybe his child will suffer like I have, maybe someone will hit him and bring him minutes from death.

I have lots to be angry about but I have lots to be thankful for too.. When I think about the 25 years of computer experience I learned, and when I remember writing my first program on a Timex Sinclair and then a Commodore VIC-20 I'm thankful that I can at least type again, that I can still remember the internet protocols, and most importantly that I bought an Apple Macintosh powerbook which helped me adapt to being deaf in one ear and blind in one eye and still able to make it.

I wish so much that I can pass on to other TBI victims the knowledge I've learned and teach them thatthis isn't the end.... since I'm living proof of what they can do.

Posted: May 20, 2003 20:9


After being in a coma for a week and later returning to consciousness, the first emotion I went through was absolute RAGE.. So bad that they had to strap me down to the bed since I managed to rip all my IV's out and wanted to get a gun and kill the person who did all of this to me.

Later I learned that RAGE is the first emotion that a TBI patient who returns from a coma goes through.. The therapists call it "CLEARING" and to the unknowing bystander it's a very scary time.. I guess you have to realize that it's like waking up from a deep sleep and suddenly learning that something/someone has stolen a portion of your living essence.

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow morning and learned that you could never lift your hand to put food in your mouth.. That would probably piss you off but good.. Especially when you learn that all of this came from something that you had no control over and something that you didn't cause.

Imagine how angry I was at first.. But it was a good anger because I wasn't about to just throw my hands up in the air and say "Wow.. this is as good as it gets... " no way.. Heck, even the doctors were amazed and I was the "Special Child" of Baylor and Parkland hospital cuz later they told me how none of the TBI people have ever come as far as I have with such injuries.

Three of my lobes were damaged badly but with lots of energy and lots of effort I managed to teach myself to dress, to shower, to talk, to type, and occasionaly cook my own food.

The new people I meet have no idea that I'm blind in one eye until I have a depth perception problem and trip going up stairs... Or they don't understand why I make them move to my left side until they realize they've been whispering in a deaf dear and wondering why I wasn't responding. To imagine for a minute what vision is like for me tie a bandana (in sweat band fashion) around your head and then lower it enough to cover one eye.. Now grab a spoon and try to stir your coffee without missing the cup.. Pretty hard huh? Better,, get a shot glass and set it on the table.. and hold 10 pennies in your hand and without touching the glass drop each of them in it and see how many time you miss the glass.. Shocking huh? Didn't know that blindness in one eye can be such a problem huh?

Now here's another test.. take a small piece of foam.. or a cheap ear plug and shove it in your right ear.. Now go off to the movies with your friend and tell me what it's like afterward.. Or how about this... go to a busy restaurant for dinner and then tell me how the chaos makes your feel like you're loosing your mind because you can't focus on any of the noise..

But ya know.. I'm here to tell you that it's not the end.. with lots of will and determination you can learn a different way of living.. You can see thing that others can't because you have to work much harder and scan what you see differently.. In some respects I guess you could call it the ability to "See the Unseen"

It's not something we can ever like but it's something we can learn to adapt to.. More on that later..

Posted: Wed - May 21, 2003


Well I was up late last night working with Stanley (actually Stanley the PowerMac laptop and Stanley my lovable Somoli cat) The PowerMac can run by voice recognition for the commands so it can make using all the programs a lot easier. In fact I can say "Stanley, tell me a joke" and the voice returns with "Hey Rick, Knock Knock" and I say "Who's there" then he says "It's TimeTu" and I say "TimeTu who?" and he says "Enough of this stuff.. It's time to get back to work..." How's that for a entertaining friend? Even though he's just a machine....

Anyhow, got a phone call this morning and the Southwestern Bell guy (very handsome and very pleasant) announced that he was going to check out the place for the new TI line hookup. The past six months have been hell with Covad and AT&T trying to keep the SDSL line up 24 x 7.... They all worked hard and it took over 9 technical visits and it seems like everyone does better when they point the finger at one another instead of fixing the problem. I've been a customer of SDSL (not to be confused with ADSL) for over 4 years but if they can't get their stuff together in six months then it was time to bike the bullet and move on.. It raises my monthly expenses from $200 and change to over $587 bucks just for the connection but I know it's going to be a heck of a lot more reliable and a lot faster..

