Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

December 21, 2008

The Big Things Little Things Can Do

As the warming-gold Autumn has turned to winter, I’ve heard the echo of familiar fears the ice and snow bring to TBI survivors like me.  For many without brain injury, winter is merely the months of aggravation scraping windshields, shovelling driveways and waiting for the car’s heater to ratchet up.  For many survivors, however, it is Fed-Exed fear.  Delivered right to your doorstep.  The reminder of falls we took when finely-tuned brains smashed on unforgiving sidewalks.  Or the reality of cumbersome wheelchairs trying to navigate through slushy, sliding pavement.  For me, it is the unsteady slippery terrain, laughing hungrily at my poor balance. 

 During good weather I use a cane to walk, allowing me to keep three “feet” on the ground.  During winter, I often use a trekking pole, even two, to keep me upright.   Always beating back that fear, knowing already what one misstep can cost.  Reminding myself that safe and smart never look ridiculous.

Yesterday I quick-determined not to head out, as we were getting 8-12 inches dumped on us.  I decided, instead, to put up some Christmas decorations and watch what I imagined would be huge lovely snowflakes sweetly falling  hour after hour.

What came were teeny tiny, nasty snowflakes.  Mean and angry.  Not lovely.  They blew sideways and stung the cheeks and watered the eyes and there was nothing lovely about them at  all. 

When they tailed off to mere flurries about six hours later, I had to behold their splendid work.  I was amazed that all these teeny tiny snowflakes could create such a beautiful landscape.  And it hit me then…

Look what big things little things can do!!!   Sometimes during our recoveries, we are so frustrated by what we can no longer do the way we used to do it.  We were once such huge lovely snowflakes…

But time and time again, in the 12 years since my injury, I have been reminded how far baby steps can take us.  Progress, in any measure, in any pace, is progress still.

Sometimes we forget that different doesn’t have to mean worse.   Those teeny tiny nasty flakes created as beautiful a winter landscape as any large lovely flakes could have mustered.  As is with everything, brain injury survivors must take heart that there is more than one path that leads to  accomplished.  To beautiful.  To, “Yes, I can do this”….


  1. Happy Winter!

    I’ve been pretty ambivalent, too, about this intense snowfall — 14 inches, yesterday, and another 8 inches today. I’m in the position where I’m the one in my household who is responsible for clearing the snow, making sure the house is in working order, and going about my tasks as a TBI survivor requires definite changes to my strategy. I actually wasn’t fully cognizant of how much I’d been impacted by my fall down the stairs in 2004… not to mention the three car accidents, the several sports concussions, and the rock that hit me on the head when I was 8 and knocked me out briefly… until this past year. Since last year, this time, I’ve had to come face-to-face with the after-effects of multiple injuries and see how my mis-steps (that sometimes resulted from my pre-existing cognitive deficits) had endangered my safety and that of my family. Clearly, some adjustments were needed.

    So, I’ve bit the bullet and adjusted. I now make sure someone is with me, when I’m moving snow, in case the snowblower backs up on me, or I have trouble balancing while using my roof rake. I take more frequent breaks. And I check in with someone periodically while I’m working.

    Some things I know I cannot do at all — like bound out of bed, first thing, and race out into the day without coffee and breakfast and a plan of action. And when push comes to shove, if I’m over-tired, I just won’t do anything at all.

    I’ve re-injured myself too often, from not modifying my behavior and adjusting my expectations. And I don’t want to do that anymore.

    So, enjoy what you can of the snow. And be safe this winter!


    Comment by brokenbrilliant — December 21, 2008 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  2. Hey BB:
    Glad you learned not to bound out into your day without coffee. Laughing here. I don’t think people who DON’T have injuries can do that and start speaking in sentences or drive safely. Ha. Glad you chose your safety and made yourself a priority. Good for you. No more head injuries! You’ve had more than your quota already. Best wishes.

    Comment by karaswanson — January 7, 2009 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks for sharing your story and hyour heart Kara! It’s so comfingorting and inspirint to know there are others out there. This is mey first day on the computer reseraching TBI and I’m glad Ifound you. I am new to the TBI world, after an accident 3 1/2 months ago. I have survived by laying on the couch all summer and having wonderful friends bring food and give rides to my son. I am suddenly filled with terror as i raealize the reality of a Vermont winter approaching. Not quite sure how we will survive 5 months of shoveling snow, slippery icy roads and sidewarlks and dark days and isolation. Not quite sure how to cope with more fears of falling on top of the constant fears I have already developped. I have always dreaded winter, this is different. Somehow it is reassuring to know that this is normal for those with TBI. THanks! So how DO you survie witner?

    Comment by Nathalie — October 16, 2010 @ 9:29 am | Reply

    • Thanks for writing, Nathalie. Please see your private email. I’ve written to you there.

      Comment by karaswanson — October 17, 2010 @ 10:22 am | Reply

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