Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Lethan Candlish Part Nine

Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Despite Lethan’s severe traumatic brain injury, he still was able to create, memorize, and perform his dramatization, Who Am I Again?

The most uplifting part of Lethan’s performance of Who Am I Again is that he wrote and performed it at that level despite surviving a severe traumatic brain injury. Most would hear the word coma and severe traumatic brain injury and automatically think severe memory disorder. Yet, Lethan was able to memorize and recite the whole performance.

The creation and performance of this show can serve as a ray of hope for other people with brain damage. Even people with less severe brain damage than Lethan can learn from his performance and take it as a sign of hope. Many people believe that brain damage is not that severe if the person’s speech is not affected. Lethan’s brain injury was severe and still we see no sign of disability in his performance. It is truly incredible.

Even those dealing with his severe traumatic brain injury are to be congratulated for their perseverance. His mother was a clinical psychologist and his dad a professor. They had the ability to deal with the many rounds of talking to insurance and talking to doctors.

“The best thing I can say is fight,” Lethan said. “Not so much fight the system, but find a way to make it work for you.” His parents were on a constant fight to make the system work for him. “I recognize that it’s a lot easier said than done.” We see a theme that recovery depends on how much you demand from the medical system.

Lethan’s success in his recovery was due to three main reasons. First, he was med-flighted to a hospital with experienced doctors. Second, he had good parents who were supported by the community and prayer. Third, he was transferred to an appropriate brain injury rehabilitation program.

In addition, he had good insurance. He was also a minor, so he had advocates, which were his parents. He was in school which provided structure and some intellectual challenge. After high school, he went off to community college. Within three years, he was ready to go off to college, where accommodations could be made if advocated for.

When I asked him how he was able to stand up on stage and excel, he responded, “A lot of work and a lot of personal perseverance. But also I was incredibly blessed and very fortunate by having a very strong community support group.”

See our next post where Lethan gives advice to survivors and caregivers.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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