In 2009 I was the local traffic girl at OFM in the Free State. I kept listeners updated every day on any traffic news concerning the highways and byways in Central South Africa.
Ironically on a Thursday morning in October 2009 I was involved in one of the biggest motor accidents the Free State has seen in a very long time.
I was on my way to work to go read the latest traffic news on the breakfast show when a truck carrying 25 ton of maize skipped a red traffic light and slammed into my car.
To put that into perspective for you, an average elephant weighs approximately six ton (one ton is 1000 kg). That means that basically there were four elephants on the back of the truck! How cool is it that I survived the miniature stampede of elephants?
My car was not that lucky, though.
My body took quite a harsh beating that I will go into ever so briefly, not to invoke feelings of sympathy but mainly to serve as the basis to later show you that the human body has a flabbergasting ability to heal and a remarkable way to adapt in order for one to find one’s balance again. Right, here goes.
My liver and milt tore.
One of my ribs penetrated my right lung.
My right shoulder and collarbone were broken.
My pelvis fractured, as well as my skull.
I was rushed to the Medi-Clinic 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 this soothing feeling of “knowingness”. My life is not a Hollywood movie.
I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and consequently with severe brain damage. My parents were told that I might survive for only 72 hours.
But here I am, years later, talking to you. I survived and I adapted as best as I could.
I am 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 a traumatic brain injury sustained in a car crash or during a vicious, physical assault, by a stroke or aneurysm.
During the 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 Centre (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 TBI in Consequences of a brain injury.