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. 


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.



  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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



    1. 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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