So the short version: My name is Joe Dicochea and the husband of Debbie, and father of two teenage sons, Jason and Christian. On the morning of October 28, 2013, I suffered a series of falls that led to a number of injuries including head trauma. Stubbornly refusing to go to the hospital, I ended up having a seizure about 15 hours later sending me to the ICU where an extensive brain bleed was discovered with a lesion that measured 7.5 cm by 3.5 cm (essentially traversing the left side of my head) that almost ended my life. After five days in the ICU and 7 days of inpatient therapy, I returned home with physical, mental, neurologic, and cognitive deficits that essentially rendered me “disabled”. Not a term I liked but one I had to accept to move forward. From there, what should have been one of the worst parts of my life turned out to be the best parts of it leading to this blog site. Read on if you’re interested in a more detailed version.
The long version and the reason for this website: After I returned home, I was stripped down to the ability to perform only the basic activities of daily living. I began intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy which I initially resisted because of a stubborn need to exercise some control. If you see a pattern here, you’re starting to get a picture of my personality. The best way to describe me at my best and worst is: an extremist not prone to moderation, competitive, passionate, sensitive, candid, resolute, and quite a few other words that can be perceived as a negative or a positive. Many of them probably led to a lengthy disconnect between the more sensible decisions that affected my physical and mental health that led to October 28th, and fueled my determination to recover following my injuries.
After I accepted the challenge to overcome the prognosis foreseen by my physicians which certainly wasn’t favorable, I began a daily routine that involved “never taking a lazy step” towards the goals I individually set out and certainly not predicated upon other’s expectations. My essential mindset was that I owned the cause of my injuries and predicament so it was up to me to repair them with the belief that I was given everything I needed to accomplish it. That’s where the characteristics set forth above worked in my favor and other than logistical requirements, I pretty much relied on myself because it was humiliating to accept that I was a burden on my family, even though they never made me feel that way.
Now back to “never taking a lazy step” (a quote I took from Angel pitcher Houston Street), I became devoted to not only repairing the damage caused by my accident but also to strengthening my relationship with my family that suffered a bit leading up to my injury. The latter has been accomplished but the former is still a challenge, primarily from the neurologic, memory, and cognitive deficits that I still suffer from along with the nagging physical ailments that still leave me medically “disabled” at the present time. But in looking back when my brain was so damaged that it took me a week of struggling to finally remember the name of one of my favorite bands “U2”, unable to go in the ocean above my knees for months because balance issues made me susceptible to a wave drowning me or slamming my head in the sand, or be able to order 4 items for a grand slam breakfast without having someone remind me several times what those items were, I’m not doing too bad! I could still do without the baffling dreams/nightmares that occur every night but at least I expect them now and I’m more entertained by them now than terrified. There was and still is a lot I’m still working through and the permanency of some of them are still in question but what’s the use of hope if you don’t exercise it, you know?
So why the blog? Well after I was discharged from basic physical and occupational therapy, I still had to continue speech therapy to try to rediscover the information in my brain and its functionality. It wasn’t that I was done with PT and OT, it was just that I was able to do more on my own and I felt guilty seeking formal therapy when there were clearly more visibly injured patients at the program I started at than me. In addition, the occupational therapy became somewhat obsolete since they were unable to replicate my profession as a medical malpractice attorney so in a sense, I created my own therapeutic exercises.
I continued speech therapy but after four months, I was discharged from it because it was felt that they could not provide further assistance, at least from the therapy that they could provide as it related to my situation. It really wasn’t that big of a deal because I was constantly looking for creative ways to enhance my struggling intellect. This ranged from the inability to do simple math, spelling, speaking, and reading, to most things related to performing the duties of any employment, much less an attorney.
