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Battling all the way back
I was in a terrible car accident in February 2008. I was one exit away from Auburn University when I crossed the median and hit a truck. I think I fainted; I did twice at Auburn before, and I was anemic.
I was supposed to graduate a semester early in December 2008. Not anymore.
I still really want to graduate, so I’m going to school online. Also, I want to walk without assistive devices and live on my own. Right now I use a cane full time and a walker when I’m tired. The biggest thing I want is more independence.
I’m aware that it is scary, but I also want to drive again. How can I live a normal life without driving?
The brain is funny, because injuries affect the opposite side of the body. I hit that truck on my left, so the functions on my right side were affected. I was right-handed before – now I am now left-handed. That has taken some real getting used to, especially typing and using a mouse.
I don’t know if I’m glad I got messed up physically rather than mentally. If I was injured mentally I wouldn’t be able to go to school.
What I’m happy about what this accident is that I laugh at the little things more often – that’s all I have to look forward to. My boyfriend, my siblings, my parents and I are also a lot closer.
Here’s one of my biggest issues: I hate asking for help, and I have to get over that. I have to ask for help when I need a glass of water or need to get something that is out of my reach.
It is annoying to me how much I ask for help, but with a cane and the Walker it is hard to get things down – especially with my right side not working. My left side is really strong because it has to lift up all my weight and do everything for me.
It’s amazing what you take for granted.
Also, I hate when people stare. They look up and down at the cane or walker as if the simple walking devices are going to bite them. Sometimes I feel like yelling, “What? I was in a car accident!”
Here’s another thing that only exacerbates my troubles: my speech suffered with the accident, which makes it difficult to communicate, even though I’m fully aware.
When doctors incubated me during my coma, they damaged my vocal chords. Although my speech will improve, it will always be raspy. You can understand me, but some words need to be repeated.
I have no problem repeating them at all. In fact, I like it better when people ask and don’t just nod their heads pretending they know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes when someone doesn’t understand me, I feel like saying, “I’m sorry, I’ll try not to be in an accident next time!”
Little kids are the worst because they are so curious. I know they don’t know any better, but just when you think you have left their stares, they turn around and follow you with their eyes.
It’s like they’re going to catch a disease or something.
What hurts the worst is when people think you lack intelligence. They think you can’t do your work. They insist on helping you. What they’re really doing is hurting you because it hurts when people assume that you’re stupid.
I went to the store the other day, and if one extra person had asked me if I needed help I was going to scream at them. Well, not really. I’m a nice person, but I surely felt like doing it.
I wanted to say, “that’s nice and all that you asked to help me, but my mom is right here and I am not that big. She can catch me if I start to fall.”
I’m just learning how to use the cane. If I need help I will ask for it and my mom or dad will hold my arm up. People think I was born like this, and that I’m going to be like this forever.
I hope to be running before too long. It’s not too far-fetched – I’ve really made a lot of progress.
In the beginning I was in a bed, then I was in a wheelchair. Then came the Walker, and now a cane.
I want to walk so badly – it consumes me every day. People who see me compliment me if they saw me a long time ago. Back then I wasn’t walking as well and they can see the progress.
Plus, it’s important to just get going. People are not going to give you compliments if your arm moved a little more or if you seem more intelligent.
And it is really important to be more intelligent, too, because I’ve got to finish school.
I am taking an online class at Auburn University. It is very good to be in Auburn student once again – but I have to finish up my core classes at the physical school, so I need to have better mobility to go back.
And guess what? The class is in communication disorders. I, unfortunately, know all about that.
Working my way back to walking
Right now I’m in a program at the Shepherd Center, an inpatient hospital for brain injury, called Beyond Therapy.
Beyond Therapy is a difficult program that puts muscles to the test. It takes what you are capable of to the next level by toning up muscles that are rarely used.
The program is mainly concerned with helping you reach your lifetime goals. The staff is composed of physical therapists and exercise physiologists.
I’m very excited about being in the Beyond Therapy program. The trainers work on my speed, strength and technique. They work with me on shifting my weight from my left to my right. The most exciting part is that they help me walk. Hopefully soon I will be walking without a cane. That way, I can get some functional use of my right arm.
The first day they did a lot of testing, like how far I could walk in six minutes. Although I only walked half a basketball court, they will test me again when I am near the end.
I also did some leg lifts. I was able to push 25 pounds with my bad leg and 70 pounds with my good leg.
To tell you the truth, I’m not too scared of being sore the next day. What I’m really concerned about is simply being physically prepared for it.
Therapies you might not know about
As part of this process, I’ve become better acquainted than I ever imagined with the myriad medical procedures out there. Here are a few:
Botox: as a result of the injuries I sustained in the crash, I now have spasticity, or constant tightening of my muscles. Did you know that the same treatment for wrinkles can be used to get rid of spasticity?
You use Botox for spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and stroke. It makes the muscles less tight. For instance, you can put Botox in fingers so they can grab hold and toes to prevent curling. But it only lasts for a certain time, about three months.
Baclofen: Baclofen also helps to relieve spasticity following injury. It comes in a thing called “Baclofen pump” that’s about the size of a hockey puck. And here’s the kicker: a surgeon puts inside your stomach.
It then filters in the medicine through a tube in small amounts. You get refills every one to three months depending on the size of the pump. It is also available to be taken by Oral medicine pills.
Lokomat: the Lokomat is the best rehab device out there, in my opinion. It is a robotic walking device. Through different gaits, the lokomat makes your legs stronger and guides the legs through a normal walking pattern. This is supposed to tell your brain, “this is how I used to walk.”