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mike-michael-at-explorer-academy-graduationMy name is Michael and thanks for coming by.  I hope my story can help others.

I was born in Southern California many years ago.  My Dad was a police officer with LAPD, and my mom stayed home most of the time, or worked as a secretary.  We moved around most of my younger years until we ended up in Rancho Cucamonga for my junior and senior high years.

Me after falling off of the jungle gym

Me after falling off of the jungle gym

My First Head Injury

My first adverse health experience was at age 5 on the first day of kindergarten.  I was playing on the playground with the other kids.  I was climbing on the metal jungle gym.  I was at the top of the gym and tried to reach for one of the bars in the center to swing to the other side.  I was short and missed grabbing the bar.  That meant I fell down inside of the structure hitting my head multiple times on the way down.  I was unconscious for a while and was vomiting and bleeding on my new teacher.  Great impression, right?

I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital with a moderate traumatic brain injury and had fractured my forehead.  You can see the picture to the right to tell how severe the fall was.  This was a little while after the actual incident.

My Formative Years

For the rest of my early years, I got hurt quite a bit.  I was called accident prone from getting injured so much.  From what I can remember I broke bones and sprained joints a lot.  Around 10 years old, from what I can remember, I was involved in a major car accident.  I was riding in the car with my Aunt, Grandmother, and Mom, when a motorcycle driving at a high rate of speed t-boned our car shattering all the windows out and throwing the motorcycle riders.  I wasn’t taken to the hospital, but I believe I probably had a mild concussion after that.

Around age 16 I was playing football with friends in the local park.  I caught a pass, and turned to run, when I ran straight into the biggest guy on the field.  I got knocked unconscious momentarily and then had a black line across my vision for a while.  I wasn’t supposed to be playing football at the park, so I just kept playing to be tough.  Probably not the best idea looking back.

michael-explorerLaw Enforcement Volunteer

Starting at age 15, I volunteered with the local Sheriff’s department.  It was called the Sheriff’s explorer program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America.  I attended the explorer academy at the Sheriff’s department training facility that summer and obtained my certification to go on ride-alongs with deputies on patrol.  The academy at that time was essentially the same thing you would have gone through as a reserve deputy to make sure you could really handle yourself out on the streets with deputies.  I made it my part-time job working patrol about 20 hours a week, while also rising through the ranks to Lieutenant and training to participate in competitions with other posts from other agencies.  During my time there I participated in all aspects of law enforcement including patrol, traffic, investigations, gang, etc.  I saw everything from murders, to robberies, kidnappings, etc.

Early Working Life

Starting at age 16, I worked at the Raging Waters water park as a security officer.  My training with the Sheriff’s explorers made this the perfect job along with hanging out at a water park during the summer and getting paid for it.  While working here after high school I was knocked unconscious while trying to arrest a trespasser.  I found out after the fact that he was a professional boxer, so I really didn’t have a chance.

Michael WBS SecurityI also got to work at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank, California as a set-watch security officer.  This was an awesome job where I got work on the sets for shows like Friends, ER, Lois & Clark, and Living Single.  I spent most of my time there working on the set of Living Single providing security during tapings.  It was a really fun time of my life.

I continued working in security at the Ontario Mills mall while waiting for the opportunity to attend the Sheriff’s academy to become a full-time deputy.  One night we got a call of a gang fight in the AMC courtyard, and I responded with another officer.  When I arrived there was a large number of gang members fighting.  I ordered them to disperse and attempted to arrest one of the members that was fighting.  My partner walked away and I was jumped from behind.  This brought both the suspect and myself to the ground with the suspect falling on my left leg bending it in half backwards and tearing my posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).  We didn’t realize the PCL was torn until later.  After getting physical therapy I attempted to attend the Sheriff’s academy a couple of months later.

My First Meningitis Experience

On the second day of the Sheriff’s academy, it was extremely hot outside, like in the 100+ range.  We had been running in the heat and had to have lunch at the jail on the property.  We ran back to the academy to continue with classes, when I passed out in the classroom.  Since I didn’t have any health insurance at the time, they gave me the option of having a friend come and get me so I didn’t have to pay for an ambulance.

My friend showed up and rushed me to the emergency room.  They immediately suspected meningitis and gave me my first spinal tap. If you don’t know what that is, they take a huge needle, poke it into your spine, and remove some of your spinal fluid.  Not a great experience at all.  They were able to verify that I had viral meningitis and I was admitted to the hospital for two weeks of intravenous treatment.  Because I was essentially out of commission I was not able to let the academy know I was so sick and they had to track me down at the hospital because they didn’t know which one we went to.  They told me because I was gone for so long, I no longer could continue with that academy class.  This killed me because I had worked for years doing everything I could to be able to become a Sheriff.

The Sheriff’s department let me work in the jail until the next academy class, but unfortunately we realized then that my PCL was torn when my knee gave way amongst a group of inmates and almost was attacked by the group.  Because of the continuing knee problems I was terminated from the Sheriff’s department and that ended my hopes of being a Sheriff’s deputy.  That threw me into a spiral and began drinking very heavily and didn’t have any idea what to do with my life.

michael-id-badge-apdMoving On

I eventually decided that living in California wasn’t for me anymore and decided to try living in Idaho with my parents to see if I could start a new life.  That is when I ended up getting into the information technology field.  I worked for a call center that had an entry-level IT opening and they were willing to train me on the job.  While working there I became friends with Paul.  I eventually attended a bible study at his house where I met my wife Jessica.  She was only home for a couple of weeks on summer break from university, but we just clicked.  We spent every day together from that day until she had to return to Texas for school.  I visited a couple of times over the next few months and then asked her to marry me.

