TBI One Love Survivor Jaclyn Pellicotte
Hello everyone my name is Jaclyn Pellicotte. I am from El Paso Tx, and I am a TBI Survivor.
On October 30th of 2018 I was riding in my then-boyfriend’s Jeep, shopping for a birthday present for my father. We were turning left into a parking lot off Montana Avenue (a main thoroughfare into the heart of El Paso), with three lanes on each side. Two of the lanes waved them through, but a Ford F-150 barreled through the third lane and struck my side of the car. Which crushed it.
The blunt force shifted my brain to one side and caused massive trauma to her entire body. I was transported to the hospital where a team worked to keep me alive. I was unidentified and the hospital named me Mayflower until someone could come and identify me.
My mom: Sheri was on her way to get lunch next to the elementary school where she was principal. Her phone lit up with an unfamiliar number. My mom was going to ignore the call, but at the last second, she picked up.
The voice on the other line asked if she knew someone named David. Sheri replied yes, David was my then-boyfriend. “Is everything OK?” she asked. The voice said she was a trauma nurse at University Medical Center of El Paso. She told my mom that David had been in an accident. My mother asked, “Was someone with him?” “I can’t tell you that,” the nurse said. My mom immediately stated, “If there was a blonde girl with him, that’s my daughter! Then she asked again, “Is David OK?” “He’s OK,” the nurse said slowly. “But you might want to come.”
When my mom and dad rushed into the hospital waiting room, they were told that my outlook was grim. Surgeons removed a section of my skull, to reduce massive swelling in the right side of her brain. Five days later, I was still unresponsive and more pressure was building in her head, so they surgically removed the left bone flap, too.
I remained unconscious and breathing on a ventilator, but thankfully I was still alive by the grace of machines. I spent November and December in the intensive care unit, eventually graduating to the intermediate care unit—one small step in the right direction. I was considered to be in what’s often termed a vegetative state. Clinicians did not offer much hope, but my parents remained determined. They prayed incessantly.
In December, surgeons decided that I was well enough for them to reinsert one of my bone flaps. Soon after, family members thought they noticed me tracking them with my eyes when they moved around the hospital room. But that stopped as quickly as it started. Pressure and fluid had returned to my brain, so the bone flap was removed yet again. It was another of what had become numerous surgeries—a tracheotomy, repair of a broken femur, insertion of a feeding tube, insertion of a shunt to drain fluid.
By late December, my parents began looking into rehabilitation options. My mom, put a call out on a Facebook page she’d been updating with entries about my progress, asking if anyone knew of a good neuro-rehabilitation center.
A few people suggested TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, and in an unlikely chain of events the Pellicotte family can only attribute to answered prayers, a spot became available and we flew across the state of Texas on January 8 of 2019.
I was enrolled in TIRR’s Disorders of Consciousness Program (DoC), which works with patients who have severely impaired levels of awareness, including those in a vegetative or minimally conscious state. Most of the patients who enter the program have suffered a traumatic brain injury, sustained lack of oxygen to the brain, or a stroke. But, they aren’t ready for a traditional rehabilitation program, and need to take the initial steps toward discovering their potential.
Over the next few months, with the support of my TIRR team I grew stronger, more limber, more alert! I was able to push bike pedals, eat applesauce, yogurt and pudding, hummed in an effort to speak. With the help of therapists, she stood up on two flat feet.
On March 4, surgeons in Houston attached both bone flaps back to my skull. But in April, my brain began to swell again and later developed an infection near the incision from the surgery. Occasionally, I suffered small seizures. But I kept moving forward and not giving up!
On May 9, we returned home in El Paso. I moved back into her childhood bedroom.
My next step was, that I began therapy three times a week at a local NeuroRestorative.
In June, a local speech therapist reached out to my mom and offered to visit once a week to help me eat, swallow, regain feeling in my tongue, and eventually, speak. A few weeks later, in early July, I started talking! My mom called it “whisper-talking,” because it was very soft. Not long after, I began speaking in sentences. My dad realized that I was able to be louder when lying down because of the pressure on my diaphragm. Who knew?!
Now up to speed in 2022!
I do visit TIRR to meet other patients, and mentor them. I recently was surprised with being added to the TIRR wall of hope! Which during my time at TIRR, that wall was a great source of inspiration for my family and I.
I have started to go back to school. I got an A in calculus :8) and I am going to take a communication class titled: public speaking. To stay update with my recovery, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/jaclynstrong-268052443754489/
Thank you James and TBI One Love for all you do!