So in an effort to exercise my brain, I started writing texts to Jason after my personal physical therapy at the gym. I utilized the Jacuzzi to relieve my “frozen shoulder” and other neurologic pain, and afterwards would sit outside and write some simple thoughts to him. They were primarily baseball related since he and Christian are what I consider exceptional baseball players with Jason playing varsity at Redondo High School. This became therapeutic as well for a number of reasons. First I realized that I was almost taken from this planet and would have lost the opportunity to share information with my wife and sons that needed to be provided to them for guidance. Second it gave a cathartic cleansing that allowed me to deal with the silent frustration I was experiencing which I rarely revealed to others. Third, it gave me time to reflect and reconnect with the better part of myself through what I learned from my early upbringing and my own experience whether good or extremely less than that. Finally, I developed an awareness and appreciation of not only myself, family, and friends, but just about everyone around me including random acquaintances and strangers. By doing so I understood that there could be some positive exchanges that actually could make a difference in my daily life so I make a determined (some might say annoying) effort to connect with those around me if the opportunity presented itself. In the end, it has brought out a kinder, appreciative, forthright, and less self-absorbed person.
So the writing and texting continued through the year and it expanded to Deb and Christian with the topics and insight becoming more complex. I would usually see a quotation, read a quote by someone in the paper, hear words in a song or movie, or just about anything that triggered my perspective on certain topics where I would elaborate on what I’ve learned that may have some meaning. This was a challenge since it took considerable time to articulate what I was thinking with most days proving to be an exercise in mental cross-word puzzles and word jumbles but no matter how long it took, I was determined to complete these offerings. Trust me, this is still a difficult challenge but it has been therapeutic in so many ways.
As the writings grew, so did the recipients to one of Jason’s teammates Cole, his mother Dee Dee, my cousin Marcy, people at the gym, and then to whoever I’d feel could benefit from my writings because I just couldn’t justify avoiding the opportunity to help someone if they were open to some assistance. Well the list of people grew and someone mentioned the possibility of writing a book which was not an option because one, everyone wants to write a book; two I’m not sure that what I write is that noteworthy; and three my intent was primarily for personal awareness that I want to share than any desire for attention. But since my intended recipients were growing, someone suggested a blog and since I had authored a considerable number of writings over the past year, it seemed like a logical step if only for convenience’s sake. This way I could share what I wrote to a larger population and at the same time, have a recordation of my musings for my sons to eventually share with their children to remind them that there grandfather was not always the guy asleep on the couch with drool on his lip.
So my friend Marlena helped me set up this website and frankly if I realized how easy it was, I would have done it a long time ago. As you can see, I have broken down what I’ve written into several categories which reflect the basic themes I address. I began writing last February so I have an abundance of information that I will periodically (every other day or so) post with comments for context. I will probably be adding a “confessional” which will likely shed more light on my background and journey over the last year and I hope they have some meaning to those who read them. In a way, what is shared is my message that we all matter in some way to another, whether directly or indirectly, and in the end we should all be more aware of that once we enter each other’s domain.
I’m sure I’ll update this “About The Author” section but I’ll leave with this one thing I wrote some time ago which is a quick summation of how I view my life.
“Let me begin with this genuine assessment of my 52 years on this planet. I have had a GREAT life! Has every day been great? Of course not nor were they supposed to be! Have I always lived or decided well? Nope! Has everything gone just the way I dreamt or hoped it would be? Maybe I thought it would when I was younger but now I know that my actions or lack of actions played a big part in that – still I’ve achieved a lot. So, would I change anything? NOT REALLY! Why? First, my life is a product of my creation so I own it! Second, I can’t!”
Postscript: On April 7, 2015, I suffered another set of traumatic seizures which again tested my mortality. The after-effects were not as dramatic as the original combination of the October, 2013 injuries but presented new challenges that I’m still having to confront and overcome. Nevertheless, I was better prepared to deal with them giving what I’ve learned through my recovery and understanding what I’m able to accomplish through optimism, perseverance, and quality of my efforts regardless of the tests that present themselves. With that, a new chapter of my story continues to be written.