EP6: See the Step in Front of You, with Michele McFadden
About this episode:
Michele McFadden, a former IT professional and competitive long-distance runner, survived a hit-and-run accident, but was left with a traumatic brain injury that significantly impaired her physical and verbal abilities and her memory, among other things. Our conversation illuminates how a change that is thrust upon you can sometimes shift things for the better.
About our guest:
A native of small town Missouri, Michele McFadden grew up the 7th of 9 children, earned a degree in Computer Science, ran marathons and had a thriving career in IT. In March, 2015 she was struck by a hit-and-run driver on her way to work. While her recovery is ongoing, Michele is an accomplished home chef and devoted advocate for rescue dogs, donating countless hours to Buckeye Bulldog Rescue. She lives with her husband in Columbus, OH.
Where to find Michele McFadden online:
Other Resources Mentioned:
- Effects of TBI
- Frontal Lobe Damage
- Medically Induced Coma
- Out of Body Experience and TBI
- Cognitive Therapy & TBI
- Executive Functioning After TBI
- Physical Therapy after TBI
- Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
- My Stroke of Insight book
- In Praise of Slowness book
Become a Supporter:
If you like what you hear, please consider making a donation on our Patreon site!
- All content Copyright ActuallyQuiteNice, Inc & TCOM Studios, 2022
- Cover art by @jacksonfall
- Music by Ray Wyssman, The Simoleons, and Kristen Cerelli
Kristen Cerelli 0:00
The interviews in this podcast, all of which are ultimately uplifting stories of human transformation may contain general discussions of depression, trauma, violence, abuse, or cultural and racial bias. On this episode of shift shift Blum during
Michele McFadden 0:17
the therapies, there would be, I can remember the five zoo animals and it's like, well, this is silly Lincoln named Fox. Wilson, they would say, well, just humorous men and names that just write them down. You know, right, and tractor and spider and just things that obviously had nothing to do with the zoo. Then later, just being so surprised that two weeks ago, I didn't know that a tractor was not zooming.
Kristen Cerelli 0:49
Michelle McFadden's drive and keen intelligence helped her succeed in a male dominated industry and as an endurance athlete, until in a split second, a traumatic brain injury changed her entire life. Today, she shares the story of an ongoing physical and cognitive rehabilitation that impacts every aspect of her humanity. I'm Kristen Cerelli, and you're listening to shift shift bloom, a podcast about how people change.Missouri and they married in:
Michele McFadden 2:20
Thank you, Chrissy.
Kristen Cerelli 2:22
I want to give the listeners a little context, because I know everyone will want to hear about the accident and the aftermath. But you were really active. Physically Active prior to the accident. You were a runner? Yeah, I
Michele McFadden 2:37
was, uh, my passion, I guess was distance running in particular. Even as I aged, I continued that activity. It was sort of like who I was. And for large part, that was my identity.
Kristen Cerelli 2:53
You ran marathons.
Michele McFadden 2:55
I did run marathons. I actually like training for marathons. Much more than I like actually competing in the marathons.
Kristen Cerelli 3:04
Wow. So So prior to the accident, about how many miles were you running a week?
Michele McFadden 3:10
I think at that, by that point, it had dropped significantly. So 50 does maybe send me
Kristen Cerelli 3:15
Wow, still a lot. So I guess everybody you've probably been asked this before, but do you remember anything about the actual accident?
Michele McFadden 3:27
I do not. I don't remember. Even the prior evening. Apparently, I had gone to dinner with friends and drove them home, I believe. But I don't. I don't really remember that. And I can't say that I remember the day before. You know that whole day.
Kristen Cerelli 3:50
Are you? Do you have feelings about that? are you grateful that you don't remember? The incident itself? Oh,
Michele McFadden 3:58
I don't know if grateful but I suppose I suppose. I don't know how that would have changed. Anything. I in some sense, I suppose. Yeah. It's it was good not to know that somebody just sort of left you and for whatever reason, you know that they just left you in that state and it was rush hour. So there was quite a bit of traffic on this street at that time. And they got they interviewed two drivers that stopped.
Kristen Cerelli 4:33
Wow. What is the very first thing you remember? post accident.
Michele McFadden 4:41
The first thing I remember was at least a week after the incident and briefly being in a pool of wet and blood and then are being lifted up, and then nothing then for another day after that. So that was the very first time and that was a fall that apparently I got up out of bed, presumably to use the restroom, given the fluid on the floor. And that didn't work. So Well, I suppose I didn't realize I didn't know how to walk anymore. So. So yeah, apparently, immediately after that, of course, down to the CT, and that's what I was living. I was in a rehabilitation hospital at that point. So I don't remember any of that.
Kristen Cerelli 5:41
What does your family tell you about that time in the ICU? What does Morris tell you, your sisters, your brothers?
Michele McFadden 5:47
My sisters have told me that I was rather combative, verbally combative, and my husband tells me I just wouldn't stop talking. I think I think there was a decision on the part of at least the medical team that I should be, I should have a coma induced because all of that activity to talk and interact with people and things was preventing my brain from any healing whatsoever.
