TBI One Love Survivor Natalie Griffith
Hello, my name is Natalie.
I never knew; my life forever changed Christmas night of 2009. My mind body and soul were different. I dropped my four girls off with their dad when we were done having Christmas brunch with my parents… said my good-byes, gave them kisses and left. I went to a birthday party for someone I worked with, 45 minutes north. I had a blast… I laughed and drank alcohol then decided about 10:30pm to go home.
I gave hugs to the people at the party, said my good-byes and they asked, “Are you okay to drive home?” “Totally,” I said and assured them I was fine and left. Heading north on the 57 freeway, I was confused and lost so I called a close friend for directions. He could tell I was drunk and told me to pull over he would pick me up. I didn’t listen and while arguing with him, rolled down an embankment onto the 60 freeway just below the freeway I was on and ran into some alternator sand barrels which stopped me. I hit no one else but was trapped in my car unconscious.
While knocked out, in a coma, I spoke to the Spirit of God. I felt incredible peace and love; He said He is going to take care of me, not to worry, just rest in Him. Sadly, people passed my crashed vehicle on the side of the road without stopping to check. But close to11pm, about 20 minutes after the accident happened, someone stopped to try and help me out; he couldn’t, so he called 911. The paramedics came within minutes and had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out of the car. Not knowing where to take me, UCI or UCLA either by ambulance or helicopter, they decided to take me to UCI by ambulance. I wasn’t breathing well, I was broken in several places including the shattering of my face and right arm; I was assessed in the ambulance, my breathing was short. I was considered Ring Jane Doe when taken to UCI because I was wearing a wedding ring but still needed to be identified. Jesus was with me.
After UCI assessed me, they concluded I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). My friend whom I was speaking with when the accident happened, called my apartment and several hospitals to see if he could find me because our talk was cut off when the accident occurred. Once he called UCI, they told him a woman was brought in but they did not know who I was, so he had to go to the hospital to verify I was the person on my driver’s license; this was the evening after Christmas. He called the restaurant I worked at to let my sister know I was in an accident and in the hospital because she was a waitress for the same restaurant in a different location. She then called my parents; they came to the hospital to see what state I was in. I was given a 38% chance of living. The first three days were most crucial for my survival. Then I had two surgeries… the first surgery was to fix my head and my face. I had six plates and some metal screws put into my face and my jaw was wired shut. The second surgery was to work on my very broken right arm; a long plate was put in place of the shattered bone. Through all of this, I nestled in the Lord’s presence while in my coma, He kept telling me He loves me… He is taking care of me… He has big things in store… trust and rely on Him.
I was in a coma for 2 ½ weeks, and then my eyes began slowly opening. Once somewhat awake, UCI transferred me to a rehab hospital in Brea named Kindred Hospital. I had to relearn EVERYTHING because our brains are our computer systems: I had to learn how to walk and talk again, how to eat food, even how to use the bathroom! I was a quick learner; my spirit wanted me to improve. I was discharged from Kindred on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2010 almost four months after the accident happened. I was unclear about so much, but I listened and trusted the people helping me, plus the Spirit of God was with me encouraging me. I moved in with my mom and dad because I was separated from my husband and he did not want me to live with him and the children. But I received many visits from my girls. My mom picked them up or their dad dropped them off so I could visit with them. They needed to see their mom they almost lost and I needed to be around them to help my memories come back.
After coming home with my parents, my mom drove me to Winways, a place to relearn for people with brain injuries. I received many therapies five days a week for two months. Due to the problems with my perception and not knowing much, it was recommended that I go to Coastline Community College, a program which focuses on different strategies following an acquired or traumatic brain injury. It was recommended I continued hand therapy so I could bend and move my fingers and I continued outpatient Speech therapy so I wouldn’t slur my words or often repeat myself. I began Coastline College June 21, 2010 (my 32nd birthday). Although I wasn’t completely together in my mind… my spirit and my soul wanted improvement and I wanted what was lost! I went to the ‘brain-school’ four days a week, four hours a day, for two years. OCTA took me every day until I got my license reinstated 2 months before finishing Coastline College in 2012. Jesus was with me every step of the way! And just like He told me in my coma, He was and is taking care of me. I do not get through my days without His help and guidance.
I AM A MIRACLE!!