|Posted on August 22, 2016 at 4:55 AM||comments (2)|
It’s been ten years since Rachel’s world was turned upside down in a blink of an eye. She asked dad to write this blog because, quite frankly, she is tired of talking about herself.
August 22, 2006 feels like a lifetime ago; yet it seems like it all happened yesterday. The call at 10:20 pm stating your daughter was shot in the head. The ride to the hospital, shaking uncontrollably the whole way. Arriving at the ER and receiving the news that Rachel has been shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the head. The bullet is lodged too deep in the brain and there is nothing that can be done. Call family in because she probably won’t make it through the night. What a nightmare! Well, against all odds, Rachel not only survived the night, but her recovery is considered a miracle, even among the medical professionals.
Today, Rachel is without a doubt, the happiest, most upbeat person I know. Anyone who has ever met her will have to agree. People are always asking if she was always this happy. What was she like before the injury? My response is that this injury didn’t change her personality one bit. She is the same person today as she was ten years ago. Sure, she has left side weakness, memory loss and other issues, but Rachel’s personality, character and spirit are intact. Her faith, kindness, honesty and wit is still very much a part of her being today as it was ten years ago. I still haven’t gotten over all the mean-spirited comments about Rachel, her friends and family from the “uninformed” (I’m being nice) by means of letters to the editor, radio talk shows, snail mail and even phone calls. If only these people would have spent one minute with my daughter, they would have walked away with a much different perspective.
Here are a few events that I can remember from before the injury that best describes how Rachel was and still is:
Everyone had gathered on the football field and made a large circle around those who were speaking. I ended up standing next to a young man I'd never seen before (and to be honest I never saw him again). Everyone was sharing their favorite Rachel "stories" and I asked him how he knew her. He said he didn't really know her but that the first day of class she walked into the room and sat next to him. "I'm the kid no one sits next to and she walked right up, asked if anyone was sitting there, sat down, and started talking to me. And every day after that she came in smiling and talked to me." I definitely got the feeling that didn't happen to him often. He said that's what he liked the best about her - she treated everyone the same no matter who you were. "She was so popular and I'm the opposite but she didn't care."
It’s interesting how a tragic event like this can affect the people surrounding you. Whether they just can’t stand to see Rachel injured, or perhaps they don’t know how to deal with it, or maybe they just don’t want to be burdened, but whatever the reason, some people who were once close to Rachel have backed away. BUT, so many new, wonderful people have entered her life. The ones now in her life just make her recovery all the more remarkable. Rachel’s place of employment, The Gentle Dentist, did not have to hire her especially only a couple of years removed from the injury. They took the chance, put her under their wings and made Rachel flourish. She is so much a part of their team and if not for them, I shudder to think where Rachel would be in her recovery. Thank you, Gentle Dentist!
What Rachel has lost bothers me more than words can describe. But not Rachel, she always smiles and says these are the cards that were dealt and God wants me to make the most of it. She always compares her situation to someone who has it worse and realizes how fortunate she is.
Rachel remembers all the wonderful support she received following the injury and she wants very much to pay it forward. For years now, she has volunteered weekly at “A Kid Again”, an organization that allows children with life-threatening illnesses to feel like a kid again. Just this last Friday she received the 2016 “Volunteer of the Year” award. How proud she makes us!
There have been many triumphs and also a few set-backs these past ten years. So much has been taken away from Rachel and there are times I become sad when I start dwelling on this, but then all it takes is for Rachel to greet me with a smile after a long day asking me how my day went. I know now all is right with the world again.
We love you, Rachel . . . looking forward to what the next 10 years will bring!
|Posted on August 24, 2015 at 12:05 AM||comments (3)|
Yesterday, marked nine years since my life took a drastic detour. I tried to make the day as normal as possible, but even with my compromised memory, I still can't forget it. Many people consider my greatest trait to be a positive attitude, but even with that, I still have my days. If you would allow me to vent, just for this one day, I'd like for those reading this blog to put yourself in my shoes . . .
Imagine - being a seventeen year old high school student with your whole life ahead of you.
Imagine - running, performing back handsprings, cartwheels, etc.
Imagine - after years of training, earning your independence such as driving, a job, etc.
Imagine - having a close knit group of friends to share your ups and downs with.
Imagine - planning for college to study for your career choice.
Imagine - hoping for that big church wedding with the man of your dreams and starting a family with him.
Now imagine losing it all in a split second!
No college, no driving, no independence, no longer in the same place as your friends, no becoming a school teacher, no becoming a wife and mother, no cartwheels (being lucky to be able to stay upright!), no roller coasters for fear of the bullet becoming dislodged in your brain, sitting around waiting for friends to call, depending on others to take you places. I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the gist!
