I'm Possible: Audrey Self's brain injury recovery story
Until November 2013, my life was playing out just as I had imagined. From the outside looking in, I am sure my life looked “perfect.” I was almost finished with my first semester at Southern Methodist University (SMU). My life was full and active with plenty of potential to achieve my goals.
I had no idea it was all about to change.
Early one morning I was driving to school and was involved in a devastating car crash. Had it not been for my hero, Jerry, an off duty fire chief, I would have never lived long enough to make it to the hospital.
Saving My Brain
I was transported to the emergency room at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and later to the trauma intensive care unit (ICU). I had a global brain injury as well as shattered bones and other trauma. I was not expected to live.
The prognosis for people with my type of brain injury is bleak. Dr. Finn, my neurosurgeon, literally saved my brain. The pressure in my brain was dangerously high and he did everything possible to keep my brain condition stable, all the while knowing I may not live.
Saving My Body
I had the best possible team of trauma surgeons: Dr. Foreman, Dr. Petrey, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Funk and Dr. Carroll. The nurses and the rest of medical team also worked nonstop to keep my infections under control while I remained on life support for more than a month.
Dr. Freudigman, my orthopedic surgeon, put my bones back together after I was stable enough to undergo surgery. Weeks later, when I was minimally conscious, I was able to be transferred to Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation at Dallas. The rehab team became a second family to my own, with Dr. Dubiel guiding my recovery.
Reinventing Audrey Self
Almost six months after my brain injury, I was able to return home and begin another chapter in my long road to recovery. I had no short-term memory and minimal control of my body when I started outpatient therapy. The first memory I have post injury was working with my Occupational Therapist, Rod. He continues to encourage me even to this day. I have been working with the same physical therapist, Terri, for over two years now and have grown very close to her too. Throughout my recovery, my mother has taken me back to see “my team” that spans throughout the Baylor Scott & White Health system. My parents and siblings have told me so many stories about my recovery journey and how each of my doctors and therapists had a special role and connection.
It amazes me how doctors, nurses and therapists do what they do every day. The stress of their job is absolutely overwhelming.
“I was unable to breathe, swallow, speak or control my own body. Now, I am able to walk, unassisted, play my violin and take classes at SMU.”
It has taken countless hours and lots of work with many people for me to be where I am today. It is difficult to briefly describe how far I have come in three and a half years. I was unable to breathe, swallow, speak or control my own body. Now, I am able to walk unassisted, play my violin and take classes at SMU. Each day, I continue my journey to improve.
“Over and over I have thought about how to adequately thank the people who saved my life.”
The only way I know how to do that is to remind them that what they do makes a difference in people’s lives. I also feel it is important for me to work hard every day to get better, knowing that it would not be possible without them. I am full of gratitude for each individual who believed in me.
Appreciating My Future
Although my life now is not what I had ever imagined, I love my life. I know I will never be where I was before my injury, but that is not my goal. Based on my experiences, I am forever changed. I recognize that none of us have any guarantee of tomorrow or what the future holds.
In our hectic and constantly changing world, I appreciate the beauty of each day and how each of us can use our unique experiences to help each other as we continue to make the choice to grow.
To everyone who believed in me: Thank you all for what you do and thank you for having hope!
Audrey is a former patient at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. She received inpatient care at Baylor Rehab – Dallas and outpatient care at Baylor Rehab – Landry Center.