Yup. That’s me. The one with the “Acquired Brain Injury.”
When I was 15 years old, I was in a serious car accident. I was hit by a car. Nope, I wasn’t in a car. Yes, I ended up in the hospital.
I don’t remember much about the car accident. In fact, I don’t remember anything. Not the ambulance ride. Not the day of the accident. Barely remember the day before. I think I can remember a few days before the accident but I am not sure.
Some of the long-term effects I experience from this ABI are:
- Hearing loss
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in my ears (constantly…worse when I am stressed out)
Before the accident, I had perfect vision. No migraines. No ringing in my ears. Honor roll student. Could remember anything after reading it once.
I know it’s not that big of a deal to not be able to remember for some people, but to me, as a kid, it was a big deal to me. I was kind of a perfectionist then. It wasn’t good. I was too hard on myself. This is why I say one of the best things that happened to me was this car accident. Yes, I know I could have died, so it kind of wasn’t the best thing in the same sense.
I am still somewhat of a perfectionist now but I am not as hard on myself as I was then. Then, I was also an A+ student. I know that some kids beat themselves up over a B. I used to be that kid. Today, I pat myself on the back for a B. An A+ or even just an A, I really am thankful for. I know that is my hard work and dedication going into earning that grade.
After my car accident, I had to go to the “resource room” or as some other kids called it “special ed.” It wasn’t considered “cool” to be in that room. I didn’t like it then, but now I beg to differ. I received the help that I needed. Some people might say, “Oh I wish I could receive extensions for homework” or “I wish I had extra time to write tests.” Since being able to have these accommodations, I try very hard to work towards the deadline date just as everyone else. When I write a test, I try very hard to write within the time frame. I have yet to use the extra time or yet to ask for an extension.
Now in my first year of university, I am thankful that I pushed myself. Most importantly, I am thankful that my family supported me.
One of the big changes after my car accident was my friendships. Even though I made some new friends, I lost some as well. I wasn’t able to play sports. I wasn’t able to go on the rides at the fair. I couldn’t do the things I used to do. My life changed. My memory was shot. My attention didn’t fair. I had frequent panic attacks. I fell a year behind in school. I also missed a lot of school in high school because of frequent headaches.
I know that immediately after my car accident, everyone kept telling me, “Life is going to be different.” I knew it was going to be different. School was different. Friends treated me differently. I knew it was going to be different, and I didn’t have to be told that. What those people failed to also tell me was that is that I wouldn’t be much different from anyone else, if I worked hard and if I developed a routine/system that works for me.
Looking at me, one will never guess that I have an ABI. This is the problem with having an ABI. Nobody knows (That is not to say one should go around advertising they have one, but one shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone they have it without fear of being judged).Another problem is that nobody understands. Not even your family (I know my family loves me, and vice versa, but they will never understand what I went through immediately after my accident).
People with an ABI need support, encouragement, and motivation. When I say anything is possible, I mean anything is possible. I believe that people in the health care system, limit their patients to what they are really capable of doing. Ever hear of those stories where people are told they can never walk again, but they worked very hard at learning how to walk again. They worked so hard, that they actually defied a doctor’s word and actually walked again. That is what it is like for having an ABI.
People kept telling me I would have memory problems and attention problems, amongst other problems (like problems in certain subject areas). I will admit that I did have those problems, but I worked very hard at not wanting to have them anymore. I wanted to remember, and still work on my memory today. I know it seems like a trivial thing to most people, but imagine not having a very good memory at the age of 15 years, or better yet no memory at all. I woke up every day. I forced myself to remember what happened the previous day. Some days I could remember. Other days I couldn’t even remember going to bed. I would ask myself, “How did I end up in bed?” I worked hard at my memory. I even got a waitressing job at 18 years old. My memory still wasn’t that great. By getting this job, I knew very well I would have to remember people’s orders, even if I wrote the orders down–I would have to remember who ordered what and at what table. That job certainly helped my memory. I could make quick change and remember several orders at a time on several tables, and even remembered regular customers’ drinks. I also did (and still do) frequent logic and other types of puzzles to help build my brain again. One might look at my bookshelf and say I am a “nerd.” Nope, I am just trying to build my brain again.
My life since the car accident has changed. It has changed for the better. I have many dreams and goals. One of my dreams is to share my story. My message would be to others: Don’t give up. Simple enough. Yet, what I want people to learn from my story is that it’s the little things that matter in life. Don’t take them for granted because for me the only thing that mattered at one point is that I made it through the day just so that I could live to remember it tomorrow.
I hope one day to be that person that others can go to and look up to for guidance, advice, and be comfortable enough to share their own story with me!