naturheilzentrum bottrop blog topic: traumatic brain injury - brigitte köpge reports on life after her son’s accident
"we also understand each other without words" - to this day, christian suffers the consequences of a severe traumatic brain injury following his serious traffic accident
hello, my name is brigitte köpge. i am a mother, wife, housewife and pensioner. today, i live together with my husband and – also, once again - with our son at our home in the district of lahn-dill in hessen. my story begins on a beautiful spring day. i can still recall it clearly, as though it were right before my eyes. my husband and i had arranged to meet up with friends at a nearby lake. the outdoor season was due to open with a traditional surfing event. our son, christian, wanted to go to wetzlar with his friends. the boys had just obtained their driving licenses. therefore, the car show and the kart races naturally held great appeal.
but what started off so well in april 2003 changed the lives of our whole family. nothing is as it once was. christian and his friends had an accident on the way to wetzlar. in a wooded area that i have traveled through numerous times on my way to work. mornings and evenings. it’s a beautiful route, especially in spring, with woodland, winding through the constantly changing interplay of light and shade.
however, on this day, the road led to misfortune. six trees toppled over – for reasons that nobody knows. one hit our son’s car. news of the accident reached us at the lake, and we immediately set off. police and rescue forces had already cordoned off a large area around the accident site by the time we arrived. we were told that the boys had been transported to the surrounding specialist hospitals by helicopter. i well remember the helplessness that i felt during those moments. we waited desperately for more information. the helpers on site had worried expressions on their faces, but nobody said anything. we feared the worst.
it looked as though our child was sleeping very peacefully in hospital
christian was flown to bg unfall clinic in frankfurt. all the way there, i hoped and prayed that he would live and be well cared for there. we were told at the hospital that our son was alive and he was undergoing surgery. the swelling in his brain had to be treated by using a probe. when we first saw him again after the operation, i thought, “okay, he’s come through the worst of it.” except for a small graze on his chin and a split earlobe, he looked completely uninjured. he seemed to be sleeping very peacefully. the first few days passed in a state of shock, but we somehow managed to function.
we went to the hospital in frankfurt every day, let christian‘s employer know what had happened, canceled our upcoming vacation, and tried to organize everyday life. and every day, the news about chrissi’s health became worse. our son’s life remained in acute danger for three weeks. i only began to realize the gravity of the situation when a doctor lined up an appointment with us: the subject was organ donation. suddenly everything became clear to me. it was like a hammer blow. our lives would never be the same again. it took a long time for us to find something resembling a routine. chrissi was in the hospital in frankfurt for four months. i drove there daily. my husband could only be there on weekends because of his job. and i still had my mother at home who was in need of care.
christian finally settled down at home
then came the day when the doctors told us that christian was no longer an acute case. they could do no more for him and his traumatic brain injury (tbi) at the hospital. another blow!
in accordance with our wishes, the rehab process took place in braunfels - which was much easier for me to reach. but it was not a good place for christian. he would visibly tense up, felt uncomfortable, had constant bladder infections, and barely opened his eyes. and there were also only negative statements on the part of the therapists. chrissi had come to rehab with such promising prerequisites. but he showed little or no progress.
at some point the health insurance company stopped paying for the rehab. it was explained to us that we should look for a care home for our son. but that was out of the question – both for my husband and for me. chrissi loved our village, he was happy to be at home again after every vacation. how could we refuse to allow him to come home? within a few days, we had converted our house for christian’s arrival. this was a must because otherwise we would not have been able to bring our son home. his room had previously only been accessible via stairs.
on december 15, chrissi came back home. you could literally sense how he settled down. he was instantly more alert, he laughed and beamed at me when i entered his room in the morning. his happy mood continues to this day. when my husband comes home in the evening, christian already recognizes him from the sound of his footsteps. then the fun time begins for him. he comes out of the bed and is allowed to spend some time in the wheelchair. i cannot manage this on my own.
watching sunsets together despite apallic syndrome (pvs)
we spend a lot of time with our son. our family life takes place in chrissi’s room. in the summer we have a place in the garden, from where we can watch the sunset together. chrissi listens to our talks and enjoys the fresh air. we are glad we have him. but i am also afraid. afraid of how our lives will change when my husband and i can no longer manage chrissi’s care at some point.
every time we visit the therapists at naturheilzentrum bottrop, they tell me: “mrs. köpge, you have to be kind to yourself.” to be honest, that is hard for me. but i know that i must learn to conserve my energy for chrissi’s sake. our son now receives therapeutic treatment on four days of the week. he has physiotherapy and ergotherapy. a speech therapist works with him once a week. and since 2005, we have regularly visited the bottrop facility for complementary medicine in the middle of the ruhr area.
i became aware of nabo thanks to a tv report on the work of the naturopaths, farid zitoun and christian rüger. the report was about a patient with a similar story to chrissi’s. i really wanted to contact the relatives. then we went to bottrop ourselves. the therapeutic stays have done chrissi good from the very beginning. you got the feeling that he already knows where the elevator is heading. he recognizes the scents and looks forward to experiencing the special atmosphere, the staff, the other patients in the lounge. and all that despite being extensively "needled", and feeling the pain fully.
the nicest thing about it is the feeling of normality - good times are finally here again
acupuncture and color therapy, among other things, are on chrissi’s treatment plan during our stay in bottrop. and in the meantime, the trips to north rhine-westphalia have also become a good opportunity for me to recharge my batteries with the help of naturopathy. someone takes care of me in bottrop just like i care for chrissi. at first, i was very bad at accepting this. but i have since learned to appreciate this care, this hearty warmth. and the exchanges with other families who wait for their loved ones in the lounge. it’s interesting to hear how others deal with the problems which face every relative of a Person who is in need of care. this concerns applying for nursing aids such as stand-up beds or the like. we have also been granted one such item for chrissi. but for me, the nicest part of it is always the feeling of normality, which comes across to me at nabo. our wheelchair does not attract attention here. we are a family of many here. not exotic creatures for everyone to stare at.
we just have to listen carefully
our lives are no longer as carefree as they used to be. i would be lying if i claimed that. but our family has adapted to chrissi’s accident. adapted together. i am grateful for the help i get - from my husband, my daughter, the grandchildren. but sometimes i wish that those around me could be a little more sensitive to our true needs. i do not like to leave chrissi alone. we do not need any bowling evenings, nor vacations, to be happy. but if someone could just bring me something from the supermarket, my life would be much easier on many days.
chrissi will never be the boy he once was. the accident ended his life. he is still with us, but he is no longer the chrissi that he used to be. he lives another life. but he feels joy and pain - just like us. he recognizes his relatives, loves his sister, reacts to our voices and makes loud sounds by himself, which tell us what he feels. we just have to listen carefully.
no one at naturheilzentrum bottrop has given us hope of a complete cure. but in my eyes, the work of the therapists is important, mindful and does chrissi good. he is more relaxed, more alert, participates more in life.
but there are not only good times. there are also nights where we do not get any rest, days on which chrissi does not greet me with a smile. our life is not easy. to claim otherwise would also be wrong. but we wouldn’t want to be without chrissi for anything in the world. he gives us so much, and we are so close that we can also understand each other without words. he can sense when i'm not well, and i only need to look at my son to see what's going on in him. a new, very different kind of understanding than the one we had before. but one that works. and hopefully will do so for many more years.
have you had similar experiences? i'm looking forward to hearing your contributions.
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