Hi My Name is Shawn, and I Have A Brain Injury


Hi my name is Shawn, and I have a brain injury. Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first before I get to my story. I am married with three kids. I am a veteran of the United States Military, and I consider myself an Uber Geek. Okay now that’s out of the way let’s get to the meat of this story.

Three and a half years ago, I suffered a brain injury at work. Both feet gave out beneath me and my head smacked on the concrete. I suffered what is called a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The tough part is that it took almost a year to diagnose me. At one point I had twelve doctors, specialists, and therapists; it was a rough road.

In that one year, I had almost no money coming in as I was unable to do almost anything. Meanwhile, my wife was working three jobs in an effort to support our family which included a two year-old and seven year-old.

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Also during that year I found out I had Lyme disease. I make the joke now that when I do things, I do them right. So that’s the medical history in a really small nutshell. Let’s get to my gaming history, or as I am calling this, the fun part.

I still remember the Christmas day in the 80’s where my family got an Atari… yeah I know, I am old. I can still remember playing Pac-Man and Pitfall and, luckily, the Star Wars games a little later. So I have been playing for a while.

I remember getting a Tandy (remember that thing?) from Radio Shack as my first foray into PC gaming and I owned most of the consoles of legends. My favorite probably being a Super Nintendo, with the Sega CD as a close second.

The first day I saw the PS One I was on board my ship in the Navy and a shipmate who got one was playing Resident Evil. It was funny to see ten Navy guys scream like girls when the zombie dog attacked. It was that day I was hooked on the PlayStation brand.

Okay, so let’s get to present day for a few minutes. I am doing much better, I am a stay at home father with three girls. We decided to have another one after year one of my brain injury and she is kind of the miracle child. I have only three doctors and specialists now, so that’s good. I am also writing for PS Nation, which is a completely new skill set for me.

I am still playing games, and I am currently geeking out over Galak-Z. So now I am to the point where I am ready to start trying to help people by sharing my story and experiences. So I guess it’s time to get to the point of this story.

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The first year was really hard, and I almost died. Yep I said it, I almost committed suicide. As you know, the brain controls everything in your body. Let’s call it the CPU. With my brain injury I have trouble with reading comprehension, short term memory loss, anger management, and attention issues.

Along with that, I began my trouble with Mental Illness. I never had issues with depression, anxiety, and Suicidal Ideation, and with my injury I do now. That’s been hard. It was like a thousand ton weight dropped on me, and it still feels like that at times.

So where do videogames come in? There is ongoing research that videogames can be beneficial in rehabbing a person’s brain. I won’t bore you here with the research by listing all the benefits. Instead I’ll tell you about my experiences.

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So before the accident I was pretty good at games. I had no trouble with first-person shooters or adventure games. I could read reams of text in an RPG. After the accident I had trouble with all these things.

I used to play Rock Band Blitz with my wife and I’d beat the heck out of her when we passed the controller back and forth before, now she was king. So gaming at that time was really hard and depressing. Then I found Star Trek Online (STO).

Now I have been playing STO since launch, but stopped playing for over a year. I was able to play at my own pace. There was no reading necessary, I knew the game well, and it was fairly easy. It was there I found people that I still call friends today, and members of this group were disabled like me.

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I played every day for at least three hours a day for a year. It was structured, I had a schedule of things to do and skills to use from an easy to pick from tray. After a while I found that things I couldn’t do well earlier, became easier. After a while, I moved on to what I call different cycles.

One genre that changed for me is puzzle/adventure games, namely the LEGO games. I did not have the patience before the injury, now I cannot get enough of them. Of the five LEGO games available or the PS4, I have 100% in four of them.

They make me happy and it is always a good day when a new one comes out. As an aside, I have become an avid collector of real life LEGO sets, and yes I will be buying almost everything for LEGO Dimensions.

A bad side effect of the brain injury is that it takes a toll on my body. I had an existing condition that worsened so badly because of stress that I had major stomach surgery. The plus to that story is that in the two weeks I could not get off the couch, I got 100% in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Could be worse, right?

Going into years two to three, I have had three hospital stays and two were for mental illness related issues. By my second stay in the hospital, I finally found the advice to turn the corner. Gaming was still part of my life as I turned back to my PlayStation, more now since I had a better control over my injury. So I turned to first-person shooters for little challenge.

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In January of this year I bought Destiny. Remember when I first said I couldn’t play shooters? I was nuts to try. But you know what? Destiny is so good that I have a Level 32 character. The game will get to me after an hour or two, which is plenty of time to get most of my bounties in and what not. While I am not at my twitchy best like days of yore, I can hold my own in a Strike or two.

I was going to write about my experiences writing for the site, but that story is not over yet, plus I have to leave something for years four through six. What I am basically saying is, yes it is difficult no matter what you are going through, but it will get better with time and effort and a lot of really hard work.

None of this was ever easy, but it was so worth it, at all times. Find something to help you get through. Hopefully that something will help you rehab whatever your problem is, because I am proof that it does, and I am willing to bet there are thousands of people that will agree with me.

Lastly I would be remiss not to take time to thank my family. If it was not for them I would probably not be here, and I owe them everything, so thanks guys. It will never be forgotten.

Written by Shawn Hiers

Shawn Hiers

Disabled gamer. Married Father of 5, and playing since the Atari days. I have a passion for all things Lego and an avid Toy Collector. I am also an huge Doctor Who Fan and can talk all things Who for hours 🙂

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