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Blog: Survivor Stories

The Accident

Group photo of the Autobiography Workshop participants.

In May of 2018, Debbie suffered a brain injury from a car accident as she was driving with her husband, Scott, causing her to be put into a two-week, medically induced coma. Recently, Debbie participated in an autobiography workshop offered by the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska.

Below is an excerpt from Debbie’s autobiography entitled, “The Accident.”

On May 23, 2018, my day started out as any normal day, getting ready to eat breakfast, getting dressed, taking care of my dog Gypsy, and going to Blair at 10 a.m. for my granddaughter’s fun day on the last day of school for the year. I was excited and looking forward to seeing all the kids running, laughing, getting fresh air, and having fun.

I was driving my Chevy Blazer that I called Moon Babe because the color from Chevy people called it Moondust. (It was supposed to be a light blue, but all the service men always called it silver, because it looked gray.) My daughter and I were planning a garage sale that weekend, so I had things in the backend and a folding table. I left Gypsy at home, and climbed into the driver’s side, while Scott, my husband, was in the passenger seat. (I was always the driver in my car.) Off we went to enjoy the day through the town of Modale, which is about 30 minutes away from Blair. 

We took Austin Avenue, which is a very curvy backroad highway. Little did we know, our lives were to take a very big change in a matter of seconds! I was rounding the last corner by a farmhouse by the railroad tracks and a car in my lane came speeding right at me at 60 mph.  I couldn’t go left, into a semi, or right, into a big ditch. I didn’t have time to do anything but slam my right foot as hard as I could on the brake and brace for impact.

It was a new month of June when I woke. The sun was shining out my hospital window, and the T.V. was turned on the College World Series in Omaha. I don’t know who turned it on because no one was in the room. I was like that guy in the story, Gulliver's Travels, who was tied down and waking up with people all around after he fell asleep. I was told I had to have my arms tied down to my sides because I was throwing them around and could hurt myself. A nurse told me at Madonna that is normal for a person in trauma. I would be awake for a time and then doze off again. I remember Ruth and Mike coming into my room, and my daughter and granddaughter. I couldn’t talk or visit but was grateful that they came and were there off and on. That was the start of me being awake more and my journey back to a new beginning chapter in my life. 

There is so much to tell about what happened from the little bits I can remember and what people have told me. There are also so many questions that need answers, and some I may never know the answers to. I will probably always be asking God to show me what I am to learn from the accident, my two weeks in a medically induced coma, and waking up. 

All my dreams were in the dark, so each one I will have to write about someday too.  I am sure trying to make sense of them will take a while.

Having people tell you that you are a miracle being alive is a strange thing to hear and get used to because I don’t have the same understanding as they do of how close I was to death. To me, I was just asleep and dreaming for two weeks. I didn’t even know that it had been two weeks until I was told.

Waking up and not knowing what happened and dealing with focusing on healing, and my body being changed physically and mentally was and is my daily challenge. 

Emotionally, relationships have changed. To people that see me, I may look “normal” but inside, I am not who I was before.  It’s hard to explain because I don’t know what word to use, but “transformation” (maybe?), and I know that’s a good thing from God.  His hands are always around me, holding me through the mess and healing my heart and soul. 

I thank God each day as I open my curtains and I pray to God for a new, fun adventure as He leads me.  I am learning to listen, grow, heal, and love God, myself, and others more each day.

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As a part of the Autobiography Writing Workshop that the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska offers, writers share comments about what they connected to, learned, or similarly experienced in each other’s stories. About Debbie’s sharing experiences over her lifetime, a participant in the autobiography group wrote:

“Listening to your sometimes humorous and always genuine stories of life as an adopted child who never really felt like she belonged was incredible.  You have a talent for writing the way you talk.  I know it is difficult but, so many children will be able to relate to your stories and to your pure heart.

In talking about the accident, you have enlightened so many people to issues of being the patient.  Your strength, your will to survive, and how your life has changed are inspiring. Keep talking and keep writings, people need to know.”

Debbie’s shared the following about her experience participating in the autobiography workshop: “I met some amazing new people to learn from their experience and learned things about myself [that] also helped my memory.”

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