I was on top of the world in the fall of 2001 during my senior year at East Carolina University. I made the Dean’s list, was actively involved in the community, and interning at a local news channel. It was one night in my apartment in early October that I blacked out! After 30 days in a coma, I woke up! I had no idea where I was, why my body had tubes coming in and out of everywhere, and why I could not talk! That was when I found out that I had a busted blood vessel in my brain causing an aneurysm, not even being able to fully comprehend what an aneurysm was at the time.
After intensive filled days with speech, physical, and occupational therapy – I was connected with vocational rehab who helped me enroll in classes to continue pursuing a career in Broadcasting, despite the changes after my injury. Due to "drop foot" on my right side, my gait is affected so I use a cane when I walk to help prevent falling and tiredness. Sometimes, when I’m at a social gathering, or a crowded place, I can only tolerate so much of what is going on before I need to remove myself to “recharge.” Initially after my injury, I felt extremely self-conscious of my physical changes - hiding my cane and covering up the scars on my neck and head. I also have trouble with my memory, which makes getting around in the community difficult due to me forgetting names and getting lost. I now use a planner to help keep track of my schedule, as well my wall calendar. I even text myself information I may need later.
One of the hardest things I have to deal with throughout this journey is the disability stigma, and being treated differently because of my injury. I don’t like people putting me into a box due to my appearance or my physical limitations. One of the skills I have gained since my injury, is empathy and being able to connect with others on a more patient level. With empathy and decreased stigma, people with brain injury can have full lives and be a part of their community. On September 28, 2019, I'll be in studio producing and hosting my first TV episode on Charlotte access 2 called "The Voice of Brain Injury Presents..." This project, a long time in the making, furthers my goals to have a presence in the community to increase brain injury awareness through speaking engagements, videos, and articles.