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Carrie's Story

I arrived home after my first year at Roanoke College. It was a fun and exciting year. I played field hockey and lacrosse, took part in the Outdoor Adventures Club, and had made many new friends. I also had decided to major in both Spanish and International Relations. I loved to travel and learn about other cultures. And, now, for the summer, I had planned to pursue my love of travel and venture to Kenya with several other students from Roanoke. But, first, I had made plans to visit my cousin and her newborn babies the following morning. She had just delivered twins two days prior at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. I awoke May 1, 1998, and got into my car and started driving to Baltimore. From there, I am not able to remember anything else that day, and I am unable to recall with any clarity the following four weeks.

Witnesses tell me that while I was driving, I gradually crossed the centerline and hit a tractor-trailer head on. There were several people in cars behind me who dialed 911 on their cell phones and in minutes a response team was on the scene trying to get me out of the car. I was trapped inside with glass shattered everywhere and parts of the car in shambles. At first, the accident was called in as a “fatality,” but then my paramedic, “Opie,” crawled inside the car and found a faint pulse. He then remained by my side until I was lifted out of the car and into the Medevac helicopter. I was then flown to Shock Trauma.

The first 24 hours were more than critical. The nurses and doctors were still unsure as to whether or not I would survive. I suffered from numerous injuries; a fractured kneecap, fractured mandible, countless facial lacerations and fractured bones, fractured ribs, dislocated hip, spleenectomy, and a pneumothorax. And the most serious, yet also somewhat undetermined and inconclusive, injury included a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Doctors and nurses knew my TBI was quite extensive, but like any brain injury they could not predict or say for sure the full extent of my injury or what my recovery would be like.

Family, friends and relatives crowded my room offering love, comfort and support. I survived the first 24 hours, then 48, and then 72. Doctors knew then that I would survive. I had survived my serious accident and was now on an extensive road of rehabilitation and recovery. After two weeks at Shock Trauma, I was transferred to Kernan Hospital, an inpatient rehabilitation center, for physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Fortunately, I progressed through my rehab quickly and recovered quite miraculously. I spent only 3 weeks at Kernan and arrived home to focus on regaining my strength and physical function. I spent the remainder of the summer in physical therapy and was able to return to college for the fall semester. While at school, I decided to change my focus from international relations to pursuing a career in physical therapy. I knew I always wanted to directly work with people and help them in some way. I felt that as a physical therapist I would be able to help people best by being able to relate to them from my own experience.

Now, almost a decade after my accident, I have been able to realize my dreams and reflect on my experience. I feel that I recovered in such a positive way because of the expertise and perseverance of my team of doctors, nurses and therapists and also because of the ever-constant love and support of my family, friends and relatives. Presently, I work as a physical therapist aiming to restore the physical function and livelihood of my patients. I am able to empathize with my patients and feel I can also provide the extra perseverance and care needed for a successful recovery. Furthermore, I am married and have two beautiful children. As I look into my daughter and son’s eyes and watch them play and develop, I see a reflection of myself in them and am more than grateful for my life and for the success of my story.

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