My Daughter's Path to Recovery and Healing After a Brain Injury
Jenn was a survivor. Sustaining a traumatic brain injury at the age of seventeen, her young body gave her an advantage in the fight for her life. As her mother, I anxiously watched as she fought off death with each breath she took those first few days in the ICU. Fear held a tight grip on my heart as the hours ticked by. Feelings of helplessness in my ability to save my daughter darkened even the brightest day.
After ten gut-wrenching days, Jenn slowly emerged from her coma, and I looked to a future of normalcy like the one that defined our lives before the accident. Doctors told us that she would most likely have disabilities, but I was not a believer in their prognosis. I expected Jenn to return to her former self within a short period of time.
Once out of ICU, we relocated Jenn to a rehab facility where she was tasked with relearning all the basic life skills: sitting, walking, and eating. Unfortunately, she exhibited no ability to access the language center in her brain, and this complicated how therapists, her family, and caregivers could help her relearn those skills. This is where Jenn’s unique story began.
It became evident that Jenn not only wanted to live, but she also wanted to connect with the people around her even if she lacked words. Her quirky personality and friendly disposition soon had her patrolling the hallways in her wheelchair at the rehab facility, smiling and waving to everyone she passed. Engaging with all who came into her pathway, Jenn was on her way to building a life for herself, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time.
I took on the role of her “fixer.” I oversaw everything about her care and made sure she was given every opportunity to flourish. I held fast to the idea that we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity and new neuropathways develop when old ones are damaged. I have since learned that the 10% rule is a myth, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was determined to help Jenn develop those new pathways and to expand her neuro function into unused areas of her brain. Although there were many professionals involved in her care, I looked beyond their grim explanations and expectations and made it my mission to recapture my original daughter.
Jenn and I were both working toward rebuilding her life. I didn’t always recognize her efforts and methods, but in time they became clear to me. Her personality and zest for life helped her not only to connect with people but also have an impact on their lives. Her lack of words did not stop her. Through facial expressions, giggles, and eye contact she gave and received the attention she craved. She was engaging in her own unique way and quickly captured the hearts of those around her.
I wanted Jenn’s life to be fulfilling, exciting and interesting, each day filled with new activities and adventures. When she was relocated to a group home in her second rehabilitation facility, three specific caregivers took my vision for Jenn’s future and made it a reality. They looked beyond basic caregiving by adding humor to daily routines, thinking outside the box to help Jenn learn new skills, and bringing her into their family’s lives to form bonds with their children and extended family members.
Jenn and I never gave up the fight to bring her life to its fullest potential. We were two determined females on the same path of recovery and healing however different it may have looked at the time. She was the survivor; I was the facilitator. Together, a beautiful story unfolded.