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In the Blink of an Eye: My Traumatic Brain Injury: A Three-Part Series

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This three-part series takes you through my devastating diagnosis of a TBI and how it lead to my nursing career and ultimately a prognosis of hope.

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In the Blink of an Eye: My Traumatic Brain Injury: A Three-Part Series

My Traumatic Brain Injury: The Devastating Diagnosis Leading to My Nursing Career and a Prognosis of Hope - A Three-Part Series

Part One: In the Blink of an Eye

Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a doctor. In fact, I had constructed a very straightforward plan to do so since I was nine-years-old. I had thought of everything except for a plan B. Because I was so certain this was my path there was never a need for a backup plan. Having always been an overachiever, let's just say that when I put my mind to something I rarely failed. And so it began, one step at a time, with zero doubt in my mind, I would become a doctor. Except the Universe had other plans for me.

It was 1985 and I was nineteen years old. I had worked for a year after high school to save money for college. Because I knew exactly where I wanted to go I only applied to the University of Pittsburgh. Yes, I know how risky that sounds but at the time it made perfect sense to me. When I received my acceptance letter I was pleased, but it was more of a "check off the box" kind of feeling for me. Everything was going exactly as I had planned for the last ten years of my life, until the day that none of that mattered.

During the year I was saving up for college I also bought my first car completely on my own. I called her the Green Queen. She was a 1969 Cougar and my prized possession. There was no way I was leaving her behind when I went to college so I decided I'd drive her across the country from CA to PA. Sadly, we never made it past AZ. The Green Queen couldn't handle the 121-degree heat and overheated in the middle of a desolate highway. What happened next would forever change my life.

As quickly as I felt relieved to see a car pulling into the emergency lane behind me, I was alarmed to realize how fast it was approaching. Before I was able to react a drunk driver accelerating to over 85MPH rear-ended me. The sound of the impact was deafening as the rear end of my car was smashed into the back seat and the back seat quickly pushed forward into the front seat. All the windows exploded and glass began to fly into me from all directions. My body was thrown forward with such force I felt like a rag doll. And then everything just stopped and for a moment time seemed to stand still. All that remained was the ringing in my ears and the thick smell of gas.

Instinctually, I knew I needed to get out of the car and run away from the smell of gas as quickly as possible. But at the same time, my brain could not understand what just happened. It felt like everything was in slow motion. Next thing I know I am standing on top of the embankment looking down at the Green Queen. I am totally shocked to see that she is literally half the car she used to be. I fall to the ground, unable to comprehend what I am seeing.

What felt like only seconds later, I found myself lying on the ground, looking up at the bloody face of the drunk driver. Many people were talking above and around me. Someone was holding my head but I couldn't move to see who it was. Her voice was kind and reassuring and she seemed to know what she was doing so I listened to her. Turns out she and her husband had passed my car right before the accident. When they heard the impact, they turned around to come back to see if they could help. I found out later she was a registered nurse. She stayed with me until the ambulance arrived.

After being evaluated at the hospital, which included an X-ray of my neck and head, I was told I had no fractures and could be discharged. Due to the high speed of the impact, I was given a diagnosis of a concussion and whiplash. They told me to return to the hospital if I started vomiting or had a severe headache. Otherwise, I should be fine. Two days later I could not lift my head off my pillow and I was beginning to miss significant pieces of times and events in my life. I was anything but fine.

You can read more about my journey in part two of this three-part series:

Anything but Fine: My Traumatic Brain Injury: Part 2

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Angie is a registered nurse business owner and the author of Prognosis H+O+P+E. She is passionate about bringing humanity back to healthcare through Care-Giver and Care-Seeker collaboration.

1 Like, 3 Followers, 3 Articles, 1,249 Visitors, and 16 Posts.

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Thank you for sharing what must have been a horrible experience for you. I can't wait to read the rest of the story. I am so glad you lived to tell about it.

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Thank you so much for those kind words. Yes, at the time it completely had a negative impact on my life. Now I see it as a blessing that put me on my true path as a nurse.

