A new future is finally insight for former optometrist, Gavin Klevansky, after he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Vanessa Klevansky shares
No one can ever accurately foretell our future. My brother Gavin seemed to be on track to what seemed to be the perfect life.
He was an optometrist with a very successful practice, a serious long-term relationship, a beautiful home and a close-kit family including myself and his two doting parents. He was surrounded by friends and had an active life racing cars, cycling and travelling.
This idyllic picture got derailed one seemingly run-of-the-mill morning as Gavin was travelling on his motorbike from home to work.
One. Split. Second.
Gavin was hit by a woman in a car who didn’t see him when changing lanes. Gavin and the motorbike were flung up a hill. The bike stayed put, and he rolled down, landing with his head sideways, lifeless across the busy road.
He was resuscitated once. Then again. Then taken to the intensive care unit, where the neurologist told myself and my parents that he had sustained a severe axonal injury [shearing (tearing) of the long connecting nerve fibres in the brain] of the brain stem [the section that connects the brain to the spinal cord] plus multiple brain bleeds. The prognosis was bleak.
Gavin’s coma lasted a week, which become a month, then two, then three. Yet, as a family, we just couldn’t give up hope, despite the specialists telling us he would be vegetative for the rest of his life.
It’s just not possible to give up on someone you love. So, when, after three months, he finally began to open his eyes, I believed that our prayers had been answered.
It wasn’t until he returned home, completely reliant on caregivers to move, to eat, to do anything, that reality finally set it.
Every time he was lifted into the standing frame, Gavin would scream in pain. He was unresponsive when spoken to, unable to interact. It was brutally painful to watch.
But, somewhere in this man who had once had such a passion for life, the same spark existed. Very slowly, the determination and the drive to overcome began to deliver change. He regained more movement. Began to feed himself, tried to talk.
Gavin began to emerge from a cloud, coming into focus – with an incredible team of caregivers and therapists coaxing him along the journey, willing him to succeed. It can be in the most challenging moments that the most profound change can happen.
Gavin fell and cracked a rib. His therapies came to a halt as his new found mobility was severely limited by the pain caused by the fracture. He would be homebound, and a dark cloud of fear that he would regress enveloped all who cared for him.
We needed to find a physiotherapist who could come to Gavin’s home to treat him, in the absence of him being able to continue his usual out of home therapies.
Gavin’s new physiotherapist, rather than seeing the victim of terrible circumstances, saw something in Gavin that was still there, deep inside: an irrepressible ability to challenge the expected, to do things his own way, to break the rules.
So, the broken rib would be the instigator of a new chapter for Gavin, as he was challenged to move more, to stand with a walker and then walk. Later, he would be challenged to walk only with a walking cane, to walk unaided, to dance, play guitar, talk, write … to live.
Today, despite both our parents passing, Gavin is supported by the most incredible team. Each day shows a new spark. When you ask, “What night is Friday night?”, Gavin responds, “It’s pizza night!”.
He painstakingly writes beautiful cards and creates a variety of art. He always wants the music louder. He follows a very busy routine, with a huge variety of activities, all of which Gavin greets with his unique enthusiasm and determination.
So, while we may not be able to see the future, with love, and dedication, constant input, laughter, and tears, we see an opportunity for Gavin to live a rich and fulfilling life, as an inspiration not just to us, but to all who those who need a little reminder that in their future too, anything is possible.