Decisions can change your life in the blink of an eye. A friend on my cheerleading squad asked for a ride home and the next thing I knew, I was falling off the bed in a hospital. September 6, 1997, was the day my life changed; I had gotten my license earlier that summer when a car ran into the driver’s side and flipped my Jeep over. I was in a coma for over 2 months, but thankfully I came out with a TBI and fractured pelvis that healed while I was unconscious.
I had a loving family and friends who came to visit me every weekend in the Charlottesville children’s rehab hospital for 5 months. Returning home to go to another rehab program for 5 months followed by a year of outpatient physical therapy. My early days of therapy wake up and ready by 9 for physical therapy; speech and language pathology where I worked on breath control, enunciating, pronunciation, and comprehension; occupational therapy where we would work on the senses, like smells, vision (I saw double, so this was eye traking); school that worked on writing and reading; aquatic therapy where I walked in the pool; psychological therapy where I would talk about my emotions.
The accident had started at the beginning of the school year, so I returned to high school a year behind my friends which was a challenge both physically and mentally. I felt like I was different from my peers, the class that I would have been graduating with, so I tried to distance myself. I tried really hard and I went away to Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Going away to school was the best thing that I could have done; I had a chance to meet all new friends who knew me for me, not just ‘the cheerleader who got in that accident.’ I found my purpose through my car accident; I thought back to the days I spent in rehab and all the fun that I had was in the activity free time, so I wanted to become a therapist who helped others in an inpatient situation have a little fun. I graduated with a Therapeutic Recreation degree from Longwood, having worked in the activity department for 9 years and have taken time to begin writing my memoir and further spread TBI awareness. Living through a tough experience can produce purpose in life and for that reason I really am thankful for my TBI.