To put it mildly, I was totally overwhelmed. When this particular phone call came in, I answered it, assuming it was a detective or someone else from the police department. The person on the other end began asking me a series of rapid fire questions about TC and his condition. I started answering and then after a moment asked, "Where are you calling from again?"
"Fox 5 network," she responded. This was a puzzling revelation. Why would the media be calling us? I wondered. We're not famous people, important people, or even interesting people. I certainly didn't expect this call to be followed by several more months of phone calls, questions, and interview requests. Its been heartwarming to know people are following our story and rooting for us, but I certainly don't want to delude ourselves into thinking we're particularly special. We're truly just everyday, boring people whose lives changed at random.
Navigating the confusing and fast paced world of the DC local media has been an interesting learning experience. For the most part, we have met and interacted with some really fabulous individuals, all of whom have been committed to telling our story respectfully and truthfully.
There have also been some moments of real annoyance. There was the gentleman from Fox 5 who called and berated my friend over the phone because I accepted an interview from a competing station. There was a reporter who either followed me or was given misinformation because he showed up one day at our friend's house convinced that we lived there. When she insisted we did not, he argued again that we did, and eventually she had to forcibly ask him to leave.
Ironically, I have learned many of the critical details of TC's assault through the media coverage. The first time I saw our story on television was the night after TC's attack. Seeing the images of him and our family on TV and hearing the excruciating details of the hours in which he waited for help stated matter-of-factly from a stranger's lips took me from a state of shock to a complete and utter meltdown. These reporters get their information instantaneously and generally almost always before I do. On the Wednesday before we left for Canada, I received a series of urgent calls and texts from the media asking my opinion of the trial verdict. I could only respond, "Uh, I don't even know the verdict yet." And how about 10 minutes to let me gather my thoughts, OK guys?
Deciding when to oblige and when to abstain from these requests has been a constant internal debate. There were many, many days I was walking around the hospital or the house like an unkempt zombie with an endless to-do list. My life was literally falling apart around me. It seemed ludicrous that anyone would think I'd be interested in talking on camera. During those early weeks my mom said to me, "You don't want to be defined by this event." I totally agree with that statement. However, I can't deny that this event has been earth shattering for all of us. Brain injury has forever altered our path. We don't want to be defined by the event itself, but we're likely going to be defined by our response to it.
In weighing the pros and cons of living this experience so publicly, I have to argue there have been more advantages than disadvantages. Without the media, we wouldn't have had an opportunity to show the video of the car, a clue that ultimately led to the arrests. Without the publicity, we wouldn't have been the recipients of such incredible generosity, which ultimately led us here to Halifax. We have made amazing friends along the way, many of whom we probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to connect with in our former life. All in all, our lives have been made richer by inviting others to share the experience.
Next week we'll be shadowed by a reporter and photographer from The Washington Post. They are writing a feature story on TC's recovery, which we hope will bring attention to the InteRACT program, and awareness to communication disorders such as aphasia. It will be odd to spend three days being so closely observed, but it's likely the last request we will grant for awhile. TC and I are still wrapping our minds around ways to turn this experience into something positive. We realize that in terms of recovery, we're still just getting started. Hopefully in time these answers will reveal themselves and we can use our 15 minutes of craziness to do something really meaningful.
In the meantime, stay tuned.