Kristen Cerelli 6:29
Wow. And so were you in a medically induced coma?
Michele McFadden 6:33
I was. And I don't to be honest, I don't know for how many days there was a hemorrhage in the frontal lobe, I guess. And it was pretty severe. Every medical professional that I've seen that looks at the chart is told me that it was a very severe injury and that where that occurred is usually result in total recoverable things like nice.
Kristen Cerelli 7:09
Movement, yes, primary motor skills, expressive language, managing higher executive functions like planning, organizing, self monitoring, also, problem solving, impulse control, social interactions, exercising judgment, using abstract reasoning, creativity, memory and emotions. There are two important things of note here. The first is that Michels injury is to the frontal lobe, the thing that houses all the stuff that makes us uniquely human. The frontal lobe is the newest part of our brain from an evolutionary standpoint, and it's the last to develop, so it's both highly malleable and extremely vulnerable to damage. Second thing is that medically induced coma is not a common procedure, even though you see it every week on television shows, the purpose is to give the brain time to heal. But it's usually a last resort when other options for reducing brain swelling or brain bleed have failed. When I hear the term medically induced coma, I'm really scared. So I wondered how the people around Michelle who had to make this decision for her were feeling
Michele McFadden 8:20
to be honest, there's so much that I've just by denial, I just haven't asked, I guess, and they haven't offered and, and maybe that's maybe that was good for the time, and maybe that's good for the time, the person I've become that, you know, it's, it's hard to go back and relive some of this.
Kristen Cerelli 8:43
So when you are when you come out of the coma, and they they bring you to rehab at this point, what are the doctors telling you about the brain injury and about the prognosis?
Michele McFadden 9:00
So I don't recall ever them ever talking about it. With me there was a doctor that would make his rounds every day. And he would come in and he would just ask me how I was feeling as much as I can recall. He would ask me how I was feeling and how I was doing and but that was really it and he always had a gaggle of students with and I, I would try, like I would see them outside the door and I would try and listen and I'm sure I heard things but I could not understand any of it or process any of it.
Kristen Cerelli 9:42
Jill Bolte Taylor, in her book, my Stroke of Insight, she writes about having this sort of out of body experience what well first while she's having a stroke, and then while she's those first few days in recovery, do you recall having anything like that where you're kind of watching yourself. I, IMichele McFadden:
don't, per se and her book was very inspiring for me to read. And I probably read it in maybe the first year of rehabilitation from this. And I was just fascinated that she had that experience and that she could recall that experience. And most of my experiences that are like that are have to do with this odd sort of vertigo that I have had. Even in the beginning, just where I'm just feel like I'm floating, and I'm above things. And I'm, I just feel like I'm floating above and I'm watching. And I'm houses are instead of me walking past the house. The houses are going past me. They're coming toward me. And that's Wow, that's just bizarre. It's just so strange.Kristen Cerelli:
And that still happens to thisMichele McFadden:
day this day. Yes. Wow, very, very scary and difficult. But I sorted to Dr. Bolte. Taylor's point is that I can shut that down. I can, when I drive, I have to be very focused on a trust myself and focus so that that is not happening, that those cars aren't going backwards, like a car is on a four lane highway, and we're all driving east. And I have to concentrate really hard to say that this car that just passed me is not coming back towards me. Because that did happen in the beginning. And I could not drive at all. Wow. So that that still happens a little bit. But I can I can control that or I just trust myself or I just focus on a point. And as long as I focus on it, I shut everything else out.Kristen Cerelli:
Wow. So let's get let's go back to rehab. And what was the first focus? Was it getting you to walk was it? Was it language? What was your day to day like in rehab, okay, soMichele McFadden:
I would have a schedule, and they would bring it to me with my breakfast. And so they'd have I went through physical therapy, obviously, cognitive therapy. And another kind of therapy, and I can't remember the what they called it kind of more activities of daily having to do with activities, occupational, yeah, so it just depended on which one I did first in a given day, but all of the therapists were just so amazing. But the, it was very hard. And in the beginning, I would be so tired, that I just didn't want to go. And I remember one day in particular, just being so tired and not getting up and not going. And the next thing I know my husband is coming in the room, and he's sitting behind me, and he's or besides me, and he's saying you have to get up and go. And I was just so tired, I don't want to go, I don't want to go. And it turns out that he had been advised that she needs to go to therapists, because if she doesn't, they will potentially give her bed to somebody else, they will discharge her if she's not going to continue with these types of therapy, which, you know, was a huge concern, because if you can't walk, you know, what do you say you're going to bring this person's home and they're not going to be able to walk and do anything. So yeah, I guess walking number one was a thing and also speech, the activities of daily living that had to do a lot of times with sequencing like you have to put your socks on before you put your shoes on. And you know, we're overall thicker time to do it. Just making sense. You know, many of these things or you know, they take you you were going to do laundry now or whatever it was and no they have to go to in the washer first These clothes are are wet, they have to go in the dryer, you can't fold the clothes while they're wet. And I found a I guess, in anticipation of speaking to you today I