The following post was written by Bailey Ehasz who is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor and co-administrator of the Facebook TBI group “TBI Survivors & Caregivers Support for Teens and Adults.” If you have any questions for Bailey, please contact her directly at http://www.facebook.com/groups/paranormally/. If you do not use Facebook, and you want to contact Bailey, please use the Contact page on my blog and I will contact Bailey for you.
My name is Bailey Ehasz and I’m very grateful to be able to share my journey. When I was 11 years old, I was struck by a Ford F-150 while walking with a friend in a crosswalk on a beautiful afternoon. According to the Ford website, the F-150 weighs approximately 11,300 pounds. I’m not sure how fast the driver was going, but when the F-150 hit me, the impact launched me 50 feet. Due to the impact, I have roughly no memory of the six months prior to impact, or the four months after impact when I was semiconscious. As such, my memory of the initial treatment is based on what family, friends, doctors, nurses, and social workers told me. According to my family, the picture above shows me while I was recovering from the brain surgery that occurred shortly after I was airlifted to the hospital.
Upon impact, or possibly upon landing after the impact, I became unconscious and was in a limitless black space where I could not feel anything, but thought I could talk. At first, I thought I was in an awesome dream – one in which I could communicate freely. However, when the dream continued much longer than a typical dream, I started to think I was dead. I wasn’t sure whether I went to heaven or not. I heard a very trustworthy, soothing voice. Then, I realized I had been asleep. I woke up, knew what happened, and knew with certainty how to recover.
I spent approximately six months as an inpatient at the hospital, four months as an outpatient at the hospital, and two-and-a half years in therapy. During that time, some of the doctors told my parents I would never be the same. I struggled, sure, because I was trying to recover. I knew what I had to do — put my head and my heart into what I was doing. It worked tremendously well. I allowed myself to be pushed beyond expectations. I knew that in order to regain the abilities I lost, I would have to fight hard!
I relearned how to eat solid food, move my right arm and walk. I WALKED out of the hospital! When I got home, I slept downstairs for two months, because I could not bear weight on my right leg. But, with time, I was able to walk upstairs and sleep in my bedroom. I returned to school a few weeks after holiday break, to regular education classes. I still had my personality — stubborn, animal-loving, and creative. I proved the doctors wrong. I am an independent teenager with dreams and expectations. I don’t allow myself to dwell on negatives. Each day is a new chance to succeed. I have learned to set small goals and to make it a priority to achieve them no matter how small. So far, it has worked. I continue to excel at home and school. I realize embracing and supporting the post-injury me will make for better tomorrows. I wouldn’t wish a TBI on anyone, but it has made me the person I am today and I love that person. Even though my homework takes me longer to complete, and I sometimes take a bit longer to get to classes, I can complete my homework and I can attend classes.
When I need to get out of a down mood, I write. Sometimes I write poetry, other times I just journal random mixed up emotions. A technique that works well for me is to write my negative thoughts and then rip the paper into many pieces, essentially letting go of anything that could hold me back.
I have always known I would go to college. My career choice has changed over the years but not my motivation to do well academically. I plan to be an author one day, so my college major will most likely be in creative writing. My grades are pretty good too, A’s and B’s. I was just invited to become a member of The National Honors Society. That just goes to disprove the prognosis that doctors gave my parents; I am able to learn and absorb new information. My parents were told I would have permanent deficits and would require special education. I have never required special education. It was suggested, but my mom refused to allow the school to treat me any differently than it had prior to the impact.
I have off days like everyone else. In those off times I remind myself I will be starting my junior year of high school, I survived the impact of an F-150, I recovered from brain injury, I am alive, and I have a purpose. A lot of good things have happened during the past few years. I still experience memory loss, occasional challenges with processing speed, and a limp, but these are simply challenges that I will eventually overcome.
Having a brain injury does not define me. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Whether that reason is a lesson for me or someone else, I will probably never know and that’s okay with me. I have become stronger, braver, and wiser on account of my journey.