Leah - Merrill, Wisconsin
Entered on May 28, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Every morning my 22 year old brother Matthew asks me, “Leah, what day is it today?”. I tell him at least five times and then to please hurry up so he’s not late for work. I’m usually trying to get stuff done in the morning. I can do it; I can make it through the day. In the back of my mind I always think six years back to the day the phone rang, when my view on life was changed.

Once my dad hung up the phone, the pit in my stomach formed, my heart began to race. He said, “Leah, your brother, Matthew, was in a car accident!” He grabbed his keys and ran out the door. I was a frightened thirteen year, but wanted to go with to the hospital. As we drove there every imaginable scenario ran through my head of what had happened. I couldn’t begin to fathom what was yet to come. Come to find out, Matt, a junior in high school, was driving home in the early morning fog. Instead of going around a sharp curve, Matt drove off the road into a tree. After laying there unconscious for hours, a passerby called 911.

When I entered Matt’s room for the first time, I was really nervous. The nurses were cutting his bloody shirt off and cleaning his scraped face. The tears just started to pour and I couldn’t stop shaking. Seeing my brother just laying there so helpless, was overwhelming. When Matt hit the tree, his head smashed the windshield damaging his brain stem; putting him in a coma. Now my family and I just had to play the waiting game.

After 17 days in the Intensive Care Unit, Matt was finally transported to a rehabilitation unit, to slowly learn how to do everything over again. He was in a coma for over a month and a half and had to work vey hard to perform the simplest tasks. First, he was able to open one eye and wiggle his fingers and toes. Next, he worked on holding his head up, crawling, and eventually taking steps. He was very much like a brand new baby. After a year, Matt was able to talk, walk, feed, and dress himself. He returned home, attended Merrill High School Special Education program, and graduated with the class of 2006. Matthew has severe short term memory loss. He can tell you about events that happened prior to his accident, but can not recall what happened ten minutes ago. He is totally dependent on all of us to help him perform activities of daily living. Matthew may never reach his goal of being 100 percent functional, but continues to work towards recovery everyday.

This tragedy has taught me the value of life and the joy of simple things that most people take for granted. I am grateful that I can remember what day of the week it is, something my brother struggles with. It has given me the desire to never give up trying to accomplish things. I am motivated by recalling how hard Matt worked to accomplish just a little task like holding his fork. This tragedy has also strengthened my belief to never give up hope. Most importantly, Matthew has influenced me to be determined and persistent in my efforts, to push through barriers, and to never quit until I have achieved my goals and am happy with my accomplishments in life.