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Traumatic Brain Injury Was Devastating

Four days after getting his driver's license at age 16 in 1975, Todd Bode was coaxed into joining his big brother on a road trip. The hook was that Bode would be allowed to drive.

After about an hour on the road, 55-year-old Bode said, "A drunk driver hit us head on. I remember my big brother's girlfriend screaming he was going to hit us. Then all I remember is everything going white and then everything going black."

His big brother was driving. Bode was launched from the backseat, hit his head on the dash, and was catapulted to the back seat. His heart stopped after he suffered double whiplash. A doctor driving by stopped and saved his life before the ambulance arrived. He was in a coma almost two months, and would go through three brain operations, eventually having a severely bruised part of his brain removed.

Bode experienced a traumatic brain injury, which the National Institutes of Health defines as occurring when "sudden trauma causes damage to the brain" and can result in permanent symptoms that can include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, sleep pattern changes, behavioral or mood changes, slurred speech, loss of coordination, or difficulty with memory, attention, thinking or concentration.

After the accident, he said, "I couldn't remember what I had learned in school. After I went to homeroom, my classmates would walk me over to my first class. I went to special education classes, physical education classes, and did a lot of art. I had to relearn everything, which was really frustrating. I had to relearn how to walk, talk, eat, and put my clothes on."

Today, he lives off disability income and often has severe pain in his back and neck, and has had surgery on both.

His physical difficulties aside, perhaps his biggest challenges have been emotional. He said, "There were times I felt God had abandoned me, especially when I was going through a period of deep depression a year after the accident. I thought about suicide then, but couldn't do it. The Lord brought me back. I thought about suicide again maybe 15 years ago around Christmas. I tried calling everyone I knew for help, including family, but no one was home. So I called my church. The pastor called early in the morning and almost immediately I felt better after talking to him."

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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at

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