• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Bridget Halfaker

Hello, my name is Bridget.

On January 31st, 2013 while walking home from the park I was hit by a car. My son, eight months old at the time, was in a front carrier on my chest. My good friend was pushing her three-month old daughter in a stroller. As we crossed the street a car came down the hill. The driver did not stop; instead she swerved to avoid my friend and the stroller. She hit me and my son. 

We both survived, though we both sustained frightening injuries.       My son had two skull fractures and strains to the tissues in his neck and shoulder. We both had a “wisp” of blood in our brains. I was left with a Traumatic Brain Injury and several injuries to my body.                               

Since that night life has changed dramatically. First the negatives. I spent two years unable to perform my job, my boss attempting to get rid of me. Luckily, the word used loosely, I'm a teacher so it was nearly impossible to get rid of me. Which meant I was lucky enough to keep my job, even though I had to endure two years of daily bullying from my boss and professional failure due to my very slow brain. 

I lost my friends, people I once could count on didn't know how to interact with me. People who relied on me having energy couldn't go along with my slow pace. People who relied on me making plans with them couldn't pick up the mantle and I lost contact with them. 

I lost my sense of self. I didn't make memories anymore. I didn't have any interests. I didn't have any energy to find new interests. My brain, which had been a defining piece of my personality literally stopped working. I couldn't learn. I couldn't plan. I couldn't teach. I couldn't do anything. 

Worst of all I lost my boy. He didn't die, but I couldn't remember him. I had one memory of him at a few days old, newly home from the hospital. Then nothing. Each day I knew who he was, but I could not remember him. 

Now the positive: (from a letter written to world leaders)                                                         

I wondered how my boy could heal on a daily basis as he could not go to counseling, acupuncture, or massage therapy. I began to research emotional healing for children, when I discovered the concept of chakras. During my research I found various activities that people could do in order to help themselves heal. I compiled the most child friendly activities and created a children’s book entitled Toddler Chakras. 

A special edition of this book ran in 2014, all profits went to benefit children and families in the Pediatric Trauma wing at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. This is where my son and I spent our overnight hospital stay. The families this supported are ones who have recently endured a traumatic event and are struggling financially.      

In January of 2014, as we approached the one-year anniversary of the car accident, I thought about the large number of pedestrians who are injured or killed in car accidents. According to the CDC, 
“Road traffic crashes kill nearly 3,500 persons each day and injure or disable 50 million each year around the world (1). Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among persons aged 10–24 years worldwide and the leading cause of death among those in the first 3 decades of life in the United States.” I would like to help reduce that number through education. I wrote a second children’s book, Safe Streets, that parents can use to teach their children to be safe in parking lots and on the street, as pedestrians and future drivers. My hope is that parents will also learn safe driver behaviors as they share this book with their children.

I have also written an assembly based off the book Safe Streets. This assembly is for elementary aged students and is a student run production. My hope is that if we, as a community, are aware of the dangers and safety precautions necessary, that we will create a safer environment for our children.  

Now more recent positives: a toxic coworker left, relieving work stress. I worked my fanny off relearning my job and got a glowing review from my boss (now I got to do that and balance my emotions better). I started Zumba (cried when I couldn't jump) and have been making more memories. I've been recouping lost memories from the past four years too. I've got tools in my tool belt for dealing with winter crashes (where my brain tanks into big memory problems). And a lot of my anger of the past three plus years has dissipated. 

I'm not who I used to be. Nor will I ever have my pre-TBI kind of life again. But that doesn't matter anymore. I'm hopeful for the future and learning who I am now. 

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