I would like to commend Kathleen Shaw for her front page story about people with brain injuries ("Matters of the Mind," March 23). A traumatic brain injury sure does change the life of a victim. The result often turns these victims into totally different people. I wish that other people would take the time to realize this.

On Aug. 21, 1987, I suffered a traumatic brain injury, in the form of a closed-head injury, at work in Northern Virginia. I was a roofer and fell through a skylight hole. I was rushed to the Fairfax hospital via medical helicopter, where I spent over five hours of neurosurgery to remove a blood clot from the left side of my brain. I then spent the next 29 days in a coma. I don't remember the accident or most of the hospital time, I'm just translating what I've been told. After being in the hospital for 56 days, I was transported to Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville.

The traumatic brain injury gave me many disabilities. Partial paralysis/left, impaired hearing in left ear, seizures, and short-term memory loss are just a few. After being in a wheelchair for about a month, I was finally able to walk again. At the WWRC, I had to learn to do basic things, just as a child does. I was told that the recovery from a brain injury is a lifetime. I was also told that my brain injury aged me. As a young adult, I paid little attention to this, but I'm now seeing it more and more each day.

Unlike many with a brain injury, I was able to obtain a driver's license again. With help of medication, my seizures have been under control for about 20 years. I now walk 13 miles frequently for exercise. This takes over four hours, but it keeps me healthy. I have been living independently for over 25 years and was able to become a homeowner over five years ago.

I do not have the social life that I once had. People, including some family members, often treat me as if something is wrong with me. People should realize that some people and myself have had a brain injury. This means that we may have some difficulties. We may have trouble processing information and responding, reading, and writhing. Please don't assume that we are intoxicated or under the influence. People that we are around should be understanding and give us time to reply. A brain injury does change a person's life.

I owe my rehabilitation and life to God. He provided the doctors, therapists and loving helpful parents. He has given me a great and helpful spiritual family. The greatest gift that God has given me is our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of what he did for me on the cross, I know that I'll be perfect one day and forever.

Jeff Kibler lives in Luray.

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The quality of your informative letter alone is enough to remind people that physical impediments are not necessarily indicative of cognitive or intellectual impairment. It is indeed a well-written letter, Mr. Kibler.

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