Christina and her mother Rezia discovered the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) four years ago. They have been taking advantage of BIAMI’s programs and services ever since. Christina and Rezia both value the educational workshops at the BIAMI Fall Conference. Christina, however, said the conference’s dinner dance for brain injury survivors holds a special memory for her.
“The first time I danced – since the accident – was at the BIAMI Fall Conference,” she said. “I saw a guy in a wheelchair dancing. I started to cry, then I said to myself, ‘if he can do it, I can do it.’ So I started dancing. Then my mom started crying.”
It was a moment of deep emotion for Rezia, who had been at her daughter’s side through every phase of her recovery from a TBI sustained in a 2001 auto accident. Christina’s car was T-boned by another driver, then flipped and hit another car. Christina was so severely injured that doctors told Rezia that her daughter showed no brain function and was not breathing on her own.
Rezia and other family members began a long vigil at Christina’s bedside at Henry Ford Hospital; talking to her, singing to her, and putting up photos of her 3-yearold son, Cortez. Christina spent five months in a medically induced coma.
When Christina was finally discharged to Lakeland Center for rehabilitation, she began the long struggle to put her life back together. She had lost much of her hearing as well as many significant memories, such as the birth of her son. It took her two years to be able to walk again.
One day, after Rezia broke down in tears at the doctor’s office, Dr. Gilbert Ladd recommended that they both check out BIAMI. Mother and daughter have since gained both knowledge and courage from joining the Detroit chapter and hearing the stories of other survivors and their families. “Every time I go to BIAMI everyone is so nice,” says Christina. “I can relate to everyone there. BIAMI brings everybody together, helps me to understand about my condition. I feel at home when I’m there.”
Rezia credits BIAMI for giving her the support and information she needs to be an informed caregiver. “I knew how to be a mom,” said the mother of four, “but I didn’t know how to be a caregiver to someone with a brain injury. I didn’t know how many problems there would be, especially with the insurance company.”
Christina still struggles with memory problems and pain from her injuries, but is grateful for her progress and her time with her family. “I’m so happy to be able to spend time with my son,” she says. “He’s 16 years old now. I‘ll be able to see him graduate from high school. I like to teach him about life, about God. I want to teach him to pray and to be forgiving. When Cortez was younger, he was angry at the other driver who ran into my car. I told him, ‘that’s why they call it an accident.’ That driver didn’t cause the crash on purpose.”
Because she is a parent herself, Christina says she can appreciate her mother’s care for her so much more. “I don’t know what I would do without my family, especially my mom. I don’t know if I could do what she has done for me.”
“I know I’m never going to be the same as before the accident,” adds Christina, who still faces surgery and deals with headaches and hip and ankle pain. “But, as I tell other people…continue to pray, stay strong and stay positive. Do what your body allows you to do.”
As for Rezia, she says, “BIAMI gave me my daughter back; BIAMI gave me my life back. It’s the only place I’ve found where it’s okay to be sad, okay to be angry and okay to be happy.”