Do I have TBI?
Vet reflects on recovery through Army Ten-Miler
By Capt. Pat Horan, US Army retired
In Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2007, I got shot at night. The bullet went into my left temple, hit the chin strap and exploded. Parts of the metal went inside my brain. I fell down. My soldiers gave me a tourniquet.
From Baghdad I went to Balad. The doctors removed half of my skull. I went to Germany. Finally, I went to Bethesda, Md., the National Naval Medical Center. When I arrived in Bethesda, it had been 36 hours since I was shot.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury? Did I have it now?
Ten months before, I was in Mosul. My brother, Richard, sent me a T-shirt he designed for the Army Ten-Miler race. He and his guys got green Army color tees.
I told him, “Thank you, that looks cool!! Next year I should do the race with you in D.C.”
Yet July 7, 2007 was a bad night. I don't remember that night. I don't remember some of June, all of July and weeks of August. Halfway through August, I finally started remembering.
August 23, my wife Patty and I went to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. That day was also my birthday. I was 35 years old.
In October, Richard did the Army Ten-Miler race again. He ran with about 5 friends. It was great. He called me later that day.
Richard said, “It was so hot today. There was NO water left after 6 miles.”
Incoherently I said, “hcmwr kolm pnkrw nzas gt io. Brhyv pmfqw fredcbfr jytbbnhyjk gf j!!”
Richard said, “Great Pat. Is Patty there?”
He made purple t-shirts that year. In December, I went back to Bethesda. I got a new left acrylic skull. My head was back to normal.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury? Did I have it now?
In January 2008, Patty and I moved to Pomona, Calif., an hour from Los Angeles. I lived in a great place called Casa Colina. I stayed 13 months and they put me back together.
The first month I still lived in a hospital. Patty stayed there also. I did some physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech. But I still slept a lot. Patty had a rental car so she could go out.
After a month I moved to transitional living. I lived with a person that got hurt biking. Patty stayed in a house that was right there. Now it was 5 hours a day doing PT, OT and speech.
July 4th, Casa Colina was in the parade. It was great. I was in a wheelchair throwing candy out for kids. It really was an incredible moment.
In October, I went home to watch the Army Ten-Miler race. My family, friends and cousins from New Jersey were excited to see me. They all got the first Pat’s Team tees. Some people just clapped for the race. The finish was in the Pentagon.
After the race there was a party for me. It was in a big hotel a mile away. It was so fun!! There were some friends that I had not seen in 25 years. There was hugging for me. I still couldn't talk much. It was a great time.
Around 4 o'clock I went upstairs and took a nap. It was great, everybody had a good time. That day was an important day. Because inside my brain I could understand that I was going to get better.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury? Did I have it now? I had’nt heard of it before.
In October 2009, I did my first Army Ten-Miler. I can never run again but I used my new trike. I ride by sitting down. Two wheels in the front and one in the back. I use my legs to push the trike.
We stayed in the Sheridan hotel. I only had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. I can’t get up early now. My TBI is pretty bad. But I wanted to do it. My brother, Tom, did the race with me.
At the 7th mile I went to Independence Avenue. There were hundreds of people clapping. I smiled, that was fun! Miles later I realized that I left my brother. So I just kept going.
An hour later we had a big party. Patty and I gave awards for different reasons: man and woman for the fastest time, the longest place to come for the party and just racing for fun. (We had different awards every year.) 4 o'clock I was sleeping again. I did the race.
But man am I tired … Does TBI make me tired?
2010 was fun again! This time my brother told me to go fast the whole time. At the 6-mile mark my right shoe came off. A person helped me put my shoe back on. I finished the race.
Then we went to the hotel and had a party. Now we had more awards. Patty made me talk more, and more, to the whole crowd. I am learning that my speech is getting better, but I couldn't say the word I was thinking.
Does aphasia come from TBI?
2011 a lot of things happened. My friend moved to a different job in the hotel so we had to go to a different place. Not far away though. A friend I’ve known for 35 years was working there. He helped us a lot.
Then we went and looked at restaurants. I found this Irish pub. They were pretty new and they wanted us to have a party there. I was in love right away! We could walk from the hotel to the bar. The race was fun again. Then the party was great!
I realize that I have TBI … but I will get better.
2012 was sad and exciting. In the spring I retired from the Army.
That is not what I wanted five years ago, but I needed to continue to get better, and I wanted to exercise for the Army Ten-Miler.
It was getting fun and exciting. Every year there were new friends and some old friends that I hadn't seen in 20 years. I was lucky, my party was amazing!
There is no Army now, what can I do? Can I get a job?
Will people even understand I had a humongous TBI?
2013 was fun again. I went to Walter Reed for PT and OT, the Stroke Comeback Center, Wounded Warrior Project and Learning RX. I needed to do my bike. That stimulates my brain. I wanted to be out there.
It was cold that morning for the race. When I started it was fun again. We didn't take many pictures that year because it was so cold outside. Most people finished the race and went to the party anyway. Good for them, the party was fun again! It seems like TBI is getting better? I don't think I should get a job now?
2014 was a great year for the Army Ten-Miler ... and life!
A few months earlier, Patty and I went to dinner July 7 — my Alive Day — my 7th year of being alive. About 20 people showed up for dinner. It was amazing!!! And I lost some weight. I was going the gym a lot.
October 12, however, was not great. It was about 45 degrees in the morning. That was cold for me. There were about 40 people on their bikes. I was last.
I couldn’t start going. The first mile was slow and cold. Then I decided that I didn't want to get beat by the runners. I ran (in the trike!!!!)!!! I finished. It took me 54:00 minutes — my fastest time ever.
Then I went to the restaurant. It was Patty’s birthday. The party rocked!!
I would like to say thank you for my family, friends and the people of New Jersey. It was nice to see friends before the race to get their T-shirts. In the morning the race was crazy, a lot of people, Peggy doing a great story and really loud noises.
Then many friends and family showed up in a tent and we would take great pictures. I would like to say thank you to Alice Walsh and Mike Kiker. My graphic design heroes: Richard Horan, 2006 and 2007; Jen Lover, 2008; Brian Millen, 2009; Patty, 2010; John Fellows, 2011; Lori Messenger, 2012; Andy Saffron, 2013; and Patty, 2014.
And now I wonder about the next race. Am I going to get better? Should I stop this year?
No, I don't mind doing the race. Yes, I have TBI. It will never go away …
But that is OK.
Editor’s note: Pat Horan’s annual participation in the Army Ten-Miler inspires others and is a testament to the spirit of those who have served, as is seen in the below video story by WUSA9. We thank Pat for sharing his story.