went through some emails which I had stayed away from, I didn't want to look at from that period of time and I I found some emails where people describe me being in the hospital and what it was like and having come maybe come and see me and I don't actually remember people coming, or if they did, they would be there. And I would apparently be nice. And then they would leave. And I would ask somebody who was because I, like why are they here? Or? Yes? Why did they come here? But during the therapies, there would be, especially on the cognitive side, I can remember, name, the five zoo animals, and it's like, well, this is silly. Why are you asking me to named five zoo animals, I can name five animals. And they would say, well, just humorous then and names them just write them down, you know, we know you know, but just write them down. And, you know, write and tractor and spider and just things that obviously had nothing to do with the zoo, as an animal anyway, and then later, just being so surprised that, wow. Two weeks ago, I didn't know that attractor was not a zoo animal. But now I know what attractor actually is, and what do you use a child for? And maybe that spoke to the plasticity they call it of the brain and its ability to rebound.Kristen Cerelli:
How long did it take you to relearn how to walk? Were you walking by the time you went home?Michele McFadden:
I was walking by the time I went home. In fact, I was climbing stairs, I would. I remember being bound and determined to climb the stairs. And going up was always pretty good. Coming down was absolutely terrifying. Okay, yeah. So I was, I was able to even bathe myself for the most part, I could do all of those things. Which is good, because I have stairs in my house here.Kristen Cerelli:
spiral stairs in your house. Yeah. AndMichele McFadden:
you know, the people always comment on that. And to me, they were much preferable, because when you're on a spiral, you, you can only see the step in front of Okay. For me, it seemed that was important is just one step at a time, and you're just taking this step and you're not, maybe I wasn't getting overwhelmed, because there were so many steps. And plus, I had two points of contact, I lost a lot of what's called proprioception when that incident occurred, and and so I still bobble, because I still have an issue with proprioception. But those stairs, I hit the center column, I could always have a hand on and then the rail on the stair itself. So I, to me, that seems preferable Wow. To navigate, then just the regular stairs.Kristen Cerelli:
Do you remember the PT for walking? Like, were you on a treadmill? Were you on with a walker.Michele McFadden:
So when I was in the inpatient hospital, the rehabilitation hospital, I always had a belt on, and somebody with me, and they would hold the belt, and then I would walk but I could touch them if I needed to touch them or I I kept trying to grab the belt. Because I think, you know, in hindsight, that appears to be that third point of contact that I needed. So instead of having us sticker a cane or something, I could touch that belt. So that I'm sorry, what was theKristen Cerelli:
if you remember this sort of PT around walking, and if you are on a treadmill, and where are you with a walker.Michele McFadden:
So they would take us into corridors and put little cones. And so we'd be doing the weave poles like the dogs when you see dogs in competition. So we'd have to weave or they'd put little short ones, little tiny, maybe a foot or less than a foot tall. And they just be in your way, all the way in this very narrow corridor and you're you're supposed to just either get them out of the way or step over them, okay? You'd have to do whatever you needed to do. Then later in outpatient therapy, they would put me on a treadmill and they put me in something I would call a Johnny jump up like little babies, little babies and and you string me from this it was string stone from the ceiling, I guess. So I would be in this and then they put me on the treadmill and they would have a person on each leg, and then a person behind me holding my hips. And that was to, I had pretty severe delay on the left side of my body. And so it was to teach me the coordination of hand movements with leg movements. So the two people on the legs, their job was to make sure that the legs were moving in Prop appropriately, and that my hands were that I can move my hands appropriately.Kristen Cerelli:
Wow. A couple of things come up. For me, when you describe this, it's like, wow, as you said, These people are amazing. The work that they do, are you you you mentioned, you're bound and determined to walk you also a really independent person prior to the accident. So like, how is this having people on your legs and hips and moving you I mean, it's the bring up feelings as it bring up.Michele McFadden:
That is the thing that brings up the gratitude is that there are people out there that are willing to do that. And that, as a matter of fact that I've changed enough during this experience to accept that help. I think that is, the biggest thing for me is being able to accept thatKristen Cerelli:
not your way of being in the world prior to the accident.Michele McFadden:
No, it would now, I mean, I think I just grew up, you know, every child for themselves. And if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. And so very independent, and but I have learned I have learned to be different.Kristen Cerelli:
Well, runners, it's not fair to paint everyone with the same brush. But runners, I think, especially sort of long distance runners, they do tend to be lone wolves. You know, it's their race, you're running your own race, and you're there, you don't have help. You're not playing a team sport. So it sounds like the physical part of your recovery, at least with walking went relatively quickly, when you like, kind of look back over the timeline. If you were only you know, in the rehab for three or four weeks, and you're home walking, that sounds like it went quickly. Were there other things that didn't go as quickly? Yeah, IMichele McFadden:
think just a processing just being able to take in information and and then even knowing what to do with it, but certainly being able to understand it. Without a doubt, one of the most difficult things has been reading and comprehending what I've read. And I've only in the last year. So this has been going on six years. And just in the last year, I could read, say an entire paragraph in a book and understand were you aKristen Cerelli:
