Skull fractured and brain severely damaged, I needed fuel to heal yet I had none to give. I withered.

The elation of earning my first green pass was short lived; it was followed by a day confined to my bed. The goal posts required adjusting.  

Exploring my physical limits, managing my brain injury symptoms and patiently accepting the healing process came at a pace in which I struggled to adjust. Though instantaneously hit into an unknown world of beeping monitors, bedpans and foreign tongues, I maintained the same expectations of my battered body that I had weeks earlier when healthy and fit. Energy required for simple daily functions left me utterly fatigued. I feared that if I did not push through I risked appearing lazy. Like a naughty child, I was put in time out for exceeding my limitations when headaches would floor me mid therapy session. Countless appointments were spent curled up in a dark therapy room painfully disappointed in myself and the direction my trail had taken; silent tears fell.

After nearly four months on Station 44, the new calendar year brought a short lived glimmer of independence, working at the hospital.  No longer physically or cognitively fit to drive, such loss of autonomy was overshadowed by the welcome change of sleeping in my own bed with my own space, in my own clothes. I was transported daily from the modest farmhouse I lived on the crown of a Bavarian hill  back to the trauma hospital for outpatient treatment with career-like routine and intensity. With my same team of therapists my rehabilitation program continued to address my vision, cognitive deficits,  physical ailments and psychological challenges. After a full day of work, the climb up to my second story flat felt mountainous late each afternoon. The wake of the accident played havoc with my sleep, anxiety and appetite. My body was trying to heal without fuel.

Months on therapy became routine with no signs of change: the state of my eyes and the state of my appetite. As the monotonous road persisted, I found hope in the little independence I had at home. Despite visual limitations, riding my road bike on my indoor trainer (Wahoo) and starting to pick up the pace of my walk into an awkward shuffle on the familiar Bavarian trails provided a sense of normalcy.  

The eye would be back to normal once the swelling subsided and the blood cleared. When the right eye had demonstrated no signs of progress and the left still impaired, I was taken to Tubingen University hospital to meet with Dr. B, one of a select few Neuro-ophthalmologists in Germany. She had her team measure acuity and every eye movement possible and, essentially some that were not. Combining MRI data with her own measurements, I appreciated her frankness and empathy as she explained her diagnosis. As a result of the damage to the specific area of my brain any natural ophthalmological change is unforeseeable; confirmed, my life changed infinitely.   

My medical team was growing concerned as I struggled to accept that I would spend the rest of my life with a disability. I was soontherefater readmitted to Murnau Hospital for more intensive neurological testing and therapy. It became unmistakably obvious that I was not doing everything needed to support my neurorehabilitation. I was not eating.  My brain had been severely damaged and I was not getting the nutrition to fuel it nevermind thrive. I was ultimately discharged due to concern for my acutely low Body Mass Index (BMI).  This was an extremely low point emotionally; there was no trail. I was dangerously lost.

Outpatient therapy resumed while I was waitlisted for a specialized neurological rehabilitation center. As autumn turned to winter, my Wahoo became my safe place. Alignment issues were resulting from the awkward way needed to hold my head up high enough to see when running; cycling was much more gracious. Hours on the bike were my comfort and most trusted therapy and friend. When I was not at the hospital, I was on my bike.

Likened to the speed of the  September ambulance transfer, medical focus shifted to my diminishing body weight. From TBI to BMI, my hope was diminishing into a gaping hole of vision loss along with autonomy no more.

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  1. Alberte says:

    Thank you for sharing these stories, they were very emotional and inspirational. We discussed these storys in a class and your past experiences inspired us all.

    Best regards Alberte and Zhiyu

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      Wow ~ My smile lights thinking that you took the time to talk about my story in your class and that you find inspiration as you read.

      I hope you follow a trail that inspires your everyday Alberte and Zhiyu.

      Thanks so much for following along from Germany,

  2. Isabel says:

    Hello Ms. Wheatley!
    This is such an inspiring story! I am glad that you are doing better. It takes a lot of bravery and strength to recover and embrace a traumatic experience like that. Not everybody can do that. Reading this makes me believe that I can push past my obstacles and helps me to believe in my self.

    Thank you for sharing,

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      Yes – you can do whatever it is you set your heart on Isabel.

      Thank you for making time to read and follow along as I navigate the mountains of my mind.

      Keep shining and climbing,