Beyond Adversity

Enjoying Life After Adversity

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After the Crash

2014-0608 Stop Sign

I survived a traumatic brain injury in 1991.  My Volvo wagon was broadsided by a ¾ ton pickup which was travelling about 50 miles per hour, when I ran a stop sign and the vehicles collided.  The collision broke my jaw and caused a brainstem injury.  After the accident, I don’t remember saying to myself “Get it together, Self,” but I did get it together. MY ADVICE:  Stop at stop signs and pay attention to your surroundings.

Airlifted to Palmdale hospital in Southern California, I remained in a collision-induced coma for 3 days.   Doctors installed a shunt to relieve pressure on my brain caused by the buildup of fluid.

My husband and I had been college athletes and, after educatin2014-0608 Good People Quoteg himself about brain injuries, he knew he could teach me what I needed to do, to get transferred to another hospital, rather than a nursing home, after my initial recovery.  I grabbed a tennis ball held flat in the palm of his hand.  At his request, and because I was able to respond to his instruction, I went to the rehab unit at Northridge Hospital near Los Angeles, California.  Well done Gary!  MY ADVICE:  Surround yourself with understanding, positive, patient, and smart people.

I arrived at Northridge Hospital’s rehab unit with my jaw wired shut, for the breaks to heal, and no motor skills on my right side.  I wasn’t just weak; on that side, all skills were gone.  I spent the following 4 months in rehabilitation; physical, occupational and cognitive therapies. A nurse pushed my wheelchair across the street to a dentist, who tried to save my teeth with root canals, but my pearly whites died anyway. Several were then removed, and top and bottom bridges of new teeth were built.  I remember actually dozing in the dentist’s chair.  I began speech therapy after my jaw and teeth were fixed.

Doctors casted my right arm at increasing angles, away from where it had drawn up; balled fist to shoulder.  During cognitive therapy I played the computer game, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego.  I must have found her because I moved on to other things.

2014-0608 Shopping CartI recall walking with a shopping cart, between two parallel bars, up and down a set of practice stairs, on a tread mill, with a loft strand cane, a regular cane, and now unassisted.  I don’t like using a cane now because for it to really work, I have to hold it in my good hand, and I like to have that available to catch myself if I fall.  I don’t remember much of my cognitive therapy.  I may have done some math and worksheets that looked like they were taken from an early elementary school class.  And, I completed lots of puzzles!

In between all the physical and cognitive therapy, the occupational therapists put a knife in my compromised hand so I could cut an apple. I am fortunate to have received the rehab services, but after 4 months my insurance carrier would no longer pay for in-patient therapy so I continued therapy for a while as an out-patient.  MY ADVICE:  Do everything the staff asks you to do; they almost always know what they are doing.

I returned home with a wheel chair, a loft strand cane, a brace2014-0608 Two Children for my lower leg/ankle, a device to keep my hand open when I slept, high tops, and an orthotic for my bad foot. My husband hired a nanny to care for me, my 2 children, and a few things around the house because I spent a lot of time at therapy and I was very tired after therapy.

2014-0608 Lexie Wyman TodayShortly after I came home, I had eye surgeries to correct double vision. I still have double vision, but to a much lesser extent.  One eye continues to wander. I walk with an unmistakable limp, and my balance is horrendous.  I ride a recumbent bike, and flail about in a small pool for exercise.  After sustaining my TBI, I worked in education, as a teacher, and then as a Special Education aide for about 12 years. My previous husband and I went our separate ways, but we still have a great friendship even though I have a new husband. I am now on Disability, but I continue to hold paid coaching positions in cross country and track.  My ADVICE:  Keep your passions alive, and do whatever you can do to break a sweat.

In conclusion, I think the education, experiences, and attitudes that were engrained in me before the accident, helped save me after the accident.

  • I surrounded myself with good, positive, and supportive people.
  • I maintained a positive attitude.
  • I was determined to win.

There are things I am sorry for having done or said, but I now know there was a reason.  My ADVICE:  Don’t walk around with a black cloud over your head, stay as positive as you can, but allow yourself quiet, alone time. 

 Credits

Thanks to Lexie Wyman for sharing her story; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.

 

Scott
Even after brain surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments to eradicate his brain cancer, Scott continued to work; continued to study; and earned professional certifications from the Project Management Institute, American Society of Quality, and Stanford University School of Professional Development. How were all of these achievements possible at a time when Scott was struggling with the hurdles of brain injury? The answers are in this blog.

6 Responses to “After the Crash”

  • Ruthann Walsh says:

    Lexie I think you are strongest person I know. Seeing you in the hospital unconscious to how you are now is the fruits of such hard work. God Bless. Ruthann.

  • lexie wyman says:

    I live every day with the effects of my T.B.I. but think that if I had the internet available then I might have got caught up in the ‘wo is me,’ look what I could be facing! I’ve written a book and am in the process of getting it published. It was something I had to do to get it all straight in my head. I hope you’re able to read it someday.

  • Great advice but I’d change the header you use from “What, or who, is most responsible for your recovery?” to you are ultimately responsible for your recovery” even though I think that the word has a hidden anchor in it which is explained when one checks out the definition of the word recovery: return to normal state: the return of something to a normal or improved state after a setback or loss
    gaining back of something lost: the regaining of something lost or taken away

    Because as you and I know that once you have a tbi you can never
    return to a normal state!

    Just my thoughts go to my website http://www.turndisabilitytoability.com

    LOVE

    FF

    • Scott says:

      Fantastic Frank, in general, do you believe a statement is more engaging than a question? Or, was your comment about this one specific post? I agree that it is not a great idea to focus or dwell on a past that can never be reached again (until time travel becomes a reality), but in my mind “recovery” also refers to the process of moving from where you are to a place in the future where you would like to be. In my specific case, recovery is the process of going from a point(11 years ago) where I could not think, move, eat, drink, or communicate to the point where I am today thinking, teaching, speaking, typing, writing, reading, communicating, learning, enjoying, walking, moving, volunteering, blogging, eating, drinking, etc. Of course recovery means that I never stop learning and growing. To some degree, I feel that I grew at a much slower pace before my injury.


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**** About The Author ****

During the past 13 years, I have been diagnosed with cancer, brain injury, balance issues, stroke, ataxia, visual impairment, and auditory challenges. I have overcome significant adversity! I can explain how to overcome your challenges. I am a very active Toastmaster and a motivational speaker.