I had to subscribe to an agragage company called The Planet who buys T3's and splits them up into T1's.. I really wanted to go entirely with SBC but the government regulations don't allow them to sell at such a low price. But these guys are only right the other side of the freeway and they promise 24 hour support (even in person if need be) and that's nice.. So I guess this is the beginning of a new adventure. I'm sure all of my customers will appreciate all the work and I'm going to work really hard to keep my prices low which means that we're going to have to get

Posted: May 21, 2003 12:15


Didn't get to bed till about 3:00.. I was looking for almost three weeks for a very important file for my Mac that allows me to specially adjust the Apache web server settings. I read so many darn books and looked all over the hard disk for this control file until I bumped into it by accident and found out that it was set to be invisible even to the OS X administrator.

I spend the day reading my O'Reiley books on Apache and on using the Apple Mac Unix commands etc.. Meanwhile, a guy from Southwestern Bell (SBC) came over to put in the basic copper wiring for the change over to the T1. So far it looks like this is really going to make things a lot more useful and a hell of a lot more reliable.

Later in the morning my friend Digger came over and took me to Parkland's accounting office located on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. There they endorsed the check I got from the insurance company from the guy that hit me.. Whoopie... it totaled out to 20k and when it was made out they did it to me and Parkland.. Seems that I owed Parkland about a grand in unpaid bills and just to break my chops made me go through all of the red tape to get it endorsed. The bizarre thing about it was that they expected me to pay the outstanding money first and then they would endorse the check..

Now not for nothing but how can you expect a person to pay their outstanding bills if they can't cash the check for the money they will pay off... Geez.. what an amazing system we have.... NOT

Anyhow, for all of my 12 months of pain and suffering, the blind eye, and the deaf ear.. I have 20k plus my SSI to live off of for the rest of my life.. And to think, how wonderful for a guy that was a computer guru for over 25 years long before people had them at home. Ahhh well, hey.. I'll just be happy making ends meet, giving good service to all of the web hosting customers who believed in me for the last 7+ years...

In the end Rhonda, the lady in charge of the accounting division was very impressed with me condition and also shared with me that she had also undergone brain issues which resulted in blindness in one eye. Seems it was related to a tumor but it had swelled to the point that the fluid strangled the optic nerve and it took a lot of adaptive years for her to get about. Before we left, I taught her what my friend Scott taught me when we were out in Connecticut about a thing that's called Paralax therapy.. What you do is take three shot glasses and set them on the kitchen table in the arrangement of a triangle.. A triangle pointing up, down, to the right or to the left.. doesn't matter.. but you have to promise yourself that you'll do it every morning.

Once you have the glasses aligned you take a handful of about 50 pennies and you drop a penny in each glass as quickly as you can. When you finish, you count how many missed the glasses and write it down.. I suggest doing this every day with your morning coffee and the wild thing is in a short amount of time the patient can grab things without missing or knocking them over.. He can walk up a curb or stairs without having to do all the math to figure out how high or how low to step etc..

Scott has fought wit h depth perception problems for years since he can only see out of one eye at a time. Strangely, his condition allows him to change eyes but he can never see out of both at the same time. He says that it's a rare birth thing.. But the cool thing is that he was able to pass on what he learned and I was able to pass it on again to Rhonda and others. Being able to share like this is what it's all about.. Sure, life blows at times but heck, this is Texas and sometimes when the going gets really hot, something that blows isn't all so bad when you think about it..

Thank goodness for my friend Digger.. I swear, he and my friend Tom are the best.. It's odd how Wiccans always talk about the POWER OF THREE and out things always happen in three like good, bad, life, death, etc.. When you compare this charmed life to the Christian religion as well as others you begin to find connections.. For example, fill in the blank in the next statement.. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy..." While you're at it, tell me how many entities are there... (3).. and how many entities are in MAIDEN MOTHER and CRONE? and How many elements in PAST PRESENT and FUTURE? and How many elements in YES, NO, and MAYBE? and on and on.... I guess the power of three is more powerful then any of us imagined..

