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Just a Little Patience

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009.

Seven years ago Bryce was at the top of his game. He had just made the biggest sale of his career as a car salesman and he wanted to celebrate. He hopped into his car and headed to a friend’s house. “I was going around a back country road doing too many things at once and I ended up going down a cliff.”

Bryce Gilbert and Karen Harrington

Bryce was in a coma for 28 days. Doctors said he never wake up. But Bryce did wake up. To see him walk and talk today you would never know how close he came to dying. Yet he suffers from what he calls “the invisible injury,” brain injury trauma. His short term memory is faulty, and sequential thinking and timing are hard for him. “Since my car wreck, I’m not quick enough to be a salesman,” he told his friend and advocate Karen Harrington during his StoryCorps interview. Bryce was gracious enough to share his story along with other survivors of brain injury trauma who live in the Asheville area.

Post accident, Bryce has become what he calls, “a student of patience.”

“Every time I approach a decision to make, I have before-car-wreck-adrenaline-junkie-Bryce and then I have the more reasonable, let’s-figure-it-out-Bryce. And every time I make a decision I have to have a committee hearing. My favorite analogy is: I’m out at a swimming hole and and I ask myself, ‘What do you want to do, pre-car-wreck-Bryce?’

“‘Well I want to go to the top of that waterfall and dive from the top of that rock.’

“‘What do you wanna do post-car-wreck Bryce?’

“‘I’m happy sunbathing on the beach.’

“And I have to mediate between the two sides of myself, so I go halfway up the rock and jump in feet first. It’s not that this isn’t something that everyone goes through. It just seems that much more dramatic to me. On top of the patience that I have with myself, I accrue the debt of patience or lack of patience from society.”

Today, Bryce no longer sells cars but makes art. He has sketch books full of sculptures and paintings that he intends to create. His dream is to open an art space for people with disabilities. “It’s the first decision that I have made in my life that has come from my heart and not from the desire to make money.”

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