Moving forward

July 1, 2011 started just like any other day. Or at least I think it would have, since I don't remember it. I had spent the previous night at my boyfriend's home in anticipation of celebrating Canada Day together. We'd been dating for three months and it was my first serious relationship. We watched a movie, attempted to drink wine and went to bed. From what I've been told, we woke up and left to pick up my boyfriend's brother before continuing to the Canada Day Celebrations in Mission, BC. Except we didn't make it to the Tim Hortons. In fact, we apparently didn't make it more than maybe 10 minutes from his house when his shiny red Camaro hit the tree that would change the direction of both our lives. “A young man and woman have been airlifted to hospital after a car veered off the Lougheed Highway and crashed into a tree Friday morning.” - CTV “Crash closes Lougheed highway east of Mission” - Mission Record/BC Local News “Two people have been sent to hospital after a serious accident in the Deroche area this morning” - News1130 All the facts I have, I've collected from news articles as well as the recollections of family and friends. The shiny red car my boyfriend loved had somehow veered off the road, turned 180 degrees and hit a tree on the driver's side. We ended up in the yard of a retired emergency responder who was responsible for removing me from the passenger's seat. I was admitted to the hospital and my boyfriend was flown to the more specialized trauma hospital. My first memory is one of no particular excitement. I woke up on our living room couch, a “Get Well” balloon attached to the coffee table and a television program playing in the background. Eventually someone fills me in about what happened. I have a Traumatic Brain Injury, a black eye, back and neck pain, bruising on my arms and a wicked headache. The next few weeks are a whirlwind of visits from well wishers, doctor appointments, a meeting with my new lawyer, my first visit to see my boyfriend in the hospital and a lot of time spent on my couch. From the TBI, I developed the attention span of a lemming, no longer able to watch a full length television program or read a complex novel. The rest of the summer continues, each week repeating the other as friends and acquaintances visit, I routinely see my doctor, I make trips to see my boyfriend in the hospital and I lie on the couch. It is soon suggested that I may want to consider delaying my return to school. I was slated to begin the final year of a diploma program. As I continued to have irrational emotional responses, mysterious headaches, a limited attention span, the inability to stand for long periods of time and a horrible memory, my doctor and mother were concerned about the potential of me graduating. I looked at this concern as a challenge; I stubbornly returned to classes in the fall, completed two semesters of practicum placements and graduated on time. Over the past 8 years since the car accident I have seen a variety of treatment specialists: neurologists, neuropsychologists, counselors, vocational specialists, physiologists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors and an acupuncturist. While many of my physical injuries have been dealt with or have reached a manageable state, many of the invisible ones continue. From the reports of these specialists, I have a combination of anxiety, minor depression, chronic posttraumatic headaches, long and short term memory deficits and working memory deficits stemming from the “moderate traumatic brain injury”. I have had the same conversation with someone in the span of ten minutes, forgotten cherished childhood memories, hid under a desk at work when an intimidating customer walked by and cried in my car because of traffic. During my most recent visit to a vocational specialist, she reported that while I would likely obtain my Bachelor of Arts in Communication from SFU, with minor struggles and some accommodations, I would have difficulty transitioning into full time work. In her opinion, my chosen field of nonprofit fundraising would present more challenges than I could overcome with my “unresolved physical, cognitive and psychological complaints.” She also writes, “Ms. Tipper's need for accommodations would likely reduce her efficiency and productivity on the job, and render her a less attractive candidate for employment compared to non-injured individuals vying for the same positions in the open labour market.” I'm happy to say that just as before, I've taken her report as a challenge and graduated. I've taken workshops to help manage stress and anxiety (triggers for headaches), own a planner for work, utilize a Google calendar and write almost everything down in a notebook for safekeeping. So far, I haven't had any complaints about my efficiency or productivity; instead, I'm often complimented on it.

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