Thank you for allowing me to rant! Now, I'll go back to my happy, positive self!
|Posted on November 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM||comments (3)|
I hope each of you had a chance to pick up a copy of "Miracles and Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories of Survival." The book has been a hot seller, the first edition has already been sold out! I finished reading the book and can assure you, it's well worth your time! Here's a link to the book's Facebook page:
This month, I sat on a panel for the Disability Awareness talk for medical students at The Ohio State University. I was asked to share with the students how my disability impacts my life so they would have a better idea of how to approach future patients with disabilities. The panel consisted of approximately seven people encompassing a variety of disabilities including TBI, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Paraplegia. I hope that our answers satisfied the questions presented by the medical students.
Also, last month I was the keynote speaker at the Ohio Statehouse for the Governor's Council on People with Disabilities. Below is my bio that was in the program for this annual meeting. I spoke to an audience of about a hundred people. I was so honored to have been asked to speak at this worthy event.
|Posted on August 30, 2014 at 3:35 PM||comments (1)|
Exciting news! "Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories of Survival" has been released and people have already started receiving it. Please consider buying yourself a copy, not just for my story, but also for the other 49 truly inspiring stories of survival. I am honored to be a contributor to this book and if my story can inspire just one person, then mission accomplished! I'm so looking forward to reading the other stories in the book!
|Posted on April 30, 2014 at 8:25 PM||comments (0)|
A couple exciting events have occurred recently: One of my closest friends teaches high school Spanish a couple of hours away. She asked me to speak to her students. I’ve spoken in various places previously, but this was my first time speaking to high school students. She picked me up bright and early and I observed her first few classes of the day. I spoke to her students about overcoming adversity and explained my story. As always, it was great to reach out to and connect with others in hopes of helping them realize that they can overcome any struggles they’re facing. They asked insightful questions, some pertaining to how have my dreams changed from before my injury and how my life is different now? I really had to think on my response to that question. One way my dreams have changed is before my injury, I was certain that I was going to become a teacher, but now I don’t think teaching is the best fit for me. They seemed to be very intrigued with what I had to say. I’m guessing they felt that they could connect to me because I was close to their age at the time I was injured. Hopefully, they were given a greater outlook and appreciation on life! Of course, it was also nice to spend the day with my friend and see what she does each day.
The second event that's happened to me was last year, I was contacted by author Nancy B. Kennedy, who has written a series of inspirational books titled “Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring stories from Doctors", “Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring stories from Military Chaplains” and “Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring stories from Moms”. She is currently working on the fourth book to this series titled "Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring stories of Survival”. She asked me if I would consider having my story included in this book! It is slated to be released in September. You can pre-order your copy by going to the book’s Amazon page: Here it is. Her books really are eye opening and inspiring! This is really exciting for me! Hope you all consider purchasing a copy for yourself
|Posted on March 2, 2014 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Sometimes I just can't help but think of where I would be in my life had this injury not occurred.
Where would I have gone to college? What major would I have decided upon? Would I have become the teacher I always dreamed to be? Would my friends and I have remained close? Who would my new friends be? Would I still be with the boyfriend I had at the time of my injury, or would I have a new one? Would I be engaged or married with my own family? So many unanswered questions! I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, but sometimes I just can’t help it. Thankfully, I quickly snap out of this thought and start focusing on the present and all I have been blessed with.
If not for the injury, I wouldn’t have experienced teaching preschool at the career center, or working at my job at the dental office, which I love! I would never have learned to appreciate the value of hard work and determination and probably wouldn't have overcome my fear of public speaking! I also would not have developed the many relationships with all the people who have come into my life and impacted it in so many ways: other brain injury survivors, caregivers, new friends, teachers, co-workers, therapists, etc., the friendships I have obtained along the way are indescribable.
I realize focusing on the what-ifs is unhealthy, but sometimes I just can’t help it!
I guess it’s just human nature!
|Posted on February 1, 2014 at 4:50 PM||comments (1)|
Over the last couple years, I've been attending a young adult brain injury support group at Ohio State's Dodd Hall. We had anywhere from 7-10 people attend on a monthly basis, where we discussed our triumphs, failures, fears, struggles, hopes and dreams. It was a place I could go and people would truly understand what I was going through and without being judged. We all really looked forward to our monthly meeting because, for many of us, it was really the only social outlet we had.
At our last meeting, we were told that the support group is going to disband. The leader retired and the hospital couldn’t find a replacement. So, instead of continuing to look for a successor, they gave up and ended it. What about us?! Does anyone really care?
I'm sad because the other members truly understood first-hand what having TBI was like. We helped each other through the challenges that came as a result of brain injury. During our sessions, we discussed difficulties we were having and the group would brainstorm ideas to solve that problem. Even though every brain injury is different, there were many struggles we shared with one another.
The support group was something we could count on each month.
It's a shame that we are ending at a time when TBI is more frequently in the news, like with Gabby Gifford, Bob Woodruff, and even sports related brain injuries. You would think that a hospital the size of Ohio State Medical Center, with such a prestigious rehabilitation unit, would be able to continue such a group.
