Survivor or Caregiver
TBI One Love Survivor Hilary Pearson
Hello everyone, my name is Hilary Pearson, and I am a TBI survivor from Toronto Canada. During a volleyball match in March of 2018, I was setting the ball, but the player behind me didn’t see me. He swung and spiked the ball instead. His elbow came crashing down on my temple — next to my right eye. My vision was gone. Everything was completely white. I thought someone had punched me in the face. Following this accident, I sustained photophobia, hyperacusis, chronic tinnitus, and chronic migraines. I took a 3.5 year medical leave from school as I have had difficulty reading ever since the accident. This time last year, my screen tolerance was close to zero. Excessive reading resulted in migraine attacks and nausea.
My hyperacusis (a condition of severe sound sensitivity) led me to wear earplugs and headphones in order to function—even in my own home. This impacted my ability to communicate effectively with others in person, as I had to learn to rely on reading lips—a feat hindered by our need to wear face masks during the pandemic. This past summer, I received treatment for my hearing impairment and now have hearing aids customized to filter out the specific frequencies that cause pain and intolerance to sound. These hearing aids have changed everything for me and now allow me to function again—without requiring noise-canceling headphones everytime I step outside.
I am now a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a PhD in Social Justice Education. My research focuses on disability studies. My doctoral research aims to explore TBI and the role education plays in supporting survivors. My latest work investigates the ways in which ASL (American Sign Language) can assist brain injury survivors in communication. ASL has given me a way to communicate with my family and friends when my TBI and chronic migraines have left me in too much pain to speak—or when aphasia and short term memory loss prevented coherent verbal communication.
During my recovery, I became a journalist for Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) and published several articles about brain injury and the lived experiences of brain injury survivors. If you would like to read my publications about brain injury, you may access them at the following link: https://bist.ca/?s=hilary+pearson&search=Search
Thank you TBI One Love for all you do!