by Karen Klassen
|My life entirely changed on Dec 1, 1990. My parents were outstanding individuals. I’ve lost them both, but they are forever in my heart and soul and are with me every day. They were devout Seventh-day Adventists. We attended church every Sabbath while I was growing up. They were loving, kind, and generous, especially to me.|
I was 22 that day. I had moved away from home, was divorced, and was searching for satisfaction, fulfillment, and thrills in all the wrong places. In a monstrous car accident, I broke my left eye socket and cheekbone, broke a phone pole in half and totaled a beautiful car. I now live with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I was clinically dead, was given a tracheotomy, was in a coma for almost 3 months, and didn’t know my own name or recognize anyone upon coming out of the coma. My parents spent hours with me in the ICU and a plastic surgeon repaired my face.
There was and is no procedure that can fix TBI. Physical & occupational therapy can only help a little. During all this, my parents-maintained full-time jobs. It stressed them out and broke their hearts, but they were always there for me. I got sent to the best TBI rehabs available.
I attended CUC (now WAU) because my parents met there back in the ’50s. The Adult Evening Program was designed for working adults and consisted of one class, one evening a week. My dad drove me. This gave me the extra time I needed to complete a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management and eventually, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. The professors at WAU are very caring and are good at what they do. They didn’t make it easy on me, but they did provide the help I needed to succeed.
I lost my identity in the accident. I went from being an outgoing, popular girl in her prime to a head-injured trauma victim who had to relearn how to speak, swallow, walk, talk, and function again. Everything that’s worth anything takes time and much effort. Sometimes you’ll have to fail before you succeed. Always try again. If you don’t persist, you’ll never be anything but a disappointment to yourself and to others. Life isn’t about always winning; it’s about never giving up.
My parents were told that I would never walk again, and I didn’t speak for almost a year post coma. I am walking with an unbalanced gait and have been told sometimes that I talk too much. It’s a miracle. I will have TBI, major short-term memory loss, and a lack of balance for the rest of my life. I’m getting used to it and have accepted it. Learn to cope with your limitations. We all have several.
You’re here for a reason. Two things to always remember in life that will get you through the rough times are as follows: 1) Someone always has it worse than you do. Holding a pity party and surrendering to a “poor me” complex will get you nowhere and will prevent you from making any progress. 2) There is a reason for everything that happens. A horrific accident both changed the course of and saved my life. It forced me to change my goals, redefine what makes me happy, and adjust my vision of success.
Always remember that God loves you and has a plan for you. Retrospect is very revealing. Time is the greatest healer. Nothing stays the same. Learning to effectively cope with unexpected events will be your greatest asset.