SPEAK OUT! – Michelle Lynn Eckert-Lawson
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Michelle Lynn Eckert-Lawson
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
February 16, 1999. I was 16 (my sophomore year in high school).
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was in a vehicle going south. The driver passed a vehicle at a stop sign. He was going 90 mph in a 30 mph zone. An eastbound vehicle T-boned us on my side. I was ejected from the vehicle, thrown 60 ft., and came within inches of a loading dock. I was dead on the scene, and the paramedics had to revive me. In the process, they punctured my vocal cords. I still talk low, and it takes a lot to speak up.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I think right away. The doctors actually told my mother that I would pretty much be a vegetable.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I didn’t have to have any surgery.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes. I was in a coma for 2 1/2 weeks.
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?
I had to do a year of speech therapy and physical therapy as an outpatient.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have a balance problem and short/long-term memory loss. I have developed fibromyalgia, which the doctor thinks is a result of the accident. I also have arthritis.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Since the age of 2, I wanted to be a police officer or go into the military. I can’t do either because of the memory loss and the risk of getting hit in the head. I had a lot of anger towards the driver for a few years after the accident, but I learned to forgive him. I realized that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I don’t like having TBI, but I wouldn’t go back and change it. It’s part of who I am today, and God only knows who I would have become if the accident didn’t happen. It may have been worse. I don’t remember who I was before (personality, etc.).
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
Refer to the answer above.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
Refer to the answer above.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
My memory loss, the fear of having Alzheimer’s or dementia, and dying before I get old because of having a brain injury.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
No. Just about everything that I have had to relearn, I have done on my own.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I lost all my friends, but I gained new ones. I tend not to have any close/best friends though. I do wish very badly that I did have a best friend – sometimes it’s hard to accept that I don’t anymore. I stay to myself, due to my being extremely paranoid about saying something wrong, being put down, or not being accepted.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
Mainly myself, but my mother, as well as my husband, helps me on remembering things.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
To have completed college and to be a teacher with my own classroom.
19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Be patient, forgive, keep God in your life at all times, and remember to always love. Also NEVER forget how short life can be.
Thank you, Michelle, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.
(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)
(Photos compliments of Michelle.)
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.