From Near Death to Victory

©Judy Vorfeld

Recently Mark Brennaman read about the brutal, unprovoked murder of young DJ Martin. It touched him deeply. He wrote to DJ's dad, explaining: "Exactly five months before DJ was murdered I was stabbed three times in the neck. One of the wounds severed my jugular vein. I was on the brink of death and will never forget the dreadful thought that I was living my last minute of life."

But for the landlord putting pressure on his jugular, he'd be dead. Luckily, there are two smaller veins leaving the brain to the heart that eventually enlarged to handle the blood flow normally carried in the jugular. So, in time, he mended physically.

Patrick Hopkins, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on September 8, 2000, repeatedly stabbed him in the back of the neck in an unprovoked, vicious attack. While it wasn't a personal attack, the violence destroyed Brennaman's sense of personal safety. He'd been active in telecommunications and continuing education marketing for 25 years. As soon as the legal proceedings were concluded, he moved from Colorado to his home state of Kentucky.

Brennaman believes this was the single most terrible moment of his life, yet the single most seminal moment, and he knew that his future would be different as a result. He had no idea of the mental problems to come. Looking in the mirror to shave became a nightmare. To shave means viewing one of the scars. Until recently, seeing the scar triggered a visual memory of the violent act: he'd "see" the assailant's rage-filled face behind him.

His first solution was to stop shaving and trust that his hair was properly combed. The dilemma worsened with each passing day. Instead of feeling better with time, he began to remember the terrible event more often and more vividly. It seemed as though he experienced the attack day after day. (See Defeating Violent Memories to learn his solution.)

"I understand," Brennaman explained to Jerry Martin, "that you recently had a trial date and it was postponed until February 2002. How sorry I am for you and your family! Many times the justice system can be more brutal than the loss of your loved one, or it at least seems like salt is added to your grief."

In late March 2000, Brennaman had gone to the prosecutor's office to prepare for his testimony. He was appalled and completely re-traumatized as he viewed the crime scene via large color glossies. Five weeks after seeing the photos he found himself deeply depressed, and resigned from an excellent job.

Brennaman spent that spring and summer learning Web-based computer applications. He felt safe in his aloneness. At that time, he had no desire to be around people, especially those he didn't know. This led to post traumatic stress disorder, and counseling.

To this day he struggles with the memory, even though he survived and the assailant is in prison. As he deals with the violent memories, his life gets better and better. And webmastering is one of the delights of his life. The assailant, it turned out, was mentally ill and not taking his medication. "It wasn't a personal attack against me," he says, "but I still struggle with the memory of the attack."

How did he create a humor site, when his recent experiences were so devoid of humor? "I created this site mostly as a way to celebrate happiness and humor and to meet people with a positive, humorous outlook on life. There are so many humor sites that have either nothing but dirty jokes and pictures, or harass visitors with endless pop-up ads," he says. "I created WitWords.com to provide an alternative for the discriminating surfer with a sense of humor."

WitWords.com grows daily in scope, as Brennaman adds articles and sections to his nicely evolving site. Giving other people a chuckle is one of the joys of his life. And so is his grandson.



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