Jan 10, 2011— -- It is hard to remember how I felt at that very moment when my life changed in an instant. Although I had covered wars for years as a journalist I never really thought about death, let alone traumatic brain injuries.
I didn't know Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords but my assumption is she never imagined that a gunshot would put her where she is either.
But there is hope.
Like the doctors who saved me almost five years ago, her surgeons knew exactly what to do. Her brain was swelling just like mine. They removed part of her skull on the left side of her head almost exactly like mine, and she is now in a drug-induced coma so that her brain can recover. For me it was 36 days before I woke up.
But in one way her case is more hopeful. She responded to verbal commands by the doctors and reacted by squeezing their finger, indicating she understood, although she could not speak. I never heard the words and never squeezed my doctors' fingers when they tried to get me to respond.
So now Ms. Giffords' family and friends are on the long or short road. When she awakes, which I believe will happen, we will know about her future. No one really knows right now how long that road will be.
I know she will almost certainly feel pain. No one can escape that. She will probably have to wait about four months until her surgeons replace the portion of her skull.
Medicine has never been so advanced as it is today. If I was hit five years earlier I really don't believe I would have survived. I know in my heart that she will recover as well.
Still it takes so much longer to regain what we once had. There is no medicine or science or facts that can prove the power of the family. I was surrounded by my wife, parents, children and friends and that made this trip much faster.
Ms. Giffords will be surrounded as well. At the Bethesda Naval Hospital when I was unconscious my friends read books and talked to me, hoping for a reaction -- but nothing.
Then one day my oldest daughter, Cathryn, whispered in my ear, telling me that she loved me. At that moment a tear ran down my cheek. The first sign of my return.
That in my opinion, is the true medicine for recovery.