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A family and their home health aids tells the story of their brother (and son) jumping off his balcony and sustaining a TBI. They’ll never know what caused him to do it.

What happens next? What choices did they have to make about his care? How do they keep him at home when he needs care around the clock?

Who is Mike now? Is he their invalid big brother or is he just another man? Each of the people who care for him share what their relationship with him is like now.

You could talk to him about anything. I could talk to Mike about anything. More so to y’all, because… See, to y’all he was your sick big brother; y’all couldn’t get that out of your head. I think we got along because I wouldn’t make a thing of his, “Oh, you poor baby”, like the nurses do. “You poor baby…” “Man, quit faking and stop that shit there!” I mean, you know… I didn’t think of him as an invalid.

Imma tell you when I really first started liking your brother – when he was upstairs and we’s gettin tight. I said, “Mike, I bet you never thought a middle-aged black man to be your best friend, huh?” He started laughing, we both did.

What happens to your relationship with the world when your brother is in a wheelchair, unable to speak?

People don’t see you when you’re in Michael’s condition and you have a brain injury; they avert their eyes…
I remember this one day this mother was going into her house with the little boy who must have been about five, and he turned around and we were six feet away, and he said “Oh, no…”, and he just… He was so sincere, and he was looking at Michael and he was just like, “Oh, no…” It was just so honest, you know? Because he saw that he was broken.

I don’t really know what to say. It’s been pretty awful. After a while I guess I just started wishing that he would die, so I wouldn’t have to see him like that anymore. Because he would have seizures, and I would just hope that one of them would finally kill him.

What happens when you know someone is never getting better?

When Michael came home, I thought that I could do this myself, and I also thought that if I took care of him, he would get better. I guess on some level I recognized that wasn’t happening. Plus, I was exhausted and I wasn’t admitting it. I realized that I couldn’t get Michael better. I couldn’t do it. There was no amount of love and care that was going to fix him, and it was very depressing.

How much does caregiving take out of you? What happens when it drives a mother to attempt suicide?

When do you decide it can’t go on? When is someone too sick to continue treatment? What does dignity mean? How does a family make the hardest decision?

Listen on Love + Radio.

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