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About My New Normal

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post. At 59, in great health and working full-time as a copy editor for AARP, Suzanne was planning a trip to London to celebrate her 60th birthday, when everything changed. She experienced a series of seemingly unrelated health complications... Read more

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ABCs of Brain Injury: P is for Progress

Progress is progress, no matter how small.*

Progress in brain injury comes in increments, and progress may be difficult to recognize day-to-day.

Progress must be celebrated, because brain injury recovery is measured in years, not days or months.

This month, I  attended the 30th annual Brain Injury Association of Maryland Annual Conference in Timonium, Md. for the third time, and my first Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill here in Washington, D.C., my hometown.

I always learn so much and am inspired by the speakers at the brain injury conference each year, be the caregivers like Abby Maslin, or survivors like Carole J. Starr, Saul Raisin or Amy Zellmer. Personally, it allows me to see the progress I have made each year. The first year, I attended  half a day of the two-day conference; the following year, a full day. This year, I was able to attend both days by being driven up the night before and staying overnight at the site of the conference. Each year I attend a few more sessions, and I know more faces and friends.

As I heard someone at the conference say, “Brain injury recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Brain injury recovery is measured in years, not days or months.”

So it helps me celebrate my progress! Next year I hope to volunteer to help at the conference, possibly by selling 50-50 tickets to help raise funds, along with another survivor.

Coming back from being paralyzed on my entire left side, from having no sense of balance so that I could not walk unassisted, things like being able to go to the bathroom alone were HUGE!

Because a sense of humor was and is still a major key to my recovery, I would joke: “I just went to the bathroom alone, we should have a party to celebrate!” Having completely accessible handicapped bathrooms at my daily outpatient rehab certainly made it easier, and I still dream of the day every place I go may have automatic opening doors and those toilets that automatically flushes itself when you stand up, since my short-term memory is so bad that I often forget to flush. (Dream being the operative word here.)

But when I actually remember to flush the toilet, when I am home–or any other small victory for my short-term memory, like completing a checklist to ensure I have everything I need before I leave the house–I cheer myself on with an emphatic “Yay, me!” out loud.

My caregiver is  hearing it more often each day. That is one way we measure my progress. A few declarations of “Yay, me!” is a good day; a dozen is a great day!

*With apologies to Dr. Seuss, who originally wrote “A person’s a person no matter how small” in “Horton Hears a Who”


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Suzanne Tobin

About Suzanne Tobin

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post.


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