Becoming Universal Studio’s biggest franchise of all time, the Fast and the Furious is a series of action films about illegal street racing. Driving on the highways and roads of Houston sometimes seems no different from being among the fast and furious either.
Houston’s population growth and suburban sprawl has led to more cars on the road, longer commutes and frequent congestion. As a result, Houston has the highest number of motor vehicle collisions among cities in the state of Texas, with Harris County earning the worst statistics in the nation for over a decade.
I learned about these significant traffic and transportation facts back in 2000 when I was an information technology (IT) consultant commuting back and forth every week to Houston from Dallas. It would be the year that forever changed my life.
On Monday morning, July 17, 2000, I never showed up to work, and I had not returned home to Dallas that previous weekend because I had taken my first helicopter ride on Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute.
The Friday night prior, I had exited Interstate 45 southbound onto the feeder road and proceeded through the green light of the Rankin Road intersection. Out of nowhere, a Dodge Ram pickup truck –while racing against a Chevy Camaro through a red light – slammed into my car on the driver’s side.
Instantly, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and was left in a non-responsive coma for three days. But at least I survived the crash, which was so serious it required the Jaws of Life® to extract me from my vehicle.
None of my family members or friends even knew what had happened to me until that following Monday morning, three days after the accident. Using a business card that was found in the wreckage, the team at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center was able to get in touch with my employer.
I never saw it coming. I never knew what hit me.
The airbag deployed and split my eyelid wide open. There I was: unconscious, bleeding from my eye, gasping for air with a cracked rib that had punctured my lung, while stuck in my car that had been T-boned, pinned and crushed on both sides between the pickup truck and the traffic signal.
However, another miracle was being manifested to help save my life because, as soon as help arrived, I was delivered into the hands and care of the perfect people who were in the perfect place at the perfect time to make split-second decisions and perform procedures that helped save my life.
An off-duty paramedic had witnessed the entire incident – from the beginning of the car race to its conclusion, which ended in the intersection just minutes from the extended-stay hotel where I was staying. Fortunately, the paramedic knew what to do in order to keep my breathing passage open after my lung collapsed.
It was a traumatic experience for my brain and body, as well as for my family emotionally. I remained in the hospital for a week and a half and then transferred to a Dallas outpatient rehabilitation facility to be closer to where my family and I lived. Ninety days following the accident, I was discharged and released back to work upon my completion of rehab.
I refuse to see myself as a victim, and I believe that what happened was for a divine purpose. It wasn’t a car accident at all. It was a choreographed event set up for something bigger. Life as a TBI survivor has brought its challenges however.
Since that day, I’ve endured having two spinal discs fused together and chronic hip, knee and shoulder pain leading to arthroscopy surgery on the left side of my body where I was hit. I have also experienced challenges with my speech and auditory memory and have found myself writing many things down in order to recall them from my short-term memory.
The impact can also affect behavioral, cognitive, emotional, psychosocial and personality changes, any or all of which frequently lead to even greater struggles. Many times, survivors like me with more severe injuries have more residual long-term impairments that require a longer recovery time.
However, since July 2000, I have made significant accomplishments in my career and in my personal development, achieving multiple technical and information technology (IT) process certifications and the Toastmasters International Competent Communicator award.
In 2016, I made a commitment to improve my health and wellness. Though I had made great strides, I found myself dealing with long-term residual impairments. After moving back to Houston, my neurologist referred me to TIRR Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands Outpatient Rehabilitation.
The TIRR Memorial Hermann Challenge Program helped me get my life back on track through several therapies including speech and physical, as well as learning about the components of the brain. I was honored when asked by the therapist and psychologists to co-facilitate group therapy sessions for TBI patients as a peer mentor.
Once I completed the program, I was completely off medication and back in the gym with a consistent workout routine. TIRR Memorial Hermann taught me about strategies I could apply and put in place to function at my best. It was about healing from the inside out and sharing my experiences, hope and inspiration with new TBI patients who were looking to the future with fear and uncertainty.
In October 2016, while completing the Challenge Program, the biggest and most significant career opportunity was presented to me when I was offered employment within Memorial Hermann’s Information Systems Division Department as a senior project manager.
I had come full circle. Almost 17 years later, I went from being a Memorial Hermann TBI patient to becoming a Memorial Hermann employee. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to give back and make an impact within the healthcare industry and, most importantly, through Memorial Hermann’s patient care that had such an impact on me.
I believe I would not be in this world today had it not been for the hands of the doctors, staff and emergency individuals who came together to save my life. I was in the right place at the right time for each of these individuals. And, I can honestly say when I go to work every day, I feel like I owe Memorial Hermann my life.
Learn more about TIRR Memorial Hermann’s challenge program.