big reader before?Michele McFadden:
I wasKristen Cerelli:
I was so the the walking, the walking came quickly. The reading and the comprehension not so much. What about your verbal skills? You mentioned? Also what before we started that you might have moments of aphasia. Could you could you explain what that means to the listener and what your particular type of aphasia causes?Michele McFadden:
It's usually just not being able to find a word. And MIDI, many people suffer from this and everybody over the age, I would say any any woman over the age of 60 You don't needKristen Cerelli:
a traumatic brain injury to have aphasia.Michele McFadden:
It's so funny because people go oh, Michelle, oh, now you're just like the rest of us, you know. But it's, it's can be really debilitating to be, say in the middle of a sentence. And it just, you can't find the word. And then for me, on top of that after I can't find the word, I completely forget, I lose track of what we were even talking about. And there's this idea that not an idea, but the reality of now, being so overstimulated by noise and movement. And if I'm at a social event, and there are a lot of people, I can't track conversations and that still happens today. It's I have to be pretty careful. But so the brain surgeon who never actually did surgery on me that I saw after I had been released from the hospital, I saw him a couple of times and you He told me that my brain would figure out how to do things, and no one will notice this in me. And I think that's true. Because I, you know, I've mentioned that I can't feel I don't have feeling in my hands or the bottom of my feet, but I can walk. Yeah, I can't feel my hands. But I can cook. And I, I can still, I mean, cooking has so much to do with the tactile, you know, touching something and getting feedback on, you know, whether it's rising dough, or you're just mixing veg with your hand or whatever. And so, somehow, yeah, I figured out that things that I'm able to accomplish things as I had before the injury,Kristen Cerelli:
do the doctors, are they basically saying to you, it's going to be trial and error, like, there are things you can learn to do, but we don't know necessarily what those things are, you're gonna have to figure them out. What's the learning curve on all of this stuff?Michele McFadden:
Yeah, I think mostly, it's in the beginning, they said, you know, you just have to learn to accept that there's only so much. And I do believe it's true that you never recover from, from a brain injury, you can rehabilitate to a certain point, but you're never going to recover. Without saying, you're just going to have to accept who you are, which I don't think they would ever do. But that you do have to understand that there will be things that you can accomplish, and that you may not regain all memory, you may not regain on all our sense of movement, or where you fit in the world. But that you can try. And there's no reason that you have to stop trying. Yeah, you're older woman, you know, I'm in my 60s now. And if this had happened to a 12 year old, their experience of rehabilitation would be much different thanKristen Cerelli:
it sounds like you're not allowed to say you had a traumatic brain injury, but that you always say I have a traumatic brain injury, because it's never fullyMichele McFadden:
year yield. You know, Chris, it's a little It's interesting. It's a little like, sometimes I think of people who have struggled with addictions of one form or the other, and how do they ever really recover from that? And that you hear that these terms like recovering alcoholic? Or, you know, and do you ever recovered? That that's such a part of your identity, this experience had been that it's always at least having had the experience is going toKristen Cerelli:
be a part of it. Yeah, it changes your core identity? IMichele McFadden:
guess. It does, it really does.Kristen Cerelli:
I want to talk about the census with you, because I know you as I met you, I think about three years after and, you know, one of my first experiences of you, and then ever, every experience since has has revolved around food and the amazing food that you make. And Dr. Taylor talks about this in her book to about sort of a changing relationship with each of her five senses, or six, if you want to call intuition or a sense, but talk to me about your senses. What's it like now?Michele McFadden:
Well, that I know the sense of any, any of the senses just seem to be dulled in the beginning. So, not really having taste, and a sense of smell even no feeling in the hands. And just sort of, I don't know, like that, that part of me was not there for so long, maybe. And then little by little, just just needing to, for instance, the hands this this, this situation with my hands coming home and somebody sitting the computer in front of me and I'm like, Oh, yes, oh, I'll check my email or whatever. Do you know how to respond to this email? And it's like, well, what are these little things on the computer and then, and then go, Oh, it's a keyboard. Okay, I get that. And I know my hands are supposed to be on the keyboard and I can move them. It just did not work. I just could not make my fingers move. Even though I had gone through some things even in outpatient therapy, where they give me the golf sticks. What are those little golf sticks that you put a ball on it? And then somebody has aKristen Cerelli:
Oh, like I know what you mean what you mean?Michele McFadden:
Yeah, these little sticks, and they would have me put them in holes. Yeah, no, and how oh my gosh, that was so hard. And just having the stick and then seeing the hole I just really focusing on that hole by God, I'm just gonna get that tea in that stick that stick in that hole. Oh, it was so hard. Also, you know, buttoning a shirt, any of those fine motor skill skills, then on top of the senses, so that's magnified, that are made that seem, Wow, is this how it's going to be from now on, you know, the beginning. But slowly over time, all of those things have improved dramatically and my ability to like I said, cook. I can tell you what it feels like right now. Like, a giant man with big hands has come to shake my hand. And he's squeezing it really hard. So it feels dumb, or like, sometimes when you get you go to the dentist and they give you a shot? And yes, face feels like it's huge. Yeah, they sound like that. And you would never think that you could make them work or do anything, the smell. And I don't think he ever had real acute smell. But it's so far improved. And the taste is definitely much improved, just but really only in the last couple of years.Kristen Cerelli:
