In 2009 I was the local traffic girl at Central South Africa’s biggest radio station, OFM, and I kept the listeners updated every day on any traffic news concerning the highways and byways in Central South Africa. Ironically on the morning of 22 October 2009 I was involved in one of the biggest accidents the Free State has seen in a very long time.
Irene before the accident
I was on my way to work to go and read the traffic news on the breakfast show when a truck carrying 25 ton of maize skipped a red traffic light and slammed into my car. Just to put that into perspective for you, an average elephant weighs six ton (one ton is 1000 kg). That means that basically there were four elephants on the back of the truck. I survived the miniature stampede of elephants. My car was not that lucky…
The wreck of Irene’s car
My pelvis fractured along with my skull. My liver and milt tore. One of my ribs penetrated my right lung. My right shoulder and collarbone were broken. I was rushed to the Mediclinic in Bloemfontein with serious brain and chest injuries. There my heart stopped twice. I know what you are probably wondering and no, my life did not flash before my eyes. I did not see a blinding white light. I was not suddenly filled with a soothing feeling of “knowingness”. My life is not a Hollywood movie.
I was diagnosed with severe brain damage and my family was told that I might survive for only 72 hours. But I am, years later, talking to you. I survived and I adapted best I could and that is why I consider myself a traumatic brain injury survivor.
The damage to my brain mainly affected me physically. It left me permanently disabled – as a hemiplegic with a speech impediment. Hemiplegia occurs when the brain gets severely injured, be it by a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or a vicious assault. One half of a hemiplegic’s body is either paralyzed or experience some form of weakness.
During the nearly three months I spend in hospital, I had to relearn how to talk, eat and swallow. When I was out of harm’s way, I was send to Pasteur rehabilitation center (also situated in Bloemfontein), where I started my long journey to independence – to relearn how to walk.
I will elaborate on the other consequences of traumatic brain injury in Consequences of a Traumatic brain injury.
In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin