Murray Dunlap – Survivor

It was the beginning of a new week.  It was Sunday June 7, 2008 when I was driving. I was on my way to a recycling center.  I never made it.

wreck3

All of a sudden someone had hit my passenger door and pushed me into oncoming traffic.  I was initially taken by ambulance to the hospital, then airlifted for further treatment.

I would learn later, that the person driving the vehicle that hit me was distracted while he was driving; he had been looking at sale signs and missed a red light.  His name is Ed.

I sustained a polytrauma at 34 years old. coma1 I had 3 fractures in my pelvis, a broken clavicle,  4th nerve palsy (double vision) which required surgery, and a traumatic brain injury.  It took 9 sutures in my head and five stitches in my ear to close me back up. The Murray I used to be died that day, and from then on I had to completely reinvent myself. I spent close to 3 months in a coma followed by about a year in a wheelchair (I can’t remember how long due to amnesia – it seemed like forever) and many months using a walker.   In my process of reinventing myself, I had to relearn to walk, to drive, to stop speaking with a slur and work to correct the side of my mouth that drooped.

The Traumatic Brain Injury has greatly impacted my life.  It ended my first marriage.   I’m sad to talk about my first marriage. It ended because of amnesia and my personality changes. When asked by a therapist, I didn’t know I was married. I was so confused all the time. I couldn’t  make heads or tails of my place in our family or in life. 

My communication, chronic confusion, loss of balance, and social skills have been my biggest struggles where I notice the most change. The amnesia has severely impacted my writing life as well. However, there was a silver lining in all that turmoil and all those life changes.

My TBI led me to meeting my second wife – my forever wife. new1My wife is an Episcopal priest that my sister-in-law introduced me to. They were helping underprivileged children get to a swimming pool and my sister-in-law told my wife what had happened to me. The rest is history. It took 10 years of therapy and recovery until  I was able to publish my book of poetry, called “Proof”.  Once accomplishing this it was proof to me that I had crossed the finish line.  I don’t believe that I will ever go back to the way I used to be, and I am grateful that I have had the support of my current wife and my family.  I don’t think I would have made it this far without their support.  They have absolutely helped save me.

I am 44 now and live in Southern Pines, North Carolina.  Most days I jog or walk (as a former distance runner it is quite challenging, but I am out there accomplishing), and I run our guest house cottage on Air B&B.  I have also managed to lose about 50lbs. I now speak clearly with very little slur, my eyebrows line up, and my smile is finally straight.  I am forcing myself to take more time with things and stop rushing in and making bad decisions. Even though it’s been 10 years since the wreck I was in, I still have the tendency to rush in and perform most any task quickly; but due to my brain injury, I have learned that rushing ends in mistakes and injuries…so I now slow down.  I passed driver’s rehab and drive normally now. I get anxiety and drive less when this happens, but I continue to put forth the focus and effort needed to drive safely.

I also got to meet Ed (the driver that hit me) on a phone call one day.  It turns out he is a really nice guy and we will always have a mutual respect for each other.  While I was falling during my recovery and screaming his name, Ed was losing a wife to Alzheimers.  He has married again, since then, just like me. Just like that, my original plan for life vanished. However, as one life ended for me, a better and more fulfilling life began.  I had to forgive Ed for the accident, and  now I even thank him for starting the strange chain of events that led to meeting my wife. Ed and I are actually friends now.  Thank you Ed.

I am telling my story and sharing my accomplishments as often as possible.  The message I want to leave with others is to NEVER GIVE UP.  I wanted to tell my story because TBI is so hard to deal with.  I’d like to think I am a story of HOPE!

To read more about me and my writings, check out my Website: http://www.murraydunlap.com/

 

 

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