When did you start to cook again?Michele McFadden:
When I got home, my sister was here I can remember. And we would go in the kitchen together. And she would help me get the pan out. And because everything was so heavy. So yes. Even like this cell phone is would be something that would be so heavy, I wouldn't be able to hold it. But just scrambling an egg. That was the first thing I did. But, but yeah, pretty, pretty much straight up. And then as time went on, I can remember wanting to make something more complicated like ravioli, which to using machine. It was it was like serious therapy. It was like getting this machine out and figuring out I mean, it was like all day, it was probably six or seven hours just to get the machine set. Because youKristen Cerelli:
mentioned having problems trouble with sequencing sometimes. Was it different different for you as a as a cook?Michele McFadden:
I don't know that I could remember it or not. I went through a little exercise like that during the inpatient part of my stay in the hospital and it was disasters. And but I think that's why in fact, it took me so long to get this machine ship set up. But once that was once I had it set up I was okay like I don't know why, why that I just seem more natural that here's flour in the eggs have to go in it. And it maybe that was an easy give that I didn't you know, pasta is so easy. You just have flour and water and maybe you have a go with it. So something simple like that was okay. But yeah, I don't want after I got home, I don't really recall it having any major obstacles for cooking with sequencing. Wow, I would turn I have become an obsessive checker of things like the burner being on to this day. I mean, they really they really put the fear of God in you when you're in the inpatient doing all that theory? Do you thinkKristen Cerelli:
there's an intuitiveness to you as a cook that you couldn't shake or the brain injury didn't knock out of you?Michele McFadden:
I think so. Christian, I think there are a lot of things even though Dr. Lawns are had said, Oh, honey, that's not really how it works. Just because you were real fit. And real physically competent, you've had a brain injury and is pretty severe. And you're going to have to discover the new view, which isn't, in fact true. But as time has gone by, I think, yeah, there must have been something in there that survived that, that desire that can do attitude and just I can do this. And I don't need anybody's help but actually I do need people's help. You know, my husband will see me dragging stuff around on the patio, you know, in that first year going, good Lord, let me know do that for you. And it's like, no, I just need to move this bridge over to this spot, take me like four hours to get from one spot to the next. And is thatKristen Cerelli:
a major change like life being really fast, I keep going back to you, you know, doing reading these computer languages and knowing these computer languages and, and having a sort of fast paced career. And now is life slower?Michele McFadden:
It is slower. And back to Dr. Taylor. I feel like I've progressed enough now in my Ribbit rehabilitation, that I have to remind myself that I should stay slow, I should keep things slow, and not let them speed up. And in that sense, the first thing that happens when I start speeding things up as the Aphasia kicks in. And also, it's still hard to be with people and understand everything they're saying. But if if you if you know, people who begin speaking before someone else has finished speaking there, or they begin speaking without thinking about what they're going to say, and they haven't fully formed there, that seems to be the road that I'm headed down, if I don't, if I don't slow it down, that I haven't really thought carefully about what I'm saying, which I did early on in the in the injury. And now time has gone by and I'm I'm trying to I feel like I'm trying to catch up. And I want to catch up, and I want to be that person that can engage with other people. And so I'm going I feel like maybe I'm going a little too fast. And I I need to step back and slow down again andKristen Cerelli:
keep it slow. One of my favorite books in the whole world is called in praise of slowness. And it's nonfiction it's it's just a lot of research in different topics like driving slower, moving slower learning slower, and it's so convincing a missive on slowness and quality of life. So in a way, would you say? That's been a positive has that has that been a positiveMichele McFadden:
for you? Very much. So the most positive thing in the beginning of all this and say the first three years was being able just to just sit and look at a leaf blower on our on the patio and trying to figure out what it is? And, you know, yeah, it's just like, Everything's new. Like, if you just slow down enough, everything can be new, and and you can see it and not, you know, worry about knowing that it's a leak, how have yourKristen Cerelli:
relationships changed with people who are part of your day to day life?Michele McFadden:
I think I'm more accepting of how those people are. And I am grateful that they're, they're here. And I'm grateful for who they are. You know, in the past, I'm sure. Because I was like this in my work life, I was very demanding. And well, why do you have to be like that? And why must you be so insistent? Or, you know, just always, there's always some little negative thing about it. And now it's, I'm just grateful that are that they're there. AndKristen Cerelli:
so are the feelings around the the cards that are in the box that are upstairs? Is it fear? Is it? Is it a sense of loss?Michele McFadden:
