• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Heather Duffin

Hello, my name is Heather.

On August 29, 2015, a pleasant morning at the dog park with my best friend, turned into one of my biggest challenges. I have no memory of the morning, but understand that we had almost completed our usual loop, when the wind picked up. Seattle is notorious for windstorms, but this one was unexpected.

As recounted to me by my friend, a huge gust picked up and she spread her arms out, screaming, "It's windy!" When we heard the snap. The snap is one of the only things I remember that day and continues to haunt me. She looked up and saw a huge tree limb coming for us. My friend was ahead of me and the leafy part of the branch landed on her. When she turned to stand, she saw the tree limb had me pinned face up. It took numerous people to life the 15-foot, 10-inches in diameter, tree limb off of me. She said that while I was conscious, it quickly became clear that there was a problem, as I was asking the same questions over and over. The paramedics were called immediately.

I was taken to the nearest hospital and treated in the ER for a while, but then they lost power from the windstorm. I was then put back in the ambulance and taken to Harborview Trauma Center where I was treated for a head wound requiring seven staples, a subdural hematoma, a skull fracture, and mild TBI. I was kept in ICU for 24 hours and released home the next day.

That was when this horrific journey began. I would like to say that I have had the strength to live this new life and accept it, and have made huge progress. Instead, I battle suicidal thoughts daily because I am riddled by fear from what I endure on a daily basis. I lose time and have severe short-term memory loss. I cannot multitask. I cannot handle being out in public for very long because light and sound completely overwhelm me.

To go from an extremely social extrovert who was fairly happy, had lots of friend, and took pride in her work, to becoming a hermit who is on the verge having to file bankruptcy because I'm being forced to go part-time per my medical team, cannot remember things from a few hours ago, cannot function on a normal basis, and cannot handle leaving my home for very long, is devastating.

I have no spouse or partner. I have no children. I was a very self-sufficient, independent woman until this. Most of my friends don't seem to get the struggle and have left me as an afterthought. My family is in California and the other side of the country. The only reason I don't shove a bottle of pills down my throat may sound ridiculous, but it's because of my dog whom is like a child to me. He is honestly the only thing keeping me alive right now.

While I wish I were someone sharing their story as a pillar of hope, I instead share it to reach out for help to a community that might understand. I do not seek pity, but instead seek camaraderie and hope.

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