Literally born on a boat, Nick spent his earliest years living in orphanages along the Alaskan coastline. He ran away at the age of eight and quickly learned how to take care of himself and to rely on others — traveling in groups around the Pacific Northwest, picking apples and doing day labor.
It all ended with the smack of a crow bar. Nick was 32 and alone on the night he was attacked, and there were no witnesses. With no memory of the assault, he has few clues to the story except for the scar on his forehead where the crowbar cracked his skull.
Nick woke up in an Anchorage hospital, but nothing was ever the same. His gregarious nature was now drowned out by voices and hallucinations, and reality was lost in the din.
Alcohol and drugs became his only way of coping. “If I stayed high I could deal with it.” For the first time in his life, Nick found himself unable to work and spent the next several years selling heroin, panhandling, and living on the streets.
For seven long years Nick was misdiagnosed with a severe mental illness.
Unfortunately, Nick’s story isn’t unique.
Street Roots has put together a four-piece series on Traumatic Brain Injury and homelessness.
In the second piece Street Roots takes an in-depth look at why diagnosing brain injury on the streets matters — including looks at what professionals in the medical field know, including the military and National Football League.
The fourth piece we look at the good, the bad and the ugly of what exists and is being done for brain injuries concerning people experiencing homelessness and poverty — looking at simple systems that are in play and the barriers to sharing medical records and moving the issue forward.
Street Roots will be following up in the coming months with other personal stories concerning brain injuries and advocating for ways to improve the system. Stay tuned.