Q&A: The importance of having a sense of humor with TBI

Carrie: There’s so many variables, and things are so different. We were talking before that when you were injured, there wasn’t even an internet. So Carolyn, you couldn’t even google traumatic brain injury.

Carolyn Bouldin:  I had never heard of it, so it was difficult. I was lucky to have a sister who is a reference librarian at a university. And so, she was able to find materials for me, but it was hard. And I went to the school system, both locally, well, in North Carolina and in Washington DC, and generally found out all their materials on TBI were written from… They didn’t know any more than I did is what I’ll say. So I just started trying to find other memoirs.

I only found one, but bit by bit, I just started paying attention to Kel, because she was the only one who could really convey to me, once she started talking after about a month. She could convey to me what she needed, and I could see what was working and what wasn’t. So I just learned slowly, grateful to get the internet and cellphones, but I laughed a lot. I’m an English teacher, and strangely there’s a lot of humor involved, as Kelly woke from a coma. It’s not one day she’s asleep, and one day she’s awake. It’s a very slow awakening over months or years, and I think that was the hardest thing for me as a caretaker is I did not know what she didn’t know. She knew the Pythagorean Theorem, but she couldn’t multiply. And so, slowly, little by little, we filled in the gaps. I always said she was like a jigsaw puzzle, and we got the main portion in the middle, but the pieces of sky had to be put in by different people. And I’m still learning that you forget what a geranium might be or something simple-

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal: Yeah, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor. That’s imperative. If you’re going to survive a TBI, you just got to learn to laugh at yourself.

Carolyn Bouldin:  I don’t know now everything Kelly doesn’t know or knows.

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal: Yeah, but that’s true of anybody.

Carolyn Bouldin  I’m 71 years old and I think her memory has surpassed mine at this point.

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal: And that is scary.

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