Posted on February 27, 2013 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 13 of 36 in the series Zachary

Friends After Severe Brain Injury: Zach Part Thirteen 

Homecoming is a day, a weekend, a celebration. Life, recovery takes longer. We will discuss Zach’s homecoming and his friends after severe brain injury.

Now the flip side of that is that life coming home wasn’t quite as simple as you thought it was going to be?

No, no.

What was hard about coming home?

What was hard about coming home, just trying to assimilate with everyone else.  Everyone already thinks that you’re weird and you’re different. So it’s like you already got that going against you. It’s tough, especially kids (friends after severe brain injury), they can be so cruel, they can be so mean.  High school was cool, like okay, to do that.  I lost a lot of friends (friends after severe brain injury), but I figured a lot of people just didn’t know how to deal with me being so different?

So that, I forgive people for that, but when I went to U. Mass. they thought I was a normal kid but they’d see that I was kind of weird a little bit.  (There the attitude was) screw this kid, I don’t want to know what going on with him.  So I was like, I was kind of on my own the whole time I was in college.

There’s a honeymoon period all your friends after severe brain injury are clapping.

Yeah, exactly, yeah.

That you’re the miracle kid with your friends after severe brain injury.


And you used that term.

It’s the title of my book, yeah.

Yet it doesn’t take very long for them to go back to being normal teenagers.

Exactly, exactly.  Who want to party: “what’s drinking like, I can’t wait to find out.”

Without picking anybody out, without telling me anybody’s specific name, what friends after severe brain injury, the loss of what friendship or what relationship hurt you the most during that period?

I mean, probably my girlfriend at the time.  We went through so much together, to now we never talk, we don’t even talk anymore.  So, I mean everything that we went through, I mean, we should at least be friends, you know, at least.

You stayed together for two years though after the accident?


Was that, was the relationship just going through the motions, how was it different?

I feel bad for her.  She had to put up with a lot of crap. But, I had to put up with a lot of her crap, too.  We just weren’t vibing like we used to, like before we even dated, started dating, we were best friends.   So I was like, we always knew what, but now it’s different so we have to like try to figure out where we would meet on certain subjects and it just didn’t work. And it’s too bad.

What about other friends after severe brain injury, about not fitting into the party atmosphere, and what life was like before you got hurt?

Well a lot of my friends, they just, they all we’re about to be freshmen in college, you know we got to start living the life now. So they were all having parties, drinking and stuff like that.

I couldn’t drink. The doctors told me if I drank, I’d forget how to walk. So I was like, I don’t feel like doing that again.  So, they would always go and do stuff but I’d go home and hang out with my girlfriend. Just kind of go to bed early, so my brain could heal, you know?  That was my priorities, a little different.

So how, how early did you go to bed?

Well I didn’t go to bed that early, but instead of staying out all night with the, the possibility of staying up until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning.  I didn’t need that at that time, you know so.


As I listened to Zach, I couldn’t help but think about Lethan’s performance of Who Am I Again? In particular, I thought his portrayal of his laugh and his friends after severe brain injury (somewhat affectionately) calling him the “gimp.”  One of the most telling parts of Lethan’s story is his ability to portray his best friend Ryan to give the perspective on the impact of brain injury on the others in Lethan’s life. Ryan’s words about his missing best friend:

It was just hard, you know?  We’re always being told ‘if he does this, do that; if he does that, do this.’  And it felt like babysitting, kind of.  And you never knew how you (Lethan) were going to act.  You would go from laughing to yelling, to laughing again real quick. … I mean, dude, we just wanted to hang out, you know?

Undoubtedly, his friends saw much less of the Zach they had come to know, the guy who had managed to be both the kid who led the team prayer and the drinking binges.

See my interview of Lethan and the Unmaking of Cool.


Next in Part Fourteen –

Return to High School After Severe TBI



About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447