I suppose it's, it's a bit of both. It's kind of interesting, because I think in terms of loss, it's almost like the loss of having known who those people are is kind of my gain in that. Maybe I could see if, if I could see them, then I would really see who they are and not think about what they were like or what my relationship was like with them at the time. And I've thought about this for some of my coworkers. I can recall a couple of incidents and thinking this person is so interesting, and if I could just see them And outside of context of who I knew them as before, primarily in my, in my work life. But yeah, fear fear to in that. And I suppose the fear really is just tied up with that loss of the fear of not knowing knowing that that person was in my life and may have had some import in my life.Kristen Cerelli:
Yeah, when you talk about the leaf, it makes me think it would be so wonderful in a way to be on the receiving end of someone without expectations. You know, someone who's not bringing expectations of who we are or who we were to the table. Although I'm sure it's complicated, because I'm sure there's an expectation may be coming at you about Don't you remember me? Don't you remember this? How, you know? Don't you remember our connection? Don't you remember this inside joke? But at the same time to sort of get a clean slate with someone? Could be pretty remarkable. What do you miss about about your life pre TBI? Do you miss running? Do you miss working?Michele McFadden:
Oh, yeah, I, I definitely miss running. And I don't really miss work itself. i But I miss the independence. And I miss being in control. Because I miss, I miss knowing everything. I guess I knew everything. And so I guess I do, I miss being in control. And when I was thinking about that, like what I missed the most, you know, sort of wildness independence? And was it really the independence, you know, when I had a job and I can take care of myself and this stems from childhood always be having to take care of knowing that, you know, by God, you're just going to take care of yourself. You're not going to rely on anybody else to do. And so at first I thought well, it was really the loss of gainful employment or the ability to have gainful employment. And then I realized, no, you know, really, it's about control. It's about I don't have any, I don't feel like I have control over my life because I don't have as free a movement. And part of that does have to do with not having an income no longer having an income and yeah.Kristen Cerelli:
Are you in acceptance about that? Yeah. Oh, yeah.Michele McFadden:
Yeah, I, I worried. I guess I can remember, prior to the injury. My baby sister was married to a man she was that she met at work. And then she began to have children. And so she didn't necessarily work outside the home. And I thought, how is that even possible? You know, like, I could not imagine not taking care of, you know, financially be able to take care of myself. But I have come to one thing I have come to realize, as this rehabilitation has gone on, is that what she says is true, which is her an enormous contribution to the household, and enormous contribution to this joint life that she has with this man and these children. And that, that in itself is just as important, if not more important, to the whole. So I have got to live that and I have learned that she's right and that is true.Kristen Cerelli:
I can deeply relate to her feeling like I do not want to rely on someone else for my basic needs ever. Because I have never since I'm 20 years old, not had a job not had my own source of income. And I prefer it that way. And I also bump up against judgmental feelings when I see I guess especially women who are able bodied are able to work choose not to work I don't even know you know how much of my own privilege comes up in though many of us equate money, financial security with emotional security. And they're not really related, as Michelle works through this, and you hear her, clarify her feelings and discover what they're really pointing to you hear a person who has shed previous judgments. A person who used to judge her sister for a certain kind of life or lifestyle, now has a completely different understanding of that, even though it's not necessarily something she's chosen. Do you ever equate or make a relationship between this change that we're talking about today? I think it's probably of the interviews I've done so far. This is the first one where this change has been thrust upon you thrust upon a person so unwillingly or without engagement in the change. Do you think there was some? I don't know. Dr. Taylor talks about spirit. Do you think there was some some learning for you that couldn't have happened without this kind of dramatic change being thrust upon you?Michele McFadden:
Definitely. Even in terms of just we were talking about the job and gainful employment and a friend after the TBI had mentioned, well, but you didn't get to make that decision about leaving, like how relieved I was that I, but Aren't you upset? Because you didn't get to be the one to make that decision? It's like, well, there you go. Control. Right, that I was not in control of that process. But yeah, that, and I'm sorry, you have to say,Kristen Cerelli:
yeah. Do you think there were things you couldn't have learned? Or ways you wouldn't have changed? Had this change not been thrust upon you? He Yes.Michele McFadden:
Some of it. I wonder if, without having had the injury, if time itself would have led me to a certain path? You know, because they always say, you know, as you age, you become a softer person, you become a more accepting person. And so perhaps that would have eventually changed. But I do know that one thing for sure. That would have been extremely difficult for me to accomplish with time and or this TBI is, so I was headed down a path with substance abuse, prior alcohol prior to the TBI and suddenly that part of me whether it's a compulsion, or whatever, led that and my, I come from all you know, a line of alcoholics, there's many alcoholics in my family and also friends and but I have just zero desire. There's not that compulsion is gone now. And that is probably this has got to be one of the most positive things that has happened with this brain injury is that somehow it just got turned off I don't you know, I don't advocate for others, Hey, have you got an issue? Go stay in traffic for a while.Kristen Cerelli:
