My Apology to Rick Franklin and All People with Brain Injury

I can make quick retorts.  Sometimes too quick and sometimes my “humor” is inappropriate. Such was the case on my last post about Brain Injury Dialogues : a documentary film by Lyell Davies and Rick Franklin.  It was midnight and I typed in the flip comment about teenage thinking.

I got home today and found a response by the creator of the documentary, Rick Franklin.

Please read Mr Franklin’s comment – I have reproduced it and my apology below.  Hopefully, it will help all of reflect upon and understand more clearly  brain injury and the life-long, profound impact it has on people.


Thanks for your positive and thoughtful entry about Brain Injury Dialogues!

I have one detail to point out if you don’t mind. It’s your direct association, “sound like the local teenager”, that I’m finding uncomfortably problematic.

While metaphores and related methods of fostering an understanding are often very helpful ways to understand a very complex issue, they can also have the exact opposite effect and this is raising my concern.

I see your ‘teenager’ comparison to be pejorative and not only misrepresentative of an actual brain injury, but also adding a ‘value’ to behavior and functioning in the end like many other misdiagnoses.
(Perhaps the greatest challenge in properly treating anything related to a brain injury.)

We are adults with a brain injury and ‘forced’ to live with the results of such a profoundly life-changing disability.
We ARE NOT in a normal and brief phase of natural human development.

The danger with your proposed example is that it simplifies and wrongfully associates culturally in my view. It offers little useful data as to how to properly approach such behavior and renders this ultimately as inferior to ‘normal’ or ‘right’ adult behavior.

In fact, this ‘teenage’ condition you speak of, is perfectly ‘normal’ in the context of brain injury.
And if our culture wants to assist in any constructive way, I’ve proposed a Social therapy to follow after Cognitive therapy currently in place to help survivors deal with their own lives first.

It’s really great that you and anyone else consider this cultural phenomenon that has been ignored on any appreciable scale up until this documentary.

Thank you for letting me offer a response to your otherwise insightful considerations of this immensely complex topic.

Rick Franklin

Rick, Thank YOU for your reply. You are completely right in pointing out the flip remark I made about teenagers to be insensitive at the least and insulting at the most. I, of all people, know that with teenagers their behaviours and processing of information are developmentally normal based on brain development and should not be referenced in the context of brain injury.

Upon receiving your comment I edited out my inappropriate aside. You have my greatest respect and appreciation for the work you are doing.  If I can help in any way please let me know.
With sincere apology,
Judith Westerfield

I invite all of you to continue the dialogue and raise awareness about all life-altering medical conditions. Life-altering- medical conditions – easy to intellectualize and talk ABOUT – a different story to live with it.

Here’s Mr Franklin in his own words:

Rick: “Before my TBI* I knew nothing about brain injury, I had never thought about it or even heard of it—except maybe for comic stereotypes or convenient plot devices that are still used today in popular TV and movies. When my brain injury occurred in 1991, it changed everything in my life. For sixteen years I’ve been unable to work. I live with chronic mental and physical fatigue and a relentless sensitivity to light and noise. In loud situations, or where there’s a lot of movement, I can’t focus on one thing and I can get very easily distracted. I have frequent headaches. I can’t sleep. Even my sense of taste changed after my injury, now anything citrus is too much for me. And once my mental fatigue sets in (which can happen quickly) I can’t function and have to find a quiet, darker place to try and rest. As if all of these changes weren’t enough to deal with after my injury, most of the people around me vanished—the attitude was “give me a call when you get better.” When I get better; like that will happen…”

*Traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as intracranial injury, occurs when an external force traumatically injures the brain.

6 thoughts on “My Apology to Rick Franklin and All People with Brain Injury

  1. I have a family member with a traumatic brain injury. While I understand your comment was, in all actuality, a truism about those lovely teen years. Yes, it was a flip comment but anyone who knows your character also knows that you would never respond in a way that was deliberately hurtful. Sometimes humor helps describe things in a way that lets the reader have a point of reference and I am positive that is how the post was meant. As a member of a family with the injury I found myself smiling and relating Cindy to that sometimes willful “monster” of the 13-19 range. In no way was I offended but I can see how a stranger might misinterpret the comment.
    Love to you sweetie! Thanks for being open and sharing.

    H says hi to Max too!


  2. I wanted to comment on your original post, but I lost Wednesday, so I will put my comments here.
    I have a friend who experienced a loss of consciousness that resulted in him having symptoms similar to someone with TBI.
    When he came out of his comma, he had lost the last five or so years of his life, including the time he met, fell in love with, and married his wife. He kept thinking she was his nurse, while he remembered me as we had become friends before the missing 5 years.
    He slowly regained “himself” through great effort, and from the love of his wife, and then the child they adopted. My friend had to learn how to take care of someone else, and through this he “grew” the most. He now is a retired librarian, a proud parent of an incredibly talented teenager, a published and awarded poet, and my friend.
    Like the person in the documentary, he lost alot of his friends; they didn’t recognize him, and they were waiting for when he got better.
    He remained my friend; through the changes and the rearrangements. What folks with TBI want, like us chronics, I think is, for people to expect them (and us) as they (we) are.
    I don’t know if this makes any sense. I’m just trying to say that any chronic condition that changes you means that other people have to “get” the “new” you.
    You are right in bringing to our attention folks like Rick; they are struggling, like we do, with changes beyond our control.
    Your apology is gracious; like Rick, you are truly a special person.


  3. When I read the teenager thing it never occurred to me that it could be hurtful. Thank you so much for sharing your goof and Rick’s response and your apology. You have made me a better person today.


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