Steve "ssmoochie" Graham

I was on vacation, visiting my brother and his family near Dallas, Texas in June of 1998. It was a great week, going to the pool each day, watching my nephews play baseball, and just enjoying family I do not get to see enough. The last weekend of my visit we went to Sea World of San Antonio. We stayed overnight on Friday to get an early start at the water park Saturday morning, 6 June, 1998. The kids wanted to go to in the wave pool first and I just watched. Than it was off to a inner tube water ride. I had never been to a Sea World before and was not familiar with the different rides. At this ride one rode an inner tube over a thin stream of water down a twisting turning ramp on an inner tube to a pool at the bottom. My brothers family all grabbed 'double' tubes, and I grabed a single tube. I did not know it at the time but I grabed a tube ment for a child cause it had a nylon platform that covered the top which raised my center of gravity. I later found out there was suppose to be someone handing out tubes but they were away from their post. On the way to the six story stairs, I looked for instructions to the ride that most of the amusement parks I have attended had at the beginning of each ride, but there was none (my attention to safety comes from many years of participating on safety committees at the phone company). At the top of the ride I asked the young man how this ride worked and he said to just hold on the handles atop the tube and hold on; he did not mention I had the wrong tube. In the first curve of the ride my tube rotated so I was going in a backwards orientation. Half way down the ride a young lady stoped my progress; I assume she was there to make sure the way was clear. Than she released me, still going backwards. Just before the end of the ride was a drop off or a waterfall. I have no idea how much of a drop there was and I could not see it coming. When I hit the drop off my tube fliped backwards.

I assume my reaction to flipping backwards was to pull on the handles of the tube back towards my body only increasing the velocity of my fall. I did a somersault of sorts, and was slamed to the deck of the ride in a catapault type motion. I landed on my neck and my head was whipped immediatelly after to the hard deck. I do not believe I loss conciousness and was on my feet, angry, and concerned that my two nieces and two nephews were in danger on this ride. First aid came over to the inner tube ride but offered no aid. All they offered was to take me to a hospital. They made it sound terrible where I would be strapped to a board and loaded on to an ambulance. I requested a neck brace because my neck hurt so bad. This was refused so I requested to make an injury report.

I went off to make the report and agreed to meet the family at the Shamoo show. I went in to a dark dank room to make the report. I was wet and cold and shivering. It was very cold in the room (it had been 100 degrees for the past five days and the air conditioner was turned up full blast). I requested some asprins because I had a really bad headache. They gave me two asprins but would not give me water. I later found out the refusal of water was in the event I had a head injury. After making the report I went out and laid on some warm stone stairs. I was cold and dazed and wanted to rest and warm up. I met my family and watched the killelr whale, Shamoo. By the end of the show I was feeling very sick. My brother and I went to the information desk to inquirer about the location of a hospital. A man from the first aid station came out and convinced me to let them take me in an ambulance to the hospital. This man was the first person who actually showed concern for my well being, everyone else was concerend about the water parks potential liability. A 'C' collar was placed on my neck and I was strapped to a board for transport to Methodist hospital.

At the hospital they took x-rays, observed me for a period (I have no idea of how long) and released me. My brother and I set off looking for a pharmacy for the meds that were perscribed. Before leaving the hospital I had a case of the runs but was told not to worry about that. While looking for a pharmacy I became very dehidrated and stoped at a gas station so I could get a bottle of water. While inside there, I became nautious. I went into the restroom and became violently ill. The lady at the cash register went out to my brothers vehicle and told him it sounded like I was dying; at that particular moment I felt like I was dying. It took a while to find a pharmacy and I only felt worse and worse, I was delirious.

We returned to the amusement park to meet up the rest of the family, but by the time we got there I said I was really afraid something was wrong and the whole family and me went back to the hospital. They kept me under observation a while and put me on an IV. They drugged me for the long ride back to Dallas so I would rest and was released at 10:00 pm. The next morning I boarded a jet to return to Michigan. Fortunately I had used a local transport service to go the the airport so I did not have to drive but a few blocks to my house.

For the next several days all I did was sleep. I live alone so I am not sure what was going on with me but I knew I was really sick. In a due time I went to the doctor and he said I had soft tissue damage to my neck and would be back to work in four to six weeks. But things were different.

I had lived in the same house for twenty years but did not remember where the light switches were. I worked for the phone company and knew every street in the county, but was getting loss whenever I drove I was getting lost. It was very difficult for me to speak and for the most part I was in a haze. I was falling down and all kinds of wierd things were going on. I did not tell my family in Michigan about the injury at that time because I did not want to alarm them but contacted them after eight weeks.

After eight weeks the doctor told me my neckwas ruined and would never be any good again. At twleve weeks I request a referal to a nuerologist (friends in my church choir reccomended I do so) but the doctor said I was speaking better and was probalby ready to go back to work but speaking was still dificult and I was still falling down and getting lost. Having mistakenly put my trust in this doctor I went back to work. I was unable to do my job, so they gave me a paper work job. I did not last two weeks. I was unable to get to work on time and was in risk of facing disciplinary action.

I sought out another doctor who would refer me to a nuerologist. My insurance requires me to get a referal from a doctor, who knows little about my problems, to see another doctor. Finally I did get the referal to a nuerologist. An EMG showed abnormal results and was sent for a nueropych test. This test and also a specscan showed damage to the front left lobe of my brain. Although I had hit the back of my head I had damaged the front of the brain, this is called a 'coup counter coup' when my brain whiplashed inside my skull. In later research I have discovered the insidw of the skull is jagged and not smooth like the outside of the skull. I did not recieve the results of the test until after the holidays. It took six months to finally get the closed head injury diagnosis. I was unable to represent myself when I went to all of these doctors, but had no one to help me (although my sister did attend one visit to the nuerologist). I was afraid to tell anyone of all the things that were going on in fear of being committed. I truly thought I was going crazy.