It does make you wonder about they they know so much and so little about the brain. It does make you wonder what happened in your brain that, that you don't have that desire anymore.Michele McFadden:
And you we've we've heard the stories of people who have detoxed from their addictions, medically been detoxed been put under and detoxified. And how, okay, well, apparently in some form. This was sort of a self next year because I don't know what that I have no idea because it's more it's more than just being going through a detoxification. It's then a change in you that says that I don't need this. I don't know why I thought I needed this to have a good time. Why did I need this to feel better about myself or dole some pain that was there or whatever, whatever it is the reason that people self medicateKristen Cerelli:
you and I have had had a glass or two of bubbly now and then tell me about things you enjoy?Michele McFadden:
Well, usually just sitting on the patio and looking at reeds, that's for sure that's a big one right there. But, um, you know, cooking obviously been with my dogs, I mean, really enjoy. In smaller groups of people, good conversation, especially with those people who are close to me know that I have a no a limited ability to process. And so they're willing to accept my foibles, my aphasia my mixed up words, my need to start and stop have that sort of thing. But really, everything is so new every day. Now, in that just sounds so trite, I know, but it's, you just wake up and everything is, it is a whole new day out there a whole new opportunity to either be really grouchy, or be really happy and see beauty and whatever it is that's in front of you. And it's fine to have a day I personally believe it's fine to have a day to to wake up and be really grouchy and just want to fold in a position and not speak and not see anybody andKristen Cerelli:
Are you happier and more positive?Michele McFadden:
I'm definitely more positive. And I'd say, Yeah, I have days when I am much more happy than because I've enjoyed those simple things. You know, and before it was, what's the next thing I gotta do? I found myself doing this on a walk the other day with, with my husband, speaking out loud of everything that I was going to do when I got home. And it's like, here we are on this walk. Why am I doing this? And I think that's part of me just trying to, you know, I'm fighting this, here's me in the past, and here's me now. And the now person does not want to look forward, you know, don't look to the future. So, which is what the past person used to do all the time. And now I've become this begin beginning to go the wrong direction here. Christie,Kristen Cerelli:
you know, this is yeah, and she says this in her book too, about having a moment. I think it's early on, though, in in my Stroke of Insight where she says, there's a part of me, that does not want to recover. Because I don't want to lose these positive things that have been brought to me as a result of this. And that's so interesting that the sort of old you creeps up? And the new you has to say it's better this way. It's better to live in the moment. Yeah,Michele McFadden:
absolutely. Absolutely. And especially, I think this is why I'm somewhat fortunate. It seems to be the age I am. And to to have a husband who is willing to financially support me and not have to go back into the workplace because I think going back into the workplace would be constantly trying to be the person I was that super confident. Suit super capable. doing 27 things at once. person. And I'm I don't want to be that again.Kristen Cerelli:
Yeah, I was going to ask you and I do think this is part of it. It's like that doo doo doing that doing and making lists and gosh, I'm there. I'm there so much. But it's I also recognize that it's cultural. And in a way by not going back into the workforce and sort of having limits over what you can take in terms of stimulation has allowed you to kind of step back from the culture to and re experience how much is enough or who you want to be we reframe who you want to be. That seems like a gift. I'm just curious if fears pop up for you, that didn't used to pop up, whether they be physical or some of some other nature. Like you mentioned driving, you know, I'm sure it was really frightening at first, and you do it now. So So are there other are there new little fear friends that that have reared their heads through this process?Michele McFadden:
There are that I think, again, I think they are some of these few friends that develop as a process of aging. So physical movement, you know, we have a little dusting of snow. And it's not as you know, I'm already challenged, not being able to take stairs go down stairs very well. And so carrying a little dog outside, try and convince that they need to take care of their business and having to pick something up and go over snow or go over ice or go over some unfamiliar territory. That's pretty frightening. It is also continued to be a challenge for me and a fear of mine, going into unknown spaces. And just but I do force myself, you know, I'll force myself to, to meet someone new or, you know, I'm in social settings. And so I will force myself to do it, but it's already, I'm on edge because I can't move physically, I don't feel safe in this new space. So So those two things you get there? Oh, it sounds. It's almost like I have PTSD. We sound so the dog barking. All the beeping. I constantly say this how noise noisy the world has become. So right now there is a car out there probably a Amazon delivery truck. And it's backing up. And it's making noise Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. And then we have a lot of utility construction work going on. And there's drilling and banging and sawing. And it's just so I mean, I can feel it. I somehow I feel listened to my body is begins shaking. And that's I think that's new. TBI.Kristen Cerelli:
Like hypersensitivity. Yeah, yes. Do you ever think about the driver?Michele McFadden:
No, I don't. And I do get asked that from time to time. Did they ever get the guy usually somebody will say and then. So in the beginning, when that happened, my first response would always be How did you know it was a guy? But I know this is a figure of speech. They weren't really meaning. But I don't because I don't know why that would help me to know who that was. I make up my own little story in my brain that she knows, probably some little old lady who didn't know that this body had, that she made contact with the body. And that, you know,Kristen Cerelli:
