• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Robbin Lea

Howdy everyone, I am Robbin Lea 45-year-old single mom and this is my story!

On February 13, 2017, was a nice day and even though I had had surgery two weeks prior, I was feeling like a rock star. Before my surgery, I had discovered the location of a bald eagle and its nest. As a photographer, this was a dream come true! So, I decided I HAD to go see if I could get that dream shot of a beautiful bald eagle floating over the river with the deep green pines in the background.  Dad called and asked what I was doing, I said "Might go see if can find the eagle". First mistake of the day.  That "might" should have been; "Dad going to go look for the eagle".  So, loaded up camera and trusty dog and off we went.

Feeling great, happy about life. How can it be bad, having had surgery on my stomach two weeks prior and be feeling this great?! Weather was my favorite, chill in the air but not too cold and things a bit wet. After an hour or so of trying to locate my friend the bald eagle and having no luck, I decided to try going on the other side of the river.  I had never gone on the other side to look before.  Off I went on my merry way, seeing the other side of homes I had always wondered about. Now seeing some cool stuff but still no eagle. Reaching a point where road was narrowing and road construction was taking place, it was my cue to turn around. But first, I had to stop and photograph the cute cows.  Back on the road but I am just not ready to get back on the road for home.

Now we are on to yet another mistake of the day.  Instead of heading home, I head deeper into the woods and farther from civilization. No one on the planet knows where I am or where I am going. It is off season, so it is quiet area this time of year. I head down the road towards my favorite area of Sweet Creek Falls, thinking I'd take the back-way home. As I am heading that way, I see that shiny green sign for Kentucky Falls. (Here is almost the biggest mistake of the day, almost) I have always wanted to go to Kentucky Falls and it is still so early, and remember I feel like a rock star! I am going to go for it!!! So many times, as I made my way on what seemed like a forever road, I thought "I should turn around".  But then I would see a beautiful waterfall or view to photograph and keep going.  Finally, I made it to Kentucky Falls. Was sooo pretty! I didn't make the full hike to the falls as I could feel the effects of surgery at that point.

Looked at the clock, I had just enough time to get home and be home before my son. Always important to be home when he gets home. Especially since he doesn't even know where I am. No one knows where I am. I am deep in the forest. I start to take the road home. The road has a path down the middle of dry road, on the sides are slimy wet pine needles and leaves.  Snot is stickier than this stuff. Have you ever told yourself to not do something and then you, do it? Well on this lovely day, I did just that. I told myself to don't go in the slime. I was creeping along that winding road, honestly enjoying the view that would pop through the trees every now and then. Then it happened...

I came around a nice bend in the road and the passenger side tires hit the slime. Now I must admit this is by far the going to be the LARGEST most ROOKIES life ALTERING MISTAKE I have ever made. The van started to slide and I hit the brakes. Yeah, the breaks and yes, I did steer into it. But, then I over corrected. Yep you heard me, I over corrected. All I could say ways "Oh Duke, we are going to crash. Please Lord protect us". Probably the most important words I have ever spoken.  I honestly cannot tell you how many times the vehicle rolled. At one point, it had slowed down and I thought it was over and sadly it started rolling again. I prayed again; "Please God, Stop us from rolling". We stopped. At first I thought I was awake for the whole ride. But over time I have had to rethink that.

I remember opening my eyes, and my first thought was DUKE!!! I try to look around. I get very dizzy and my vision goes blurry. Okay Robbin take it slow. My head feels weird, crap it is bleeding. I start yelling for Duke. He has to be okay. If I had killed my dog, I have no idea how I will cope with what is about to happen. I finally see behind me, everything is smashed. The seat he was sitting was now smashed flat. The whole vehicle was smashed flat. The roof as against my face. I was trapped. I went into this calm, survivor mode.  Most important, where is DUKE?!?!?! I kept calling and calling. All the while I am trying to asses my wounds and figure out how to get out. My head was bleeding and my knee, the same knee that had been rebuilt was battered, cuts and feeling woozie.  Duke!? Duke?!

Jingle...     Jingle...

Duke?!! Jingle.. I hear it. The jingle if his collar. My boy is alive. The jingle gets louder. Suddenly this cute little furry face pops through the bushes below me, smiling! THANK YOU JESUS!!! At that point, I go into beast mode. MUST GET OUT!

