Approximately eighteen months ago, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury on my first day of snow skiing. I was in a state of confusion when I regained consciousness from my coma. After explaining to me that I was in a Colorado hospital my family explained to me what had occurred. Once the ventilator was removed, I could barely whisper. The left side of my body was paralyzed. I learned I needed major inpatient rehabilitation therapy. That’s the moment that I decided that a strong determination is a must for a strong recovery.
Early on in my recovery, I made the decision that wheelchairs and walkers weren’t meant for me as a seventeen year old. I had my mind set on walking again without holding on to anything. I progressed from being placed in my wheelchair and pushed around to being capable of maneuvering it myself. Next, I learned to stand up and balance between parallel bars. Weeks passed and I was given a walker. I reached my goal when I began carrying my walker around. Finally, my doctors and therapists saw that I had mastered this skill.
In order for me to return home to Baton Rouge, I needed to complete more hours in both Occupational and Speech Therapy. My left arm and hand were slower to regain strength. The doctors explained that in order to get my left upper body working, I needed to tie off my right arm. This forced my body to use the left side which helped create a new passageway in my brain. Next, I was on to Speech Therapy to increase my processing speed and other cognitive skills. Solving brain teasers and Sudoku puzzles was nightly homework. Nearly three months of strenuous hard work got me to my destination, HOME! It was truly a moment when I felt, “There’s no place like home!”
Upon returning home, my parents and I set up a meeting with the administration from my high school. We discussed the fact that I had missed twelve weeks of school and making it up over the summer would be a challenge. I decided immediately that I wanted to accept the challenge in order to graduate with my class in May of 2008. My teachers agreed and I began the work required to complete my junior year.
I now appreciate actually going to class and learning with classmates. Teaching yourself or working with a family member is not the same as being in class especially at an extremely difficult college preparatory school. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, “Nicole, this will be worth it. You’ll be one step closer to college.” Graduation from St. Joseph’s Academy was more than just a milestone in my life. It was an outcome of my fortitude throughout my difficult experience.
I learned my belief through a personal tragedy. I believe in the power of determination.
This determination brought me into a new phase of life: Being a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University.