“I’m not the ‘me’ I used to know.”
That sentence sums up for me how I’ve felt since I woke up from a coma in June 1988.
The quote is from another traumatic brain injury survivor. I have since lost that little scrap of paper I carried around in my wallet for many years.
In one moment my world was turned upside down.
We were hit head-on by a drunk driver. I was driving and the most seriously injured. I was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center and was in a coma for eleven days.
Something happens when you have been to the edge of death and have been given a second chance at life.
Phillip and I had been married just seven short months and we lived in Tampa, Florida. The crash happened on Friday night, Memorial Day weekend at about 11:30 pm on our way home from Clearwater to Tampa. I was driving. Phillip was in the passenger seat. An old friend and my roommate before we got married was in the backseat. We had actually driven over to Clearwater to feed her boss’s dogs. I volunteered to drive as they were both tired from a long week of work.
We never made it home.
I have always known that if I had not been wearing a seat belt, I would have died that night. (Airbags or automatic seat belts did not become mandatory in passenger vehicles until the next year.)
Phillip was the only one who was able to get out of the car and get help. The drunk driver had crossed the center line and I took the brunt of the impact. A two lane highway with water on the right side. No one could have driven out of it. It took me many years to really understand that.
My friend was trapped in the backseat with a crushed hip. I had grand mal seizures and I stopped breathing on the helicopter. I was put on a ventilator at the hospital and the next night, my heart stopped beating.
Believe me when I say it is a miracle that I am typing this today. That I can walk and talk is nothing I take for granted.
I’ve lost count of the life lessons I’ve learned from this experience.
Maybe, in the coming weeks, I’ll start by sharing the things I did in the hospital when I woke up. Let’s just say I was very, very busy…
It will be 20 years on May 27, 2008.
It is a date we will never forget.
It is an anniversary we do not celebrate.
It is our life and the people we love that we treasure…