That said, I guess that we never have to worry about being replaced by machines since they can only understand the power of two such as a zero and a one. If a computer can understand a yes and it can understand a no, how do you think it knows what to do with a "maybe" besides melt down.

Well enough about this junk.. I gotta get to bed.. Letterman just came on and I need a decent night's sleep.. Last night it was till 3 and the night before that it was 4 and I'm not about to mess up again tonight.. Besides, Wynn was talking about going out to see the new Matrix movie when he gets home from work tomorrow and I don't want to go out there tired and run the risk of falling asleep.

Night Night....

Posted: May 22, 2003 22:40

Letter to Steve Jobs at Apple Computer
The following is a letter I wrote to Steve Jobs at Apple Computer following my motorcycle accident explaining my story and how his company's technology helped me.
They were so impressed by it that they posted it on their customer feedback website for a while.


On May 27th 2002 (Memorial Day Weekend) I was riding my Motorcycle home after helping a friend and when I was about 3 blocks from my home in Dallas, Texas I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. The result was blindness in one eye, deafness in one ear, and a traumatic brain injury to three of my brain lobes. The doctors said that I would be lucky if I could write my name or get our of a wheel chair since the injury was so bad. Prior to the accident I was a data communications expert for a mainframe company (Hydra Systems) with a data processing career that began long before there was such a thing as PC-DOS. I also own about 7 Intel based computer servers with my partner which run Windows 2000 and operate my web hosting business.

Three months after being sent home as an outpatient, I wanted to work on a wireless SONY laptop from the couch in the living room so I spent big bucks realizing that I could only hunt and peck on it. I spend most of my pecking holding down the control-alt-delete to reboot the darn thing fighting with Windows XP. Geez, all I wanted to do was run my AOL AIM and Yahoo Messenger so my family members could keep an eye on me 1,800 miles away in Connecticut.

Frustrated, I knew I had to find something and then I went to a Microcenter and got a G4 iMac flat-panel which is now my favorite baby. With the help of the built-in speech recognition I was able to talk to the computer and I could talk to him like he was a friend. Instead of being frustrated and fighting with the software, the computer, (named Rickey) was working hard to make it easier for me to get up to speed. Imagine what hunting and pecking was like for someone who used to type 140+ words per minute.

Friends were amazed when they saw me using a computer again. I know that I'm going to be disabled for the rest of my life at age 41 and I know that I can no longer be responsible supporting mission critical computer services, but I can't believe that a little machine could have helped my recovery so well.

Then came the Apple Store grand opening in Dallas. I really liked all the things I was able to accomplish with Rickey the iMac, I decided to spend the crummy settlement I got from the other driver's insurance for my rare classic Yamaha Virago bike and got a 15" Powerbook G4 so I could move around the house with WiFi and not have to be stuck in one room. The little guy is known as Stanley and named after my purebred Somali cat who is by my side every moment of the day. Heck,
Stanley even had his own web page.

Today, no longer in a wheelchair, typing almost 50 words a minute and still using voice recognition abilities I can't help wondering how expensive, and frustrating it would have been if I stayed on the Intel/Microsoft Windows platform. Heck, I was even shocked to learn that Microsoft hasn't included FrontPage in their office product on the Mac. Most of my clients’ web design work was done using FrontPage and I got a giggle the other day when I found version 1.0 floppy disks that I helped them Beta test about 8 years ago. But, I guess it's all the more reason to spend my money on Macromedia for Dreamweaver. I sure wish they could invent a FrontPage to Dreamweaver conversion book or video..

My hat's off to Steve Jobs and all the other people that make Apple what it is.. Having been through this life threatening TBI hasn't been easy but I couldn't do half of what I can today because of my Apple computers. I hope that Christopher Reeves gets wind of how a simple machine can help him with his TBI and allow him to look at it as his friend instead of an enemy. Brain injuries really suck, but the patients need to know that they don't have struggle through life alone or give up facing the ugliness of defeat... Thanks to family, doctors, friends, and my Apple Computers, I'LL NEVER GIVE UP!!

Thanks for listening...

Rick Wagner