• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Rachel Brocklebank

Hello, my name is Rachel.

Everything was finally going right in my life, or so I thought. Finally, free from the grasp of a toxic relationship and now dating the man I thought I’d marry, and going back to university to finish the semester I couldn’t the year before because of an assault. But my life wasn’t done being turbulent. 

January 15th 2016 I was driving home from my second day at university. Or so I’m told, I remember nothing from that day. It was so foggy people think the highway I was on should have been closed. I can’t say I disagree because what happens next is just about the worst thing ever. I stopped at a red light, and an 18-wheel gravel truck who was going way too fast for the weather conditions saw me too late. He swerved to avoid hitting me, but his trailer jackknifed so violently that when it hit my back end I spun across the intersection into the lane of oncoming traffic.

My left side hit another gravel truck. When the paramedics got to me I was already unconscious. They intubated me and took me to the nearest hospital where it was immediately arranged that I would need to go to the country’s top head injury hospital two hours away. It was so foggy I couldn’t be airlifted, so a police escorted ambulance took me. 

My first coma (yes there were multiple) lasted exactly 2 weeks. Then I was vegetative (which is basically coma with occasional eye opening) for 23 more days. My type of head injury was so severe that usually there are the three ratings: mild, moderate, and severe. Mine was categorized beyond that as “catastrophic”. And the fact I hadn’t died in the first month was a miracle. But reason served that I was now in stable condition and would be vegetative for the rest of my life.

A persistent vegetative state is what they call that. So, they elected to give me a permanent g-tube. Through some unpredictable complication I went into septic shock. Of course, me. So, two days later they had me in an emergency surgery to save my life. After that surgery they put me into a medically induced coma because it was so horrible they didn’t want me even remotely conscious. That lasted 9 days; and then I was vegetative for another 50. 

After that I was fully awake (as you may assume because I’m writing this). Talking, eating by mouth, and moving. But I showed no interest in even trying to walk. A month later I moved to a rehabilitation hospital where I was taught how to bear weight and eventually walk relying heavily on support from a two-wheeled walker. Although walking was only a physical therapy activity; I used a wheelchair for all my daily activities. 

It has now been 6 months since I came home.

OT is bored because I’m more cognitively functional than some people without a brain injury. But then we have PT. I keep my PT on her toes; in 6 short months, I’ve progressed from 100% wheelchair, to 2-wheeled walker, to rollator walker, to 2 canes. 

For a long time, I hated being called “strong” or “a fighter” because I believed I was only doing exactly what was expected of me. But the thing I’ve come to accept is that I have proven how strong I am by making this much progress in this short time. The thing is that every single brain injury survivor is a fighter. Brain injury life isn’t one I’d wish on my worst enemy, but here we all are and we’re making the best out of it. I have found hope through all of this from writing!

 I began a blog when I got released from rehab into the real world to chronicle my adventure. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve told me how captivating they find my writing. I may not walk very well, and I can’t run or jump at all, but that was never my strong suit. My real strength is in my ability to write, and I never would have shared that talent if it wasn’t for my TBI!

Thank you TBI One Love!

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