A Defining Moment for Cindy
I am a 20-year post-TBI survivor. On Dec. 23, 1999, I hit black ice and wrapped my car around a pole. It was 19 minutes until help arrived which caused anoxic encephalopathy along with a TBI that the neurologist equated to shaken baby syndrome. With a lacerated liver, bladder and kidney, I was filling up with blood.
After using the Jaws of Life to get me out, and a life flight to an Omaha hospital, I spent 21 days in a coma with five broken bones in my back, broken pelvis, pubic bone, and sacral and two collapsed lungs. I had to have a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. My journey included 49 days in two different hospitals.
My husband, Ben, and I celebrated our two-year anniversary in the hospital when I was still in a coma. Released from the hospital two months earlier than expected, I spent months going to outpatient rehab. I had to relearn how to walk, talk, write, eat, socialize, pretty much everything.
I have been on disability since July, 2000. I was diagnosed with Treatment- Resistant Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). But the number one diagnosis is PTSD. Other diagnosis like Personalities Disorder Cluster and mild neurocognitive disorder (early onset dementia) also explain my on-going symptoms. I suffer from major cognitive deficits, nerve damage in my left ear, reduced feeling and cold sensitivity in my left leg, Reflective Sympathetic Dystrophy in my left ankle, and double vision (both from nerve damage and optically). But the doctors and nurses call me a walking miracle as they told my husband I could be a vegetable for the rest of my life.
On the back of my head, there remains a two inch round bald spot where the pole rubbed off the hair follicles. I feel this is where God literally ‘smacked me upside the head’ to get my attention. Well, it worked. I thank Him every day for what He has allowed and what was prevented. It is a blessing that I was alone in the car. My first child, who was 11 months old at the time, and my husband were saved. With the injuries I sustained in the car accident, my other three children are also considered miracles.
My true identity is found in Jesus Christ, I am a child of God! But I have been told more than a few times ‘don’t let your brain injury define you;’ from someone that has never had one, mind you. And for a while I thought, well maybe you’re right, and I tried not to let it define me. But I feel like it DOES define me now. I am a different person because of my TBI, it’s what defines the new me. I am this way, I do the things I do, I say what I say, and think what I think, BECAUSE of my TBI! So, I’m sorry, but it definitely is what defines me, and I will not apologize for it, or feel bad about it. It is who I am. Now I can take this new defined me, and try to help others understand and be ok with their new defined person. Or I can wallow in my new me, and hate the new me. I am struggling with loving this new me, and struggling to not cry every day, but I feel really good when I can help others! So, being a 20-year TBI survivor, please tell me how I can help you?