I, for one, will walk away from this experience having made a difference in my life. I saw firsthand many ways traumatic brain injuries can affect people, depending on how severe each person's particular injury is.
Support group made me very grateful for how far I have come in this endless journey. I can only hope they’ve gotten as much from me as I have from them!
Sometimes I feel that people treat brain injuries like a broken bone, after a few months of therapy, you’re all healed. I think it should be treated more like a chronic disease because it’s something that will affect us for the rest of our lives. To all of my support group friends: Stay strong and keep fighting!
|Posted on January 11, 2014 at 6:10 PM||comments (3)|
Over the last few months, I have had immense pain in my left foot. The pain has gotten gradually worse, to the point where it has affected my social life and I was taking pain meds multiple times a day. The strange thing about it is, the pain traveled throughout my foot from day to day. It went from the heel, to the toe, to the arch; it was never in the same spot two days in a row! There were even times I felt heat coming out of my foot . . . weird! I tried new shoes and expensive insoles . . . nothing seemed to work! I finally went to my doctor and he said the pain was caused from spasticity in my calf. He stated therapy might help, but probably not because it had been so long since my injury. So he thinks maybe Botox injections might be beneficial. Many of us with TBI live our lives dealing with spasticity. Spasticity is a very painful condition caused by rigid or stiff muscles brought on by brain injury. It can affect our arms, hands, legs, feet, etc. But, I had a very hard time grasping just how the pain in my foot can be caused by the calf muscle. So I got to thinking, what has changed in my life? About a year and a half ago, as you might recall, I fell and broke my hand. The reason for the fall is because I chose to walk without the big, bulky and ugly leg brace which I absolutely hated. So, for safety and vanity reasons, I got fitted with a new, light-weight and less conspicuous brace, which I wore continuously throughout the day. The negative side of wearing a brace constantly was now my foot was never getting good range of motion, which meant I was not using my calf muscle. Additionally, the doctor told me to take a "break" from therapies which meant I stopped all my daily stretching and exercising. The "break" was only intended to be for a short while, but I’m embarrassed to say, it lasted longer than it should have . . . I got lazy. After just a few weeks of leg exercises, calf stretching and walking around the house without a leg brace, the pain has been reduced by at least 90%. I still continue wearing the brace outside the house. When I went to the follow-up appointment last week, the nurse practitioner was amazed at what a month’s worth of therapies could do to improve my condition. She no longer felt Botox was needed since exercising was working out so well! So what is the lesson learned? This brain injury is a life long journey and it will never allow me to take a day off. I guess I didn't have to think very hard about a New Year's resolution, it was pretty much handed to me . . . EXERCISE!
|Posted on August 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM||comments (1)|
Yesterday marked seven years since that life changing night! It's hard to believe it’s been that long! Even though I don't remember that dreadful event, my friends all do. I heard from each and every one of them and one of these close friends had me over for dinner last night. We had a great time catching up! I can't even tell you how much that means to me. It reminded me that my injury has affected each one of them as much as it has affected me (well almost). It also reiterated that I will always have that special relationship with them. Even though what my friends and I went through was a horrible event, we will always have that connection which will bond us together forever.
So what does the seventh year hold? Hopefully continued improvement, especially in my memory!
Please keep me in your prayers!
|Posted on July 27, 2013 at 9:00 PM||comments (2)|
You may remember from an earlier blog when I attended the Youth Leadership Forum for students with disabilities as a delegate in 2010. This year, the leader of the forum asked me to come back as a staff member and also as a speaker. I spoke about how I've overcome adversity as a result of my injury. As a staff member, it was my job to interact with the delegates. I was also a group leader, where we would meet in small groups daily and held discussions. My speech went very well. I had a power point with visual aides to give my audience a better picture of my journey. I talked to the group about how I received my injury, how this injury has changed my life, not only for me but for my family, friends and everyone else around me. I had a power point playing in the background, which showed the timeline of events beginning with the night of the incident through the first year of my journey. The point that I tried to emphasize is that a positive attitude, accepting help from others and a little laughter can go a long way in overcoming adversity! Another nice thing was that I got to spend five days without anyone nagging me about what I’m doing wrong, or what needs to be improved on. Etc., etc., etc. We all accepted each other for who we are. No judging. It was great speaking to the delegates, I feel like I made a difference in their lives and it was inspiring being around others who shared similar challenges. I had such a great time. Hopefully I’m invited back next year, so I can continue to help others with my story.
Memory has a way of fading over three years. And with my memory, I thought I had forgotten everything about my experience at the YLF, but as soon as I walked in, I recognized faces. We renewed friendships and talked like no time had passed. As the forum continued through the week, everything came back to me from three years ago. I guess my memory’s not as bad as I thought!
With my roommate, Jackie.