Rodney Smith

At the Edge

I find myself standing at the edge of a vast chasm of sorts. As I look across, it is not unlike the Grand Canyon with its ragged edges and stony walls. All I can see as I look down into it is gray-black darkness. In my soul, I know this is the valley of the shadow of death. What am I doing here? How did I get here? I was just on my way to work . . .

My name is Rodney Smith and that was the beginning of my life with Traumatic Brain Injury. I was born Jan 9th 1956 in Charleston, WV. I graduated from Ripley, WV High School. I have been married to the former Miss Bonnie DeQuasie since August 9th, 1975. We have three children: Mike, Amy and Bryan, and 4 grandchildren. I have a Bachelors Degree in Computer Information Systems from St. Leo University I retired from the U.S. Army in 2001 after 25 years.

My TBI was caused when a pickup truck failed to see me and crossed the road in front of my motorcycle. I hit the truck and was thrown from the bike into the windshield head-first. I then somehow flipped over the cab and landed in the bed of the truck. I never hit the ground. Following the accident, I was taken by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital. Grady is a very good trauma hospital and they basically put me back together. They repaired my broken wrist with a large titanium plate and several screws. My lower jaw was broken in two places and they used four titanium plates to put it back together. Both or those surgeries went well and I have pretty good use of both, though now I can predict rain better than a meteorologist.

They ran a CT scan and mentioned to my wife that there was a little bleeding on the brain but when they ran another scan, it had not gotten worse so they didn't plan for brain injury rehab. It was only after my wife noticed significant differences in my personality and behavior and asked the doctors and nurses many times about what to expect and how to care for me that they sent a speech pathologist to give me an evaluation. This was done on my last day at Grady and the speech pathologist then told my wife that I needed 24/7 supervision and gave her a referral to go to a neurologist. They did not tell her what to expect or how to care for me so she was left to figure out how to be a caregiver on her own.

We eventually got an appointment with a neurologist who immediately determined that I needed a more thorough evaluation than she could give. She then referred me to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, for a Neuropsychological evaluation. The process of getting referred to Shepherd Center took over two and a half months. The evaluation revealed multiple deficits in memory, processing speed, multi-tasking and problem solving to name a few. Before the accident, I worked as a network engineer on large complex government networks and email systems. This required continuous multi-tasking, very precise memory for small details and strong troubleshooting skills. Since the accident, I cannot multi-task, am very distractible so attention to detail is very difficult and it takes a lot longer to figure out even small problems. After rehab at Shepherd Pathways, Shepherd Center's Outpatient Brain Injury service center, I have employed many compensatory strategies such as using a voice recorder for quick reminders and dry erase boards for daily task lists. I have been doing a lot of logic puzzles to help improve my problem solving and attention to detail.

Life after a TBI involves continuous adjustment and is very frustrating at times. It is very common to get depressed but you have to try not to compare your post-injury self to your pre-injury self or as my wife says, "Don't compare husband Number Two to husband Number One." You are who you are so you have to make the best of the present.

I have a blog where I share the ups and downs of this adventure and how God has been there every step of the way. Even when I didn't know he was.