Update: Jackie is living in the moment now

By admin
17 January 2014

Our blogger Michelle Fourie tells us how her brain-damaged husband is doing and how much her YOU blog and YOU readers meant to her last year.

From left: Sophie Sibanyoni, the family's former domestic worker who is now Jackie's full-time caregiver.Michelle and Ruben (7), Jackie and Jacques (16).

He lives in the here and now, and is happy

Jackie now lives in the moment. No later. He can’t recall what we did during the day, what we ate or who we visited, but he enjoys the food, company and activities – in the moment.

He’s in a happy place. He doesn’t worry about tomorrow, doesn’t wonder how we’ll pay for everything.

Sometimes when I burst into tears because of absolute despondency he asks where my faith is.

He can no longer solve problems

The thing that upsets me most is Jackie’s inability to solve problems.

If he sees me struggling with something he says I should leave it; he’ll fix it tomorrow. Or if I’m inputting data, he says he’ll write a program to help me . . . stuff like that.

Before, he could take care of everything, from the car’s services, which he did himself, to repairing electrical appliances. He was an IT specialist and used to work through the night to solve a problem.

Hygiene comes second

He doesn’t care about his appearance and baths only if I prepare everything, run the water and put out clean clothes. If I want him really clean I have to bath him myself because he might wash only one arm.

He doesn’t comb his hair or brush his teeth. Before the accident hygiene was important to him.

He’s now very religious

His religiousness is a revelation.

Even if we’re with people he’ll suddenly stand up and pray silently. Sometimes at night I sit near his bed and work while he sleeps. Even if he’s sleeping soundly he sometimes suddenly gets up, kneels, prays, gets back into bed, turns over and goes back to sleep.

Before the accident he was disillusioned with religion but God is part of who he is now, even unconsciously.

His temperament is under control

He still sometimes becomes difficult but it’s within limits. The angry, aggressive behaviour, when he sometimes threw bottles at our oldest son, is under control. I think the consistent use of the right medication has a lot to do with it.

When his pills are finished I immediately notice the difference in his behaviour. So his medication is without a doubt the most important item on the monthly shopping list.

His eating habits have changed completely

Jackie’s eating must be well controlled. Sweet treats must be hidden away or he’ll eat all the chocolate, sweets or cookies in one go. Before the accident he wasn’t particularly fond of sweet things. He was a biltong-and-savoury man, fond of cheese and salad. Now he prefers sweets to salad.

Jackie’s sense of smell has sharpened a lot. He smells things we can’t smell or becomes aware of them long before us.

Jackie and the children

My heart breaks over the communication – or lack of it – between Jackie and the boys. Communication is limited to Jackie asking a question, such as, What day is it? and Jacques (16) answering.

Ruben (7) wants to wrestle with Jackie, especially after watching WWE, but Jackie doesn’t know how to be playful. The game usually ends very soon, with me warning Ruben not to hurt his dad.

The children miss their father. Jacques especially misses him because he remembers how he was before the accident. Ruben says he can’t remember how Jackie was before. I understand because even for me everything is beginning to become vague. I’ve been swallowed by our new reality.

Jackie and the boys at a school sports event.

Thank you, Headway and YOU readers

This reality includes people I would never have got to know if it weren’t for what happened to us. Through Headway, where Jackie goes for therapy, we met people who have greatly inspired me – then there are all the people who shared their stories with me thanks to my blog.

One woman phoned and said she could for the first time forgive her husband after everything they’d had to go through as a family after he suffered brain damage in an accident. She now realises he didn’t mean to hurt them so much.

We cried together.

The messages of encouragement were overwhelming. I was grateful for even those that described the hell they experienced after a loved one suffered brain damage. I understand; it’s difficult for people who aren’t dealing with this sort of thing every day to know what it feels like. Through the blog total strangers were with me “in the moment”. Some have become friends and inspire me through their caring.

Thank you for giving me hope.


Michelle Fourie lives in Pretoria where she has a thatch-roofing business. Last year she blogged for YOU for 11 weeks about how life changed for her and her two sons after her husband, Jackie, sustained a permanent brain injury in a car accident. She will write the occasional blog this year to tell us how things are going.

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