One evening in the fall of my senior year at the Lawrenceville School, I was hustling to get to my friend’s birthday dinner. On my hurried journey across the street, I was hit by a car. I crashed head first through the windshield and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Lucky for me, everything happened to be at the right place at the right time: Because of my particular walking position, I did not suffer any serious bodily injuries. Capital Health System’s Fuld Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey was only a couple of miles away. My Dad (who was leaving New York to go to India for business) hadn’t boarded his flight, so he was just 45 minutes away still at the airport, not 18 hours away halfway around the world.

I was in a coma for my first two weeks at the hospital and, after I was eventually released, I spent some time Kessler Rehab clinic. At the clinic, I was a 5’7” newborn, relearning how to walk, put PlaySkool puzzles together, and express myself again. I pleaded with my Mom passionately, daily, to let me leave, write my college applications, and spend real time with my friends (without having to censor my conversation to Mommy-friendly topics). After two weeks, I was overjoyed to hear that I was going to be released back to my life. I wish I could end the story there but in some ways my journey had only just begun.

The after effects, the horrific, horrific feelings and ideas and actions did not begin until months after my accident. Just as people were forgetting to ask if I felt alright, forgetting to think about me as the ‘girl who was hit by a car,’ those feelings hit me harder than ever before, harder than any car ever could.  At that point, I did not know who I was or what I stood for, my personality changed daily. Sadness, hopelessness and anger dominated my feelings so much so that I had forgotten what happiness felt like at all. Thankfully, even in that unsavory state, I was lent so many hands, so many ears, and so many smiles. But it was only when I was introduced to Charlie Maddock, a fellow TBIer, that I knew I wasn’t alone. Although Charlie isn’t a doctor and we had still yet to meet, I was incredibly honest and candid with him from the first time we spoke on the phone. Why? Because I knew he UNDERSTOOD. He had felt so many of those feelings, he had thought so many those thoughts…..but he got THROUGH them.

Just being able to talk to someone what had suffered a severe TBI but recovered completely made me feel better than I had since my accident. The conversation gave me hope, the pure, sweet hope that those feelings and incredibly difficult times would end. With all that support, & many thoughts and prayers from family and friends, I’ve made my way out of that phase, and am now back to my usual, goofy self. I know exactly how it feels, though, so now it’s my turn to be whatever you need: ears, mouth and heart. I’m here to talk or even just listen so please contact me at any time, in any state of mind; I will not judge. I’ve been there too and will help in any way I can.

-Shamsa, smangalji677@gmail.com

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Hi, my name is Jay Williams and I am 31 years old.  On April 1st of 2006, my wife (Abbie) and I were married and then on January 30, 2007, I had a construction accident and about 20 feet and landed face first on concrete.  I do not remember the fall, but have seen the site of the accident and pictures. On the way down, I hit the scaffolding and braces that were erected to hold the elevated deck that I was working on.  I was told by my supervisors and doctors that the scaffolding saved my life.  I fell from brace to brace, slowing down the momentum of my fall.  Not only did I land face first on concrete, I also shattered my left wrist and I ended up with a grade 4 liver laceration.  I have been told she was very brave for a 26 year old woman who was just told her husband may not make it through the week.  Yep, it’s true, the doctors told her the injury to my liver was so bad it was going to be hard for me to recover and if I made it through that situation then the brain injury would effect me.  After speaking to the doctors, Abbie was able to see me.  I had tubes everywhere and, according to her the worst of it was the breathing tube. She didn’t like the way it sounded and every time I had to go to surgery, X-ray, or to have a CAT scan they had to unhook me and attached a bag that they pumped to help me breathe.  After my surgery on my liver, they left my chest cavity open because I was running a high temperature; they ran a saline cooling system through my body to help with my temperature and my brain swelling.  They were worried about my brain swelling so they had me in a medically induced coma so that the swelling in my brain could go down.  I was in a coma for 16 days and after 16 days the swelling in my brain went down and, against all odds, they were able to take me off the breathing tube and wake me up.  If I were to give you all the details of those 16 days this would be a very long story and Abbie would have to interject and, to be honest, she is a bit wordy but I love her all the same!

The next few days were still a blur because after I woke up they kept me on morphine because I still had to have one more surgery on my eye socket which had cracked when I landed on my head.  Needless to say the morphine made me a bit crazy.    The next thing I remember was getting up out of bed and walking with a physical therapist around the hospital.   After the last surgery, I was transferred to a rehab hospital where I had to live for about a month and a half.  I was upset at first, but soon realized it was for the best.  Abbie came to see me every day and my parents came almost every weekend to see me.  I was released from the rehab hospital in March 2007, but little did I know I had to go to another rehab place.  This was not as bad because I was able to come home at night.  I was finally released from that rehab facility and returned to work May 14, 2007.  I was proud of myself for working hard in rehab and being able to return to work 3 1/2 months after falling 20 feet.  Now I am working out side again and doing exactly what I was doing the day I fell and I am thankful for that. Everyone tells me I am a true MIRACLE and that is the truth, but I also feel that I still have a lot more to accomplish in my life.  If you learn anything from this story, it is: God has a plan for each and every one of us; every time a door closes a window opens; and NEVER ever give up. 

-Jay JDWilliams@manhattanconstruction.com

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