In Her Own Words…
Before the injury, my life was always busy. I was a single parent to three kids, working both full and part time, and even going to the gym. I loved to read and crochet, and was always interested in learning new things. That was before the injury.
In October 2001, I was driving to my aunt’s home when a car coming from my right failed to stop at a stop sign and broadsided my vehicle. My head instantly shot forward and then the force of the air bag just as quickly pushed my head back. I remember being transported to St. John’s Hospital in an ambulance and at some point losing consciousness. Once stabilized, I was told I had a traumatic brain injury plus an enlarged pituitary gland.
Since my injury, the challenges have been many and frequent. I have more headaches than I care to mention. I need to be given specific instructions on how to get to and get back from a place I have never been before. I have short-term memory loss and bright lights bother me, so I’m forced to work in a low-light environment. I often can’t focus enough to complete tasks, so I have to do a little at a time.
I can’t spend hours reading books as I used to. I become irritated if I’m around a lot of noise. I sometimes become easily frustrated. And I feel ashamed when people ask why I can’t do certain things. I respond that I have a TBI, but I do get tired of having to explain my limitations. I look normal – as do many TBI survivors – but it’s a constant struggle to keep a positive attitude and not focus on what I can’t do. I have some hearing loss in my right ear and some loss of peripheral vision in my right eye, which gets a little worse every year. I still think about the “what if’s” – especially if I had been offered resources when I was released from the hospital that day and not just sent home with pain meds.
As far as advice to other survivors, I would say that being patient and believing in yourself is an important start. So is not being afraid to ask for help. You learn that here are good and caring people in the world who want to see a TBI survivor thrive and prosper through their journey in life, as I have found in the staff and other survivors at the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. They are a Godsend.