Jacqui Burke (dot com) logo
Business Diviner.
Digital Marketing Specialist.
Social Media Manager.

Bread for Fairies: Recovering From Brain Injury

A fairy walks investigates a low hanging tree branch in a dark forest.

When a loved one suffers a traumatic brain injury, they can change so dramatically that you almost don’t recognize them anymore. You find yourself, months following the event, staring across the kitchen table at someone who looks like the guy you married but is not him anymore. Not only is this person disagreeable and short-tempered, he doesn’t like many of the same things he used to. The change is so profound, you’d swear that the fairies had stolen his soul.

What is anoxic brain injury?

My husband suffered an anoxic brain injury a little over ten years ago. I wasn’t ready for the changes that came or prepared to handle the aftermath.

Anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen. The effects vary. Imagine an ice cream cone that’s been sitting so long the ice cream is melting. Sometimes whole sections slide away. In my husband’s case, he suffered thousands (millions?) of tiny fissures all through his brain.

The first year after an injury is the period when the injured person recovers the most ability. With my help, my husband came along very well but he was never going to be the same.

So many changes

This new John was irritable, prone to fits of anger over nothing, and rude. He displayed none of his previous industriousness, interest in world affairs, or sense of humour. He hated foods we used to love. He would do what he was told, if enough cajoling applied, but he completely lost his own gumption.

He lost most of his connections that had to do with engineering. He lost his ability to sequence his actions efficiently. For example, he would pick one pair of socks from the basket and put it away and then go back to pick up the next one. He was never going to work again

I know it all merely sounds irritating but the truth is the effect on me was one of profound loneliness. This was a guy I didn’t know and maybe a guy I wouldn’t even want to spend much time with.

Getting some of him back

Over the months, years, and now a decade bit of John returned. He still likes to sneak off to the coffee shop to have a coffee and a treat and he started to read again (this was quite recent). In the mornings, one of his favourite things to do (again) is catch up on world events but he does so now with physical newspapers. Now, we will even have some pretty good conversations again.

Getting some of him back from brain injury took an awful long time and an intimate knowledge of what he likes and doesn’t like and a lot of trial and error. I felt like I was leaving little offerings to the fairies so that they might be distracted and let bits of him come back.

Trial and error

Once I understood that he would not be able to work, I did notice that he still, if you asked him a question, could talk at great length about his experiences. So, I hooked him up with a crowd of makers. People who were getting together to build things, hoping that he could be of assistance to some of the younger folks. Sadly, this didn’t take, mainly because of the pandemic. On this, I will keep trying.

So many things did not take. We visited miniature train fairs, went down to the yacht club, bought him his own desk and computer, bought him an (albeit small) ham radio. None of this took but I think it was worth the try.

Another example is the changes in food preferences. Again, I kept putting things in front of him that I knew he used to like. I had to be a bit sneaky here and just not ask him what he wanted. As time went on, he would default to ‘no’ on pretty much every suggestion. I realized that this was more an attempt to assert himself as opposed to what he really wanted, so I would just bring the plate fully dressed and made a note of how much he enjoyed the food. With some small exceptions we are back to his old ways.

New things that were old things

One of his favourite things to do is sit and have coffee and talk about the world. “Shoes and ships and sealing wax” he would call it. Of course, he was locked in during the pandemic but as that eased I was able to send him off three times a week to adult programs. This is new but what does he like the most? The first half hour when they sit, drink coffee, and talk about nothing and everything.

Even the bad habits

Following a major event, it would be tempting to remake them in a better imageart of getting them back is getting back the parts you don’t like. He still spends too much time on the phone, fibs a lot, and is lazy about housework. Oddly, I find a lot of that comforting, even if I scold him about it. It’s part of who he was.

A trail out of the woods

Brain injury is like being lost in a fantasy forest.

In the old folktales, you could steal back your child if you fed the fairies well enough. But in life, the process is much slower. You breadcrumb them back.