The van had come to rest on the driver’s side, but thankfully it was suspended off the ground or I never would have had a chance. My other blessing was one of the large trees that came to my rescue was close enough I could push on it with my feet. Now let’s talk about my feet. Somehow, one of my legs was already out of the vehicle. My upper body is pinned, I am hanging by the seat belt. That seat belt has dug a nice grove in my fat hip. I guess it’s good we ladies have that padding on our hips. I think. Managed to get the seat belt off. Get other leg out, and by pushing on the tree, I manage to get upper body unstuck. I am able to climb out of the van and drop down to my sweet Duke!!!

Time to get walking. I have always had the habit of paying attention to my surroundings. I know that on my way in I passed several vehicles and a few houses. Plus, down the hill was another trail head with restroom. Restroom can be a shelter if have to be out here for the night. Climbing the steep mounting back up to the road was no easy task. Thankfully I found my fluffy sweatshirt, going to get cold so that is a must. Then I found my wallet, crazy awesome find. House keys come next. Score I find my beanie, put it on my head it will work great at getting the bleeding to stop. Praying I find my cell phone, not that there is cell signal. Matches, oh thank you Lord, might need to make a fire. Pack of tissues, one of my incisions from surgery had opened a bit so I used tissue to keep that protected. Still no cell phone. No camera either (I had just gotten a brand-new camera).

The mountain was so steep, I had to use trees and bushes to hold onto to pull myself up. Duke trudging ahead of me.  We make it to the road. Time to walk and walk fast, darkness will be coming SOON.

After walking for about two miles we hit the river and a bridge. The first time in my life I have ever been elated to see a Prius. But where was its owner? There he is down by the water fishing. I yell, "Help me, I've been in an accident". This sweet young man, no more that 23-24-year-old, pulls in his line and comes to my aid. He is my true hero.

To this day, I still have to get the police record so I can get his information to thank him properly. This hero, took Duke and I and put us in his Prius with his Doberman, who was not happy we existed. Poor guy was tied in the back with a muzzle on, which in this case was a blessing. We drive, first house we come to looking for a phone as there is no cell reception is abandoned. Off we go again. Next house, belongs to Santa’s wino cousin who is very helpful. I stay in the car with Duke as there are animals everywhere and can't leave Duke alone with beast in the back. Plus, I have no desire to move.

My hero goes in and calls 911. Next my hero calls my dad. Which sent confusion among my family but that is a different story.

Being so far out in the mountains, emergency services response time is not speedy.  Sheriffs show up, they check me over and give me a sobriety check, not that I can even stand on my swollen leg and woozie head. They weren't too worried.  One Sheriff stayed with me, putting Duke and I in his truck and the other went with my hero to the crash site. I came to find out, we rolled 250 feet down the mountain that day. Had it not been for my hero trees there was not much more below them and I would have rolled another 500 feet. Most likely to my death. Duke had to have been thrown out very early in the crash. The ambulance was taking forever, so the sheriff decided to start driving and meet up with them.

The sheriffs of Douglas County that responded that night were kind and professional. I appreciated everything they did for Duke and me. We met up with the ambulance. The three wonderful men working the ambulance that night kept my spirits up and took exceptional care of myself and Duke. Duke had front seat privileges in the ambo. Once at the hospital one of the paramedics even gave Duke a check over to see if there were any obvious medical issues. I am forever grateful to those three men.

Once in the E.R. I was greeted by the trauma team. Duke got the VIP treatment and was given a place to hang with the nurses at the desk.  I was given CT Scan x-ray etc. Cleaned up and a miracle had happened. Other than cuts and bruises, I was fine. They were all astonished. I was the miracle of the E.R. that night. It truly is a miracle that I am here today. I am not without scars. It wasn't till a few days later that it really started to show. I was not okay. I did not walk away from that accident with just cuts and bruises. I went back to the E.R. two days later. I have a brain injury, that has left me very changed.

I currently have cognitive behavioral therapy once a week. Then there is vestibular therapy every other week or so. Along with that I do some craniosacral therapy. We also cannot forget the all-important mental health therapy. I am full of the text book symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, and we are working hard to heal and relearn.

So far it has been going very slow, but I have to keep going! I have started a blog to help others to understand what it is like for someone with a brain injury and hopefully help someone else feel like they are not alone. It can be read at the following link:

Never ever give up. Most important, find small blessings everywhere you go and tell the people around you how much you appreciate them. It really matters!

Thank you for letting me join this helpful Family! 

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