I think that sounds really healthy and helpful. Why and why not? Why not?Michele McFadden:
Yeah, I think for my husband, it's very ups. You know, it's been very upsetting to him, because he knows that we would not have done that. Had we known this is why I've chosen to like, say it's some little old lady who just didn't Yes, yeah. No. But that we would have stopped at least you have to stop. And I did. There was a incident reported in my neighborhood. Maybe two, three years ago, someone was struck and they were in. They were in the same ICU area. I was. And so I had sent a note to that family. And just, you know, I never heard from them. I don't know if they received it. I sent it through the person who had posted the story and just said, you know, I'm so sorry. And, you know, the hope is that, that there's some improvement and during the rehabilitation, I don't I don't know it was a young man. And I don't know what happened but I felt like oh, gosh,Kristen Cerelli:
I don't know maybe I'm always looking for things like this. But to me that sounds like even if you never go back into that box of cards that's that that act is you paying for Word all of that support that you got to someone else in a really beautiful and special way that only you can understand. Not many people have been through what you've been through. And now this young man gets whether, like you said he, whether he read it or not, whether his family read it or not, it's like out there in the universe, that, that level of compassion and understanding and support. I love the way Taylor Dr. Taylor ends her book. And she she writes about things that she needed, like 40 things she needed, that she just wants people to know, anyone who's going through this, I wonder, what do you what do you need nowMichele McFadden:
that I don't have already?Kristen Cerelli:
Maybe MaybeMichele McFadden:
I need to continue to have the kind of support I've had from my husband, my family, my friends. I definitely need that. And I need time and space. But I think I've always needed time and space. Because I am a little bit of a, I've always been a little bit of a loner kind of type version.Kristen Cerelli:
I think you're so special. And I'm so glad you got to I got to I know you. I'm so glad you're in my life. And I'm so glad you said yes to doing this. I want to give you a little bit of rapid fire questions, which just means, say the first thing that comes to your mind before we finish, fill in the blank. Change requires blank.Michele McFadden:
Really curious what you're going to say about this one, if you could go back in time and change one thing about your past, what would it be?
Food? What do you mean by that?Michele McFadden:
access to food?Kristen Cerelli:
Was food scarce when you were growing up? Because there were so many of you? Well,Michele McFadden:
I think it was really my parents were alcoholics. And so they were just never there. And didn't really, you know, so food was we were just really hungry a lot. And it is it's the thing I really, you know, you worry about it in terms of your overall development. Yeah, really how nutrition is to so important to yeah, this thing up here in particular. And then just that when you when there seems to be a scarcity of food, because of this neglect, right? So it's basically willful neglect of your children not to be there and not to feed them enough to protect them. That Wow, that food stands for so much.Kristen Cerelli:
What is one thing big or small? You would like to see change in the worldMichele McFadden:
health care system, because there's so many people who had this exact injury in the parts of the brain, these exact types of hemorrhages and disconnections, as I did. And everybody responds to it differently. But I think a lot of that has to do with support and the ability to get the health care. And, you know, I had advocates because my family were advocating for me. So they were getting me the bed in the rehabilitation hospital. And they were making sure that I stayed there. And it's kind of sad the state of State of the Union here. Yeah, health care.Kristen Cerelli:
Nothing is a perfectly fine answer to this next question. But what is one small or superficial thing you would like to change about yourself?Michele McFadden:
My strengthKristen Cerelli:
how often do you change your toothbrush? Six months? There's no right answer, Michelle, that's fine.Michele McFadden:
Like six months? Seems like you go to the dentist for six months, six months.Kristen Cerelli:
Are you primarily a change maker? A change seeker or a change resistor?Michele McFadden:
Wow. Dang used to be a resistor. I think now I'm a seeker.Kristen Cerelli:
That's a change. That's a huge and wonderful change. What does your next change look like and feel free to be aspirational or imaginative? Were fanciful about that answer,Michele McFadden:
regaining my physical competency capability, but retaining all the other things about myself that changed since the brain injury.Kristen Cerelli:
What would you say to someone who has had an unexpected change thrust upon them?Michele McFadden:
Ask for help.Kristen Cerelli:
Thank you, Michelle. You kiss your doggies for me.Michele McFadden:
I will kiss my darlings.Kristen Cerelli:
Thank you so much for doing this.
shift shift Blum is a co production of T comm studios and actually quite nice engineered by Tim fall and hosted by me, Kristen Cerelli episodes are available wherever you download your podcasts and are made possible by listeners just like you please consider supporting our work by visiting firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash shift shift bloom.Tim Fall:
shift shift Bloom is made possible in part by the prayed Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the well being of all through the use of personalized timely interventions and provider of online training in the T comm tools T calm is transformational collaborative outcomes management a comprehensive framework for improving the effectiveness of helping systems through Person Centered Care online at prayed foundation.org and AT T calm conversations.org And by the Center for Innovation and Population Health at the University of Kentucky email@example.com y.edu