If you are at home with a family member who has suffered a serious brain injury, I hope some of this helps you on your journey. Even as we contemplate finding a home for John (he is in his seventies now), the process of feeding the fairies continues. If the bread is sweet enough, they do let some of him back in wee, precious bits.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help me out, go ahead and click on an ad on this page. It makes me an incremental amount of money which will encourage me to continue. 

Jacqui Burke is a storyteller who writes and who also directs theatre. Jacqui has been telling stories for almost all her life (if you count the bedtime stories when her child was wee).

Jacqui is also very geeky and loves the puzzle of SEO. She offers SEO optimization and blogging services.

Contact her here for a free consult.

Think we might be a fit?
Let's find out.

Google Reviews

  • I approached Jacqui to design a campaign website for me as I seek re-election as a Trustee for the TDSB. From our first meeting, I knew I had made the right choice. Jacqui had done her research and came equipped with a variety of suggestions to enhance my campaign both with the website and other aspects of the process. During the design of the website, my campaign team and I suggested changes long after Jacqui had done the initial layout. I delayed the date for going live on several occasions. No problem! She responded to all suggestions positively and made them work, no matter how far-fetched. Her rates were reasonable and very much worth the money spent. I have already linked Jacqui up with another candidate and will continue to recommend Jaybird Social Media in the future. Jerry Chadwick

    Jerry Chadwick Avatar Jerry Chadwick
    February 11, 2015
  • Whoa! If this is what Jacqui offers in a free one hour consult, I can’t imagine the riches of her paid service. Jacqui shared so much of her knowledge in that small space of time, most of which was applicable and relevant. Thanks so much Jacqui.

    P3 Midwifery Avatar P3 Midwifery
    February 11, 2019
  • Jacqui’s skills as a graphic artist, a web designed and social media expert are solid. I use her for press releases, for social media campaigns, for graphic design and web design and I have nothing but good things to say. I can highly recommend her to you for your part or full time business. And please pay close attention to the need for your site to be mobile friendly, as once Jacqui made the adjustment to my site the number of unique (first time) visitors to those who became serious prospects for my service nearly doubled!

    Eskimo Pete Avatar Eskimo Pete
    February 11, 2019
  • Jacqui and Jaybird Social Media have be awesome to work with and instrumental in the successful orchestration of our social media campaign. They have made a huge difference. I highly recommend them.

    Gregory Neely Avatar Gregory Neely
    February 11, 2016
  • Jaybird Social Media is an excellent resource for social media needs. Jacqui is incredibly knowledgeable and skilled and won’t just tell you what needs to be done but demonstrate clearly through her work the benefits of what needs to be done. She walked us through exactly what is important, why a business should do certain things in social media, and the results one can expect from specific actions. When you’re looking to get your business online and make yourself visible, it’s important to pick somebody who you can trust. After all, every business is your own pride and joy, and it’s important to know that your investments into your own business are worthwhile. Working with Jaybird Social Media was a joy and the results show. Thank you!

    Purple Squirrels Avatar Purple Squirrels
    February 11, 2015
  • Jaybird Social Media provided excellent knowledge transfer when I needed some advice with online marketing. Jacqui evaluated the specific needs for my small artisan business and pointed me in the direction I need to be going. I felt like she understood my business and the whys and wherefores of social media and marketing and highly recommend Jaybird’s services.

    Lynn Wyminga Avatar Lynn Wyminga
    February 11, 2015
  • Good

    Chas Ellis Avatar Chas Ellis
    February 11, 2020
  • Music TORONTO has enjoyed working with Jacqui and Jaybird Social Media. Her professionalism and quick turnaround time make it a pleasure to work with her on projects like app development and movie screen ads!

    Heather Lacey Avatar Heather Lacey
    February 11, 2016

Examples of Work

some social feeds i work on
for others

some recent creative and copy I worked on

© 2022 Jacqui Burke. All rights reserved. Please read our privacy policy here.