My Story

by Steven Richard Grove

What was life like before my accident?

In 1951 on May 17th, I turned 6 years old and my Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My pleading response was “a pair of guns just like the Lone Rangers.” Guess what I got, a new bicycle, and not just any new bicycle. It was a brand new adult sized JC Higgins, ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, which normally resided in our outhouse. My dad believed I would only need one bicycle for the rest of my life and so he bought a full sized bike. He had to put blocks on the pedals and to get on the bike I had to stand on a 5-gallon bucket. In order to get off the bike, I had to make it back to the bucket or fall off. I was so mad at the time. I wanted those Lone Ranger guns, but this bike was the best present I had ever received. It gave a lifetime of passion and pleasure. It has made me a modern day Marco Polo and taught me many valuable lessons about life.We lived on a farm in Central Illinois, so at first the bike was transportation to visit the neighbors and friends; it was also a tool to get the cows and other farm chores. I traveled the county side, sometimes 50 miles a day exploring and feeling the wind in my face. At times my bike was a horse, a warplane, a racing car or a motorcycle. My bike was whatever I imagined. When I left for the University of Illinois to attend college I took my bike with me, so now I took off the fenders, shortened the bars, and painted it Illinois orange and blue. Sometime in my college years I was seduced by a “ten speed” bike and I retired the Higgins. Many bikes later, although I still miss my bike, I am still in love with bikes and riding.Bicycling has also given me a sport to share with my wife and my son; it’s something we do together as often as possible. For my son it has been a bond between us since he was 6 years old. Twenty years after leaving the University of Illinois my son and I would ride across campus as part of a two-day 200-mile ride from Chicago to my parent’s farm.This is what bicycling has taught me. Ride to ride, enjoy the moment, just breathe the air, feel the sun, and take time to smell the roses. It’s not how fast you ride it’s just being out there. I will still be out riding until my legs won’t bend and I can’t draw air in my lungs.I retired in 2009 after a professional career in research, engineering and sales. Retired is a full time job. I am busy with bicycling, reading, photography, our four dogs, helping my charming wife May with her business, and of course being a house husband.Life is out there. I can taste it. I can smell it and I live to enjoy it. The world is out there and my wife and I share the passion of wanting to see it. That passion has taken us all over the world and there is always more to see.

