“I was very nearly killed on 6-7-08 in a car wreck, so I’m trying very hard to put my life back together.I spent 3 months in a coma followed by about a year in a wheelchair and six months using a walker. But worse, a traumatic brain injury is a complex injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities. My memory-loss has to be the most frustrating component of this entire disaster. It is as if I woke up from a dream of a life to a nightmare of a reality. But, as we all do, I keep focused and build a new life.”
— Murray Dunlap, Endorphin Warrior customer since 2011
What were the biggest struggles you faced as a result of your accident?
“Of course not walking, and being wheelchair-bound, but more-so, memory loss. I believe that is what crushed my marriage to a girl who is perfectly lovely, but who could not handle my medicated insanity. I don’t think anyone could have.”
How did the accident change your perspective on your life?
“In so many ways. I guess my immediate response is that I appreciate the little things more now. For example, post-accident, I was not allowed to drive. The state of Alabama has a thing called driver’s rehabilitation that is for folks like me whose injuries were SO severe. It took almost 3 years to be able to drive, and our society has evolved in a way that driving is required to get anywhere and do anything. So now that I have passed that, just driving to a coffee shop and taking my laptop…I can spend some time writing that was impossible until fairly recently. My goodness do I love to get out of the house and go!”
What was it like for you 3 months post accident? 1 year? 2 years? Present?
“I’m afraid – and grateful as hell – that I can’t remember about 2 years prior to the accident and about 2 years after. I know what I have been told – and have a sort of vague idea – but for me, this erasure has been a life saver. Who would want to remember needing SO VERY much help? An example, a nurse was hired to sit outside my shower INSIDE the bathroom with me to make sure that if I fell, I would have help. Now, I know this was done out of kindness, but at 35 years old, I had never felt weaker in my entire life. Presently, I can drive and have moved to Athens, GA – as I said this had been impossible. And I can take all of the showers I want now.”
How have you gotten through this in a healthy way? How has your attitude helped or hindered you?
My family has been the key to this. They have shown me love and support in every way imaginable. I owe my mother and big brother the world. In fact, after my marriage ended I had to live with my mother, as when you have a traumatic brain injury it is not recommended that you live alone at first. If you were to lose your balance, fall, and hit your head, it might be days before anyone realized it. So that was a hard time. Regarding attitude, I have been forced to remind myself that I am lucky to be alive…that I am one of just a few people to take a hit to the brain like mine and then go on to publish a book…and try to jog again…and live on my own…and move to a new town to live independently…and on and on and on…”
How are you doing on your goal of running again?
“At first, I would set out on my own and stagger around for about 4 miles. But it felt, and looked, silly. I wasn’t seeing enough improvement to feel like it was helping. But, I have now adopted a dog named Dodger who needs walks. So in my own way, I am back out there putting miles in. I can’t call it jogging, but Dodger seems to enjoy my stagger, so I warrior on.”
What are your present goals? What are your longer-term goals?
“My current goal is to finish and publish my second book. It is now called Fires and is with Press 53. I wrote most all of my first book before my car crash, so for me, this will be validation that I am doing the right thing.”
It’s been four years since your accident. How has this shaped your perspective on life?
“I take much, much, much less for granted. I had been ENTIRELY dependent on family and friends to do ANYTHING. So now, for example, I have to go get milk. And let me tell you, I will whistle all the way there and be so very happy I can park as far away as I want and WALK the yards to the store. Then I have the satisfaction of driving MYSELF home. Putting the milk in MY refrigerator, in MY house, in MY town, and making MY coffee MYSELF, and adding the milk I got MYSELF… the list is never ending. I’m excited to be alive!”
What do you have to say about strength and perseverance and facing something as extreme as you are doing?
“It is everything. As I think I have shown in my last answer, to persevere is a reward in itself. I say, as I enjoy the aforementioned coffee, and smile with satisfaction that NO nurse was required for a single thing I have done today. And smile again that after I finish here, I will go right out with MY dog (I had to give a dog away when I was in a wheelchair) and warrior on to WALK my dog and even attempt to jog/stagger around the neighborhood. Whew! I’m smiling just saying that!”
What is your favorite Endorphin Warrior product and how has it helped you?
“Two actually. I have a keychain I take my house key on when I go try to jog that says PERSEVERE. And, I also have a Warrior Training Bracelet that says UNBREAKABLE. In my opinion, I have earned that right to think I am unbreakable. Not the human body of course, having been in that wheelchair, but the human spirit!”
Since first publishing the article above in 2012, Murray writes:
“Because I had written 90 percent of my first book, Bastard Blue, before the car wreck, I felt like a kind of fraud…my memory of writing it was lost to amnesia. But my next book is a collection called Fires and is about 50 percent written SINCE the wreck and brain injury. I should hear soon if it is being published and if it is, it will be the happiest guy around!”
Murray adds: “My memory has created the biggest challenges and strangest situations. But, like we all do, I have muddled through and do my best to write down notes. That said, my memory has improved greatly over the past year, such that I do not fear forgetting everything, as I used to”
What gives you the most happiness today?
“Many things. A good cup of coffee. A good conversation with an old friend. To hug a friend and know everything really is going to turn out okay, after all. And, I go for a walk-jog-stagger thing every day…about 3 or 4 miles.”
For more information about Murray’s books, short stories and poems, go to www.MurrayDunlap.com.