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Thank you for sharing your story. I am a FNP and I too suffered a head injury. Mine was from a softball in the outfield that picked up speed as it fell between my glove and hit the right side of my face. Six fractures later (right orbital, two maxillary sinus, nasal bone on both sides, the septum, and a laceration with sutures between my right eye and nose. I heard the pole on pole sound in both ears for a couple of days, my contact smashed in right eye as it swelled shut. I was smh and laughing a little in disbelief as it happened because freak things keep happening. I could also feel my face swelling up while blood profusely poured out the right side of my eye/nose. The right side of my head/face still aches to the date. I always pray I do not develop any problems while trying not to make the little things that happen relate to any type of significant brain injury. I pray for you as well. I can't wait to read your book.

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I was in a bad MVA when I was 19 - my VW bug was hit, spun and wrapped around a telephone resulting in my care became a minny accordion. I was knocked unconscious, lasting for about 8 hrs. and was extricated out of my car - this took approximately 3-4hrs. I can remember waking up during extrication with the EMT telling me they are trying to get to me, and then next time I woke up was in the ER. First thing I remember them asking was for me to submit to a drug and alcohol screen, which I did. I asked that the person who hit me have one as well but I was told he were 'exempt'. I was discharged that night and sent home. I returned one week later with symptoms of fainting and vomiting - diagnosed with concussion - hospitalized for one week but no follow up treatment was ordered - I guess back then they had no idea what to do. I can tell you I was in my pre-nursing classes at the time and when I returned, I had the hardest time remembering anything which still happens to this day. Nursing school was a constant struggle and I had to actually learn everything as I could not commit anything to memory. I have lived with severe neck pain and memory loss - it saddens me that none of my providers over the years recommended any type of neuropsyche evaluations. I fear going into my older years as already having issues with memory and recall. My prayers are with you!

Edited by monkey205

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So very sorry to hear you also had your life changed so drastically at the same age. We weren't prepared for what we had to face at the age of 19. The more I talk about my story the more I realize I am not alone. There are so many of us out there with untreated TBIs. I have some of the same fears you do about aging. I also have chronic neck and back pain. When I am tired or stressed my symptoms

seem to worsen quite a bit. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It means so much to me to know I am not alone.

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Wow! Thank you for sharing your story too. I played left field in softball for many years. Back then we didn't wear sunglasses when we played and sometimes I would lose the ball in the sun. I always knew it would hurt like heck to be hit with the ball...but never thought about a head injury. Sorry to hear you still have pain related to the injury. I hope knowing you are not alone helps a little bit.

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I was in a bad MVA when I was 19 - my VW bug was hit, spun and wrapped around a telephone resulting in my care became a minny accordion. I was knocked unconscious, lasting for about 8 hrs. and was extricated out of my car - this took approximately 3-4hrs. I can remember waking up during extrication with the EMT telling me they are trying to get to me, and then next time I woke up was in the ER. First thing I remember them asking was for me to submit to a drug and alcohol screen, which I did. I asked that the person who hit me have one as well but I was told he were 'exempt'. I was discharged that night and sent home. I returned one week later with symptoms of fainting and vomiting - diagnosed with concussion - hospitalized for one week but no follow up treatment was ordered - I guess back then they had no idea what to do. I can tell you I was in my pre-nursing classes at the time and when I returned, I had the hardest time remembering anything which still happens to this day. Nursing school was a constant struggle and I had to actually learn everything as I could not commit anything to memory. I have lived with severe neck pain and memory loss - it saddens me that none of my providers over the years recommended any type of neuropsyche evaluations. I fear going into my older years as already having issues with memory and recall. My prayers are with you!

wHO WAS this exempt individual? The cop's son? The mayor's daughter? That really makes me angry. He caused all of this horror but was exempt? I hope you got a lawyer.

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Wow! Thank you for sharing your story too. I played left field in softball for many years. Back then we didn't wear sunglasses when we played and sometimes I would lose the ball in the sun. I always knew it would hurt like heck to be hit with the ball...but never thought about a head injury. Sorry to hear you still have pain related to the injury. I hope knowing you are not alone helps a little bit.

Im 69.5 years old.... had so many concussions, horses, MVA s I've lost count.. but landed on my feet ( at the outcome) like a cat -- failed retirement 4 times... still working... now in home health?.... a vacation from critical care..... best wishes, I hope you come out as I have..

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Im 69.5 years old.... had so many concussions, horses, MVA s I've lost count.. but landed on my feet ( at the outcome) like a cat -- failed retirement 4 times... still working... now in home health?.... a vacation from critical care..... best wishes, I hope you come out as I have..

Sounds like you are definitely a survivor!

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