The bell rang at 3:00 p.m., signifying the end of another day in my life. I was a high-school senior, the captain of the track team, and had to hurry and change for practice. I was going to a University of Miami basketball game with friends that night. After practice, I ate dinner, kissed my mother goodbye and drove to a friend's house. He borrowed his parents' mini-van, we stopped to fill the tank up, I put the seatbelt in my hand. The next thing I remember was lying in a hospital bed five days later. I had a respirator down my throat. Luckily, my mother was next to me – she was able to tell me all that had happened.
After leaving the gas station on Monday, February 13, 1995, we crossed an intersection that we had driven through hundreds of times, but this time we were broad-sided. I was unrestrained and was ejected out the window as the van spun. My final landing spot was 40 feet away from the van. I was rushed to the trauma center in Hollywood, Florida, where I was diagnosed with fractured ribs, a collapsed left lung, and a severe left frontal epidural hematomas due to a skull fracture. The first days were traumatic for my family. Was I going to live? If so, was I going to have brain damage and to what extent? The next few days my body reacted well to treatment and I was out of Intensive Care four days later. I was moved to the Neurological Unit, and here I started to remember scattered events. The next weeks were tough, I wanted to give up.
I was unable to attend my last semester of high school, but my school allowed me to graduate and walk with my classmates. I was on the road to recovery and was determined to attend college that fall. My doctors sent me for neuropsychological testing. These tests confirmed that I had sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury. I began a rigorous cognitive and physical therapy program. The doctors agreed to let me begin college with a reduced course load in the fall because I had to take things slow. However, I never gave up. I overcame my injuries with hard work and dedication. I graduated from the University of Miami with honors in December of 1999 and the University of Miami School of Medicine in May 2004.
I survived a traumatic brain injury - a result of a severe motor vehicle crash - and I was not wearing my seatbelt.
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