SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury
Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!
It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.
The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.
On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.
The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.
If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.
Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)
Valentine’s Day 2010 would turn into a complete game-changer – a day we will never forget. It’s a day I’ve documented so, if the day comes when my memory is gone, I can always reflect back on God’s goodness and mercy. Following is my account of the night we were poisoned. God provided the most beautiful second chance.
We were experiencing a “Texas Winter” and had received about six inches of snow. We had been without power for three days. On day 3, we ran a generator in the driveway, near our garage. The garage door and windows were open. The Fire Chief later told us that, since it was so cold and there was no wind, the carbon monoxide gas probably just settled. Instead of blowing away, it just crept back into the house via the eaves.
Taylor (my daughter; 13 at the time) and I had gone to bed. She told us that someone had called her name and she was trying to get up to see who it was. She got up, fell face-first into the wall, collapsed and crawled out of her bedroom, shimmied up the wall, and collapsed again. The thud of Taylor falling on the concrete floor is what woke me up. Charlie (her dad and my ex-husband) heard this as well from the living room. We went to the hallway and found Taylor passed out and lying on her face. We couldn’t get her to respond! Charlie sent me for the flashlight that was by my bed. On my way, I felt like I was not right either. I got the flashlight and ran back to the hall so I could get to Charlie to let him know I wasn’t OK. I knew that if I collapsed in the bedroom, he wouldn’t know to come for me.
Everything was spinning out of control, and I was experiencing the worst feelings I had ever had! When I turned the corner to the hallway, I collapsed face-first (without using my hands or arms to brace myself). I fell onto the metal flashlight and severely cut my forehead. I told Charlie I felt blood running down my face. He looked at me with the flashlight and said he had to get me to the hospital! My head began to pulse blood. Taylor, I, and the walls were covered in blood. Meanwhile, Taylor was in and out of consciousness. I was having convulsions and banging my face into the concrete floor. Charlie then called 9-1-1.
First to respond were the police. Charlie told them we had no power, so they used their flashlights. They immediately saw my blood and the bloody handprints in our hallway, and Charlie had my blood on him as well. Immediately they accused Charlie of a crime. Shortly thereafter, the fire department arrived, and luckily Charlie knew one of the firefighters who quickly came to Charlie’s defense. Charlie told the Fire Chief of the generator, and immediately the Chief went to the truck to get the carbon monoxide detector. Even at the entrance to our driveway, the readings on the detector began to rise quickly. The readings went higher as he got closer to the house. Upon reaching the door, he called for his crew to exit the house and got Charlie, Taylor, and our dogs out as well. Paramedics were left inside with me to get me stable enough for transport to the hospital. Eventually I left by ambulance, and Charlie and Taylor left in Charlie’s truck.
At Mansfield Methodist Hospital, Taylor’s and my blood gases were checked. They were found to be “through the roof.” We were then transported to Dallas Methodist to use their hyperbaric chamber. First, my head injury was closed up with fifteen stitches, and I had to have a CT (computerized tomography) scan to make sure I was transportable. Off we went in the ambulance. Upon arriving at Dallas Methodist, a doctor explained the procedures for going into the hyperbaric chamber. (I was trying to comprehend all of this while the carbon monoxide was still doing damage to my brain!) We found out that the family that had just been in the chamber before us had all died, except the father – not comforting!
When we came home, my sister Kimberley moved in for approximately a month. Physically, my head was healing, but, mentally, I was left with a traumatic brain injury. I literally started over with kindergarten flashcards (I would look at an apple and say “library”), and my friends and family completed most of my sentences. My neurologist was a great comfort to me as I struggled with memory and cognitive skills.
My neurologist also told me that people don’t survive what we went through. He said they really don’t know how to treat me. He said carbon monoxide goes into your brain and destroys whatever it attaches to, and we have no control over what functions are affected.
Taylor and I struggle daily, but some recovery continues every day for both of us. Taylor is young, and healing has come differently for her. Memory and migraines are big battles she continues to face.
I’ve come a long way, but I continue to deal with balance, breathing, vision, and memory. It seems I have fallen more times than I’ve stood. By far, my greatest challenge is breathing. Every day, at some point I struggle to breathe. Coughing has become my norm.
My memory is horrible at times, and I’ve lost so many precious memories. Taylor and I have a routine when it comes to trying to remember things. We just look at each other and ask, “Did we have fun?” The one who remembers says to the other, “Yes, we had fun!” That’s all that matters.
What a Valentine’s Day! Taylor saved us by miraculously waking. We endured my bloody head injury which required fifteen stitches, a concussion, a CT scan, blood gas analyses, ambulance rides, and approximately three-hour “dives” in a hyperbaric chamber. (And, we’re both very claustrophobic!) Nothing says “I love you” like a brain injury.
To be alive is amazing, in whatever capacity! God is good – no, great!
Thank you, Shelley Taylor and Taylor Trammell, for sharing your story.
Taylor Trammell and her mother, Shelley Taylor, are contributing authors in “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer. Shelley and Taylor’s story is titled, “Our Story of Poisoning — and of Grace.” It can be found in Chapter 75 on page 299.
My story, “Nightmare in the Disability Lane,” can be found in Chapter 29 on page 114 of the same book, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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