TBI One Love Survivor Daniel Ignacio
“We are blessed with hardships to humble us, as the meek shall inherit the Earth.”
Greetings! My name is Daniel Andre Ignacio, and I am a proud faculty member of the Psychology Department at California State University, Fullerton. I am also a full-time coordinator at St. Jude Medical Center’s Brain Injury Network (www.tbioc.org) serving survivors of traumatic brain injury (commonly known as concussion; Brain Injury Association of America, 2015).
It is an honor and a privilege to be beside those who embody the definition of human resilience. Helping individuals with disabilities find personal relevance in life and attain their fullest potential has become a passionate pursuit for me because I know how impossible this goal may seem at times; since I, too, am an adult with a disability.
In 2008, I was pushed off a three-story balcony in what was initially an alleged attempted murder, and I was left lying in the soil, unconscious and lifeless. I was eventually picked up by emergency services and transported to a nearby medical center. I stayed unconscious for the next three weeks. My family and friends waited anxiously day in and day out, even when a medical doctor informed them of my permanent vegetative state (or so she thought).
When I awoke from my coma, I had no control over my body; I could only blink my eyes. I could not lift my arms, move my head, or speak. I did not know what had happened, where I was, who were the people pushing my stretcher, or why my body would not work. I was trapped in a broken shell with many exploding emotions and no way to express them. I spent all day forcing myself to go to sleep, desperately hoping that I would finally wake up from this nightmare. As I sat in my wheelchair, I developed a deep appreciation for the daily abilities that I used to take for granted and an even deeper frustration that I could no longer perform them. Over the next few months, I relearned how to walk, how to talk, how to eat, and how to use the bathroom (among many other things).
I thought I had overcome the worst, but it was only beginning. When I returned home, I slowly started managing my physical ailments, but it was the devastating mental symptoms of traumatic brain injury that completely thrashed my identity, self-esteem, plans, and hopes I once had for my future. I could not maintain focus, my attention span was that of a child, I could only remember events for minutes at a time, and I developed an eating disorder. I was constantly depressed, frustrated, and angry (so angry).
I did not know it at the time, but I was mostly upset with myself for wanting to give up. I wanted to die… but I would have always questioned what would have happened if I had just tried.I refused to live a life of regret. That same day, I cut my unkempt hair and started running. I began a diet and an exercise regimen while reading for my school courses. I kept pushing myself until I cried, exercising until my feet would bleed, studying until I fell asleep on my desk, and praying until I had nothing left to say. An adage came to me in prayer that put my disability into perspective: “We are blessed with hardships to humble us, as the meek shall inherit the Earth.”
Having a brain injury has taught me invaluable things about how to live. It is those who are broken that truly know the value of being fixed. It is during the times that we have less, that the little bits are cherished. When I took my first step away from my wheelchair unassisted, I felt magic: left foot – magic; right foot – magic. When I first started remembering the names of my family and dearest friends – magic. When I could remember the last time we were together and could even remember the last joke that we shared, I cried. Every day since then has been magic to me, and it was at that point I realized what that adage meant. I inherited a beautiful brain-injured perspective.
I inherited a lens that allowed me to experience a profound sense of appreciation: to not concern myself so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of my pursuits.
I wish you the absolute best of luck as you approach the hardships in your life; how you respond to them could be a reflection of who you might become.
If you or someone you love may be dealing with issues related to a concussion, I would love to hear from you (Daniel.Ignacio2@stjoe.org)!
Brain Injury Association of America (2015). BIAA Concussion Information Center (CIC). Retrieved from http://www.biausa.org/concussion/concussion-information-center
Thank you for letting me join this inspirational Family! I look forward to learning more!