As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Because of that, it seemed the perfect time to share the story of my friend Joey with you. . .
I first met Joey several years ago when my friend Vonna started dating him. Later, I had the opportunity to witness their marriage, which was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever seen or been a part of! Joey’s story is well worth reading, and is sure to encourage you. I hope you’ll read it, comment on it, and share it!
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a relatively rare infection that affects the delicate membranes — called meninges (men-in’-jeez) — that cover the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly and contagious among people in close contact.
Viral meningitis tends to be less severe and most people recover completely without specific therapy.
Fungal meningitis is a rare form of meningitis and generally occurs only in people with weakened immune systems.
On New Year’s Day of 2005, I woke up with a severe headache and neck pain. I just thought that I had slept wrong. The pain lasted for 18 days. I was taking 20-25 Advil a day just to function and work. At the time, I was a well driller for a company in Mechanicsburg, PA.
I was working out of town and on the 15th day, which was a Thursday, I came home and laid around till Sunday. Finally, I called my parents and asked if they could take me to the ER. I could not take the pain anymore.
While at the ER, they did all kinds of blood tests and also a spinal tap (a spinal tap is a test in which you lay in a fetal position and they stick a large needle into your spine and get out some spinal fluid and test it for menangitis).
I ended up having 7 spinal taps, 3 bouts of menangitis – Bacterial, Viral, and Bacterial again – pneumonia, a stroke, 2 feeding tubes, and my heart stopped.
One night I woke up with nurses standing all around my bed. I asked the one what was going on and she said, “Your heart stopped,” and I replied, “Well, it’s working now!”
I had 3 brain operations. I have a mass on my brain that is still there; the doctors said it would be too dangerous to take out, so they left it in. I have 4 shunts that drain the brain fluid into my stomach. The doctor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore told me I have more wires in my head than anyone in the world!
I was in three hospitals and two rehabilitation centers. In a rehab center called Kernan, they told me I would never walk again. God had other plans!
I was also in a nursing home for a year – the worst year of my life. But I was very fortunate because someone from my family came to visit me everyday. There were some people there that never got visitors, so I consider myself very lucky!
If it was not for my family and God, I wouldn’t be here today. I love them very much. God is Good!
The Aftermath & How He’s Dealing with It Today
After all this, I was in a wheelchair because I could not walk. Then, I moved on to using a walker, then to a cane. And, God willing, I will get better so I don’t need the cane anymore!
I went through an anger stage, and then a pity stage where I kept asking God why he put me through this. I have since come up with an answer, I think. It was because that’s how He got my attention!
Before this happened, I was not living for him. Putting me on my back was his way of saying, “Now straighten up or else!” I am now very thankful, although there are some days (like this time of year) when I miss riding my Harley. I’m sure that, through prayer and hard work from my wife, I will get back on one – it will just be a trike this time.
I also miss being able to work. I feel like Vonna does all the work and brings in all the money, which makes me feel like less of a man. But I understand that is part of it; it just makes it hard to make end meet (bill-wise, I mean).
I want everyone to realize that tomorrow is not a definite, so please live for God. After what the Lord brought me through, I want to obey him. He asked me to become involved in Kairos Prison Ministry and Walk to Emmaus. I’ve also become very involved in my church, with teaching Sunday School, being a member of the board, and teaching some Wednesday nights.
Also, I do a lot of hunting. My favorite is Archery hunting. I do a lot of hunting because, when I sit in the woods, I do a lot of talking with the Lord. I never go into the woods without a Bible and I also do a lot of reading of it when I am in the woods.
I also ride horse at least once a week. I don’t know where I would be without horse riding. It has done a lot for me both physically and mentally. I feel that it was riding that got me ready to drive again after 7 1/2 years!
A word from Joey’s wife, Vonna:
(from someone who lives with a person recovering from a brain injury)
It makes life interesting some days. Each day is a gift, that is for sure; and I look at each day differently.
Joey has good days and not as good days. When he is tired, you can tell that sometimes it is harder for him to think things through. Sometimes, if he is really tired, things don’t process as well or connect the way they should, and you have to practice patience. And sometimes you do have to be patient in showing him things. He might do something backwards and you know that you can make it easier for him but you don’t want him to feel like he can’t do it. So you have to be careful in how you approach showing him the easier way.
I try not to use the words “right” and “wrong,” because he isn’t doing it wrong. His mind just has it jumbled sometimes. He is good at getting it down pretty quickly most of the time when you show him. Like the vacuum sealer, for example . . . I was at work and came home one night and he was using the vacuum sealer and had the roll of bags placed outside of the sealer instead of in the holder inside the sealer. He kept dropping the roll of bags and was getting frustrated. It still worked the way he was doing it, but it was backward. When I went to show him where the roll went, he said, “Just do it.” I said, “No, just watch;” and then after he saw that it was just backward, he was ok and all was well.
Those are the little things that we deal with from time to time. Then there is the days when he pushes himself to the limit. He just wants to do everything a normal person can do, but someone with a brain injury tires more easily and, when he gets tired, his speech gets slurred and he gets stumbly. So, when I see those signs and tell him he needs rest, sometimes he just sets his mind harder on doing things. Things go in cycles.
We are blessed. He has come so far. He is definitely a miracle. God has healed him in ways that are beyond what the doctors thought possible. But there are days that are physically and mentally a struggle. Not only for him, but for the people that love him and care about him.
Joey Benner lives in central PA with his wife Vonna. He is the father of 3 sons, and spends his spare time – when he’s not ministering to others – hunting and riding horse. He shares his experience and testimony as often as he can, in order to lead others to Christ. Joey is a great husband, father, and friend!