My name is Jaru and I am a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivor. Before my Acquired Brain Injury, I was a competitive athlete. I was juggling between going to school on the weekdays and working part time as a cashier at a restaurant which my father owned called ‘Ho-Lee-Chow’ on the weekends. I played soccer, basketball, baseball and I loved to run. I would run competitively and recreationally for my school’s for Cross Country/ Track and field during competitions.
On September 9, 2007, my life suddenly changed. I was in a motor vehicle collision, where I was a passenger in the back seat.
The collision caused me to seizure immediately. In the ICU at Sunnybrook, I was on a ventilator with breathing tubes down my throat and feeding tubes in my stomach. I had bleeding in my brain as my frontal lobe was injured and damaged. My brain injury was so severe, my GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) was a 3/15. I was deemed catastrophic and in a deep coma.
My friends and family prayed for me daily at the church and temples across Toronto. They created social media groups and posted pictures of me from when I was healthy and playing sports, hoping to connect with everyone and ask them to pray for me. After a few weeks in a coma, my parents were told that they could potentially be dealing with the fact that I may not wake up from the coma or that I would pass away. But I woke up from my coma in November of 2007.
Everyone was shocked and in disbelief, including myself. I felt as if I woke up on a normal day, unknowing that two months had passed. I became further confused when I realized I was unable to walk. In addition to my brain injury, I had broken the L2 in my spine and my left humerus, and was in a wheelchair as a result. I was also diagnosed with losing peripheral vision on my left side.
In addition, I would mistakenly confuse my friends and family as my teachers or nurses. I was suffering from memory loss, and I was annoyed, scared, and confused. I wondered if I would ever be able to get back to normal and run and play sports again.
I was transferred to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab in mid-November after being discharged from Sunnybrook Hospital. I needed 24-hour support and care as I still could not walk or function correctly due to my brain injury.
When I got to Bloorview Kids Rehab, I immediately started different therapies including speech therapy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. I had scheduled recreation time in my days to assist with my recovery. I knew this was going to be difficult, but I had heart and courage.
As an in-patient, I would be at the hospital Monday to Friday and then be at home on Saturdays and Sundays. I was really tired and fatigued, as much as I wanted to get up and run, I was not capable of doing so. I was stuck in this wheelchair wondering, “Will I ever run or walk again?”
Months into my stay at Bloorview, and was slowly able to think for myself and walk again. I could take a few steps with assistance, but I was relieved and excited to be out of that wheelchair and being able to move my arms. I did intense physiotherapy which motivated and helped me progress in my recovery. I was able to pick up a ball with my broken arm, and I was able to move my arm around.
I was more depressed with the fact I was not at school with my friends and peers, and I would dream of one day being able to get a car and drive like my friends. I was diagnosed with short term memory loss, and I was aiming to fix that. I would keep a journal with me and every time I needed to remember something I would write it down in my journal. Having support from friends and family during this tough time in my life was helpful in my progress in recovery as they would question me or refresh my memory with flash backs and old memories from my past.
In the new year of January 2008, I was able to walk more without assistance and without my wheelchair. I was able to run for a few seconds as well as being able to use the treadmill on my own without assistance. I was motivated to get out of the hospital and return to school as soon as possible. In February 2008, my dreams came true. I was cleared to return home with 24 hour care still in place, but minimal home therapy sessions.
13 years have passed since my brain injury. I graduated high school in June 2011. In 2016, I was able to obtain my drivers licence, and with years of savings I was able to purchase my first car.
I returned to playing sports and running again; I competed in the 2019 Spartan RACE and completed it within one hour. I have suffered from and faced obstacles such as PTSD, kidney stones, a broken back and my vision impairment. I feel I can be an excellent mentor to assist and motivate other ABI survivors.
I am now an entrepreneur and I own a business in Durham, Ontario.
Jaru has been recovering from his brain injury since his motor vehicle accident 14 years ago, which landed him in the ICU at Sunnybrook, where he was in a coma for two months. He then went on to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital for many months of intense rehabilitation. As a result of his injury, he was diagnosed with PTSD, suffered from anxiety and experienced many days and nights of flashbacks and nightmares. After years of therapy, counselling and support he was able to get out of his wheelchair and get back to doing things he could have only dreamed of, such as running marathons across Ontario. He is now an entrepreneur and he owns and manages a real estate business in Downtown Bowmanville Ontario. He loves donating to various charities and foundations his spare time, such as Sick Kids Hospital, Heart and Stroke and Princess Margaret Hospital.
You can find him on Instagram: @__jaru75