Bits 'n' Pieces: Author tries to explain why Daddy is different

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoGinille Forest

In the years following her husband's car accident, Ginille Forest had to learn what she calls "the language of traumatic brain injury."

But mere words didn't seem adequate to explain his changed personality to the couple's two small children, who were an infant and a 5 year old at the time of the 2008 crash, she said.

"I had a hard time explaining it to my 5-year-old when I didn't even understand it," said the 32-year-old from Battle Ground. "It's been a long road, but I now consider myself a brain injury native."

One issue among the many she faced was that there were no resources available to explain to her children what was happening.

There were books by people who had suffered brain injuries, and books about kids with brain injuries, but there was nothing out there to help explain to children how a parent's demeanor would change after such an event.

So she decided to use her own experience from the past five years to remedy that situation.

Forest released her first children's book, "Daddy's Different," through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in late April for $21.95.

Back in 2008, when her husband, Nathaniel, first regained consciousness after being in a coma for 48 hours, nobody was sure what to expect, she said.

"When he woke up, he didn't talk or even register that we were surrounding his bed," Forest said. "He was very blank."

After a few days, he was able to speak again, but while he looked OK physically, his personality was much changed.

"He didn't have to relearn how to speak, thankfully, which a lot of brain injury patients do," she said. "But his balance was off, he had problems counting, he had vision issues, and he had problems regulating his emotions."

The kids didn't notice the balance and vision problems so much, but the changes in his emotional regulation were hard for them to accept, she said.

"My sons noticed his confusion, anger, things that he hadn't displayed before," Forest said.

He also has problems filtering things he should and shouldn't say, she said.

Today, Nathan works as a personal trainer and is about as recovered from the injury as he's going to get. To outsiders, he seems normal. But like other brain injury sufferers, he still experiences fatigue, depression and difficulty controlling his emotions at times, she said.

"A lot of his old self is back, but he still is a different person," Forest said. "But honestly, I'm not the same person I was before this either, and my kids aren't the same."

In addition to the book, Forest also has a blog about parenting after traumatic brain injury at Daddy's Different.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.