My Accident

In 2010 we spent 15 days in China, the land of her ancestry. After that trip we were discussing 2011. I said let’s devote 2011 to my Mom. My Dad died in 2005 and we regret not spending more time with him. We planned two trips to Illinois to spend time with Mom on the farm that I grew up on. First I went for two weeks in March for a Mother-Son experience. It was great, something we both enjoyed. We talked, we read, we watched Jeopardy together. Quiet times just enjoying being together. Two weeks after I came back to California my Mom had a stroke. I flew back immediately to see her and help in her recovery. My plan was to be there for two weeks and May and I already had plans to be there for two weeks at the end of August and the beginning of September. After one week my wife said come home and in a few weeks we will go together for two weeks. We did that and then went again on our planned trip for August and September. By then my Mom was in an assisted living facility.I had a nice bike I kept on the farm to ride with there. On this trip I would go for a morning ride and then May and I would spend the day with Mom. Our planned departure date was September 8th 2011. This is what happened and I have no memory of that day or of many days after. The morning of September 7th I left for my morning ride. At 7:15 a car going about 45 or 50 mph drove into the back of me. I was wearing a helmet. It saved my life. An ambulance took me to the nearest hospital. Somehow my wife, brother and two sisters were notified and were at the hospital. The hospital called for a helicopter to take me to a trauma center. They were not equipped to help me and did not think I would live. I had a cracked skull, bleeding of the brain, internal bleeding, multiple broken ribs. Both scapula’s were fractured, cracked vertebrae, a broken tooth, and blunt force trauma from head to toe.I was in a coma for ten days. I was not breathing. I had pneumonia, heart issues, near kidney failure. On and on. From the trauma center I was transferred to the Indianapolis VA hospital. So fortunate am I to be a Vietnam Vet and get care at the VA hospital. Memories of this time are mostly of delirium. For days I thought I was in the Civil War. I could hear the cannons, see the explosions, and feel the ground shake. The nurses were in Civil War uniforms. From that I went to being on some sort of starship enterprise. I had other delirium’s and they are what I remember. I do not remember whatever was really going on. It was a long and painful recovery and still is.During this time my wife never left my side and fought so hard to help and take care of me. While in the VA hospital my Mom died. My son came to stay with me and my wife went to the funeral. My last memory of my Mom is before the accident. They say I talked to her on the phone, but I have no memory of that. This part is hard to write about. At this point the VA wanted my wife to leave so I could start an intensive in-home recovery and therapy program. I needed to learn how to take care of myself. Also by then we had not been home for almost two months and great neighbors and friends were taking care of our dogs and our house.May went home and she was not to come back until I could return to California. For me that was motivation to work hard on therapy. Finally I was released to go home and continue my recovery at the Long Beach VA hospital. My brother picked me up and we met my wife at the airport and I was crying my eyes out. After arriving home I had many friends visit, but I really do not remember them being there. I had severe headaches, vision and vertigo problems. I am an avid reader and it was about two months before I could read without getting a headache. I started an intense recovery exercise program as soon as possible. I also started bike riding again.Then it all came to a sudden halt.On January 30th 2012 I rode my bike to the gym to work out with my trainer. Again I have no memory of what happened. This is what I was told. Fifty minutes into the workout I had an absence seizure. The trainer called an ambulance and they took me to the closest hospital. I was put on seizure medication and of course not allowed to ride my bike or go to the gym.

What life is like now and my perspective on life

Old is a state of mind. In numbers I am 67. In my heart I am still a kid on a bicycle. I know the clock is ticking. I can hear it tick. Tick, tick. I know what it is like for the clock to stop.Life since the accident has been a lot of medical procedures and TBI therapy. My attitude has, is and continues to be upbeat and positive. The losses are easy to see. What is harder to see is what I have gained.  What I have gained the most is the most incredible bond with my caring and loving wife. Without her support I would have given up and died. I am closer and feel more love for the friends and relatives that matter the most. I see things differently – I see light and color in a different way. Smells bring back old memories. I think about how I can help others. I strive to be the best person I can be.I am a realist. Myth and superstition has never been a part of my life. I am at peace with dying as I am at peace with the time before I was born. This life means everything to me and I want to make the best of it and do all I can for others.

My hobbies and activities.

Bicycling is a big part of my life and I miss it. I hope to be physically ready to ride again by May or June. Photography is also a hobby I focus on. I am spending a lot of my time on photography and have started entering art shows. Reading is ingrained into my being. I read almost every day. I read a lot of books. I like historical fiction, history, physics, cosmology and fiction. I have read at least one book a week sometimes more. We have four dogs. I love my dogs. My dogs are very therapeutic for me. My wife and I love to travel. I am writing this while on a five week trip to Australia.

How did I get connected to B.R.A.I.N.?

One of the best speech pathologists at the Long Beach VA hospital recommended B.R.A.I.N. to me. At first I went to the Thursday evening meeting for VETS and at that meeting I got a copy of Who’s Crazy Now. I devoured the book in about one day and called Sue Rueb, the author of the book and Director of B.R.A.I.N. I came to the next Tuesday night meeting and look forward to every Tuesday evening meeting. The meetings are very upbeat and informative. It is such a great program. I really like being around people who understand. I was having a hard time meeting and seeing people so this gives me a safe place to go.

Thanks B.R.A.I.N.

One Comment

  1. I believe that your friends and relatives value you today more than ever. The possibility that you may have been taken from us after the accident was a real reminder of what you mean to us.

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