I eventually went to a conselor who specialized in head injuries. This man really helped me come to terms with my limitaitons and not live in denial, to accept the old Steve was gone and I would have to make friends with a new Steve. It shocked me when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself eight months post injury. I guess I had been avoiding looking in a mirror for some time. I had notes up all over the house to remind he how to take a shower, a note on the front door to check and see if I was fully dressed, post it notes on the dash board to remind me where I was going,etc. There was one time I had left the house with one side of my face unshaven and the other side of my shirt not pressed. I nearly got into four accidents while driving so I took myslef off the road. After a year I went back to work and they had me drive with another employee. In December I left the emplyment of the phone company, they said they did not have work that would match my limitations.

I had been complaining about lower back pain and numbness in my thigh all during my visits to the doctors The doctors were focused on my bi and neck damage and I had difficulty getting to take this other pain seriously. It took more needles and electric shocks to determine I had nerve damage in my lower back.

I had been a highly trained communication technician who specialized in data communications. When I was stationed in downtown Detroit, I had been the lead technician for the last three presidents of the United States when they visited Detroit. After the injury I was pretty sure how to do my job but had difficulty actually executing the work. Near the end of my employment they gave me very easy work but had to make a list of the things I was going to need to do. I embarrasingly asked fellow technicians basic questions of how to do my job. I even had to call out a supervisor to help solve an easy problem; I never had to ask anyone how to do my job before.

I have tried to do other work since leaving the phone company, but have not lasted but a few weeks. A year ago, February of 2000, nine months after falling on my head I went to the doctor because of chest pains. He sent me to a cardiologist. The cardiologist gave me test where he could see my heart on a tv screen. He told me that only half of my heart was moving - I said, "that is not a good thing right". He informed me I needed to go to the hospital NOW and by lunch time I was on the operating table for an angioplasty. One of my arteries was 90% blocked

During the long period I sat alone at home the only enjoyment I had out of life was eating. I had become addicted to Ben & Jerrys ice cream, the highest fat content ice cream there is. Some days I would eat up to three cartons of this tasty delight. I had developed other poor dietary habits due to trying to care for myself alone. I believe the poor diet and stress were the cause of the problems with my heart. But I had remained independant. So its been a bad couple of years, but nothing compared to the tradgedies of the friends I have met on the chat line and the stories I have read on the story pages.

I traveled out west last summer camping. I have never been much of a camper before but really like having only one room to clean instead of takeing care of three bedroom house. I camped for a total of three months last year When I travel I kept off of the interstate and explored the back roads cause I could not cope with the traffic on the busy intersates. I was experiencing petit maul siezures and vedigo when driving hills or mountains. I also was becoming very depressed and considered ending my life. It was not so much that I wanted to kill myself as much as I just did not want to live my life like this with a brain that did not want to work anymore .

In my old life I raced sailboats all over the Great Lakes. I was a long distance bicycler. White water rafting had been an anual event. I even took a class in hang gliding and hoped to get certified as a pilot at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. I was an avid roller blader; if it was outside and physical I did it But now it was unable to even tend to my flower garden in my back yard.

Blue Cross had turned down most of the therapies that were reccomended, so I created my own therapies. I was college educated but had trouble spelling so I went to a school teacher supply store and bought a 2nd grade spelling primer (I was unablle to comprehend when I looked at the higher grade books). For my problems with speaking I read aloud each day. My memory was very bad so I bought a game at Toys R Us to help with my memory and cognitive skills. To regain my vocabulary I read the dictionary (but I still have trouble pulling up the right word). I could only perform these therapies for a few minutes each day before the headaches set in, but gradually I increeased the time I spent on these therapies

I have lost many people I have thought were friends. They could not deal with the new Steve. They were used to me being bright and witty. I do not blame them for leaving me in the dust; I can understand their frustration because I was living with the same frutraation. But now I know who my real friends are, the ones who stuck with me and do not think any less of me because I am not the same.

I returned home from out west because I had realized I was depressed. I could not get loose from the grips of this depression and I could not get myself to get help for months and missed serveral appointments when I did try. I finally got to a physchiatrist (or is it physcologist) and was placed on more meds in Feb of 2001. It took me 8 months to shake the nightmare of the depression that began in the summer. But I am doing ok now. When I went out west I thought I was all better and stoped taking my meds; I guess I am still in denial about accepting my new way of life. So now when I walk in the sunshine and see my shadow I know that it is the old Steve, not in me but still walking with me.

Yesterday ( March 18, 2001) I went to went to a rehab doctor looking for help with my neck. I am still wearing a neck brace and sometimes I wear it 24/7. The bummpy roads in the metopolitan area I live in was not helping my neck problems, so I need to move. The nuero rehab doctor prescribed more meds, another x-ray, and more PT. I worked on this story for many hours yesterdau and am again trying to put things in perspective (in college I was a very good writer, but now it is difficult). I've been up all night again last night trying to write my story. I either sleep all the time or am awake for more than 24 hours. Some times I sleep for two hours and am awake for two hours, and this pattern just keeps repeating itself. I donot know where my path will lead me but I am more positive all of the time about meeting this injury head on (no pun intended) . I have only recently started coming to tbi/chat. The stories of the brave people I have met at chat and the stories I have read on the site have given me new hope to have a life again.

If you have stayed with me through this long story I thank you. And please take one thing away from this story = be aware of the dangers of amusement parks. Tell your friends and families to take extra caution when enjoying this form of entertainment. The amusement parks are only concerned about getting your dollars and not caring for your safety. God Bless and take care.

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