DSCN1975I quit my job and moved to Texas to be with her.  I was able to get a job dispatching for the police and fire departments while she finished her degrees.  We got married the summer after I moved down, and then we moved to Boston after she graduated to hopefully allow her to go on to graduate school.

I got to work for one of the best companies out there, the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, as a Security Supervisor.  I worked with an amazing group of people and got to meet some really interesting people.  After almost a year their graduate school wasn’t looking like it was going to work out because we were both having to work full-time to try to make ends meet.  It was putting a huge strain on us, so we moved back to Idaho to be closer to our families and try to regroup.

I was able to get a job with the State of Idaho Transportation department in information technology and that was the start of our lives together here in Idaho.

IMG_0325_Second Bout With Meningitis

At 32, I was hospitalized with viral meningitis again.  This time the infectious disease doctor came in to see me and did some additional testing.  After the testing came back we found out that I had a rare form of viral meningitis called Mollaret’s Meningitis which is recurrent.  We were both shocked because we thought viral meningitis was a one and done type of illness.  We were so wrong.  This time I had two weeks of treatment, but they were at home with a PICC line in so I could give myself IV antivirals.

Things Start To Go Downhill

At 35 years old my first child is born.  We were house sitting for someone because we couldn’t live at our house. A neighbor at our house decided to use a gun after we asked him to turn down his music instead of just being a good neighbor.  I didn’t feel it was safe for us to live there anymore.  I also was interviewing for a new job at the same time this was all happening.  I ended up getting the job and we moved to a new house a couple of months later and only a month after starting the new job.  They always say be careful having a lot of major life events happening at once, and they are correct.

13d2ab40-3494-48eb-b214-702e10ab021cMy daughter’s birth was a bit traumatic between believing she wasn’t alive when she came out, and my wife having to be hospitalized shortly after for her own health issues.  Things started to settle down a bit after that, but then the stress of the new job was immense and was taking a toll on my health.  My meningitis started to get much worse.  I began having major flare ups more frequently and they lasted longer.  Had I been with another company I would have been terminated for taking so much time off.

Everything Comes To A Head

I slowly started to get worse until we found out we were going to be having another kid.  I was 37 when we found this out and things got really bad.  The first major sign was when we visited Texas that summer for a family get together.  That was the first time I have had a panic attack and it lasted the entire trip.  I have never felt that out of control before.  Things got worse to the point that I ended up punching a hole in a wall because I accidentally broke a glass.  That November my wife’s brother and family were up to go on a christmas boat cruise and I was having another panic attack.  That was pretty much the last straw.  I decided that the work stress was too much and I needed to see someone about that.

img_2259I saw a therapist and we realized that it was probably PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I had.  She wanted me to tell our midwife about it so she could be aware of it before the birth.  My son was born and I had a huge panic attack during the entire process.  I even had to lay down for a long while after his birth to calm down because I was in such bad shape.  I kept trying to see different therapists, but it didn’t seem that anyone was able to help.  I did some research on my own and realized that my earlier head injuries could be the cause of all of this.

The Breakdown

So, June of 2015 we finally had our first real vacation we have ever been able to have.  We took a trip to the Portland, OR area to see wife’s brother and family, and hit up the Washington coast.  Even on the vacation I was on edge.  Shortly after that, I was at work and about broke down on the phone with my wife on a break.  She told me to come home, which I did, and I just broke down and said I couldn’t do it anymore.

img_2637This was the beginning of my disability.  I spent the next 6 months on the couch and tried getting help from a therapist, who looking back, was very abusive towards me.  At the end of this time I was screaming at my daughter for no reason, and just getting really bad, so my wife had to ask me to move out.  That crushed me.  I didn’t know what was going on with me and knew it wasn’t who I wanted to be but nothing seemed to be helping.  In spring 2016 I ended up self admitting to the behavioral health unit at the local hospital for suicidal ideation.  I spent a week there, and was put on medications to help with the depression and night terrors.  During this time I was officially diagnosed with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

The Now

I was able to work hard after getting out of the hospital to win my wife’s trust back.  She eventually let me move back in, and shortly after we had to move into my in laws house because we couldn’t afford rent anymore.  I had been denied by social security disability and long-term disability insurance, so we had no income.  We drained all of my retirement accounts so we could afford our bills and keep paying for my medical insurance to keep getting treatment.

During all of this I was also realizing that my traumatic brain injuries, and Mollaret’s Meningitis, were probably a big part of everything I was experiencing.  We also realized that my meningitis had been becoming chronic for a long time and was getting worse.  I also began having seizures a couple of months after leaving the hospital.  They have been diagnosed as Psychogenic NonEpileptic Seizures, although I think they may be more related to the meningitis.

Social security eventually approved my case and we were able to find a house to rent so we could move out of my in-laws home.  We had to pay a year in advance wiping out the savings, but at least we have a place to live for a year.  I continue to get treatment and try to figure out exactly what is going on, and am still fighting long-term disability insurance to get my claim approved.  With how bad I have been doing lately, fainting daily, the future doesn’t look very bright, but I still have hope.

Thanks for reading and I hope my blog will help someone else with their journey.

Michael

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