Friday, March 4, 2011

After Obstaining a TBI My Daughter Chose Her Own Destiny

One of a parents greatest milestones of all is when your child graduates. For me, I always felt as though I too, accomplished something. I realize many parents have shared in this joy as they celebrate in their child's success. However, the odds change for many girls who become pregnant and raise a child in high school. What many of you aren't aware of is that at 15 years old, my daughter, suffered traumatic brain injury. Her doctors made it clear that she would never graduate and insisted on her quitting school. As a mother, that was not on option! Now I admit, I knew absolutely nothing about a TBI. So you can understand my unwillingness to cooperate. I was informed the best chance of recovery is the 18 months directly following the TBI. The more doctors and teachers told her she couldn't, the more my daughter resisted and the harder she fought to prove them wrong. Against all odds she accomplished what so many told her was nearly impossible. I hope you find her story inspirational!

I'm sure most parents would agree there's nothing like the very first time you hold your child. You would do anything to protect them. So many milestones come and go and as a mom it all seems like just yesterday. Each child so unique has their own personality. They grow up too fast. So when my older kids were all working it was no surprise that the youngest  wanted to get a job too. She seen all the things her older siblings were buying. Both my husband and myself started working about that age and so we didn't find any harm. To be honest, I didn't know of anywhere that would hire her at 14 anyway. She set her sights on one of the local pizza places and of course was too young. She was devastated. She stopped in every couple months and was finally told to check back when she was 15. Soon after her 15th Birthday she walked down and got an application. I should have explained the process beforehand because she added glitter and a touch of perfume to her application. To my complete amazement she was hired.

She started out as a banner shaker as she was too young to work in the kitchen. Her, being a cheerleader with a bubbly personality, quickly became known as the Domino's Girl. She sang and danced and made her own cheers. Her job was to draw attention to their sign and attention she drew. I was told by the manager that sales were dramatically increased when she worked. She was really happy and absolutely loved her job. Her enthusiasm and motivation was apparent as the other 2 stores asked her to come in for a few hours too. I was not so approving to let her work in town as I liked her closer to home. However, one day she went and I didn't have a clue.

It was 4:20pm. I was sitting at my desk. I was a receptionist for a Real Estate Company. With ten minutes left of the day I answered a incoming call. The man identified himself as a police officer. He asked if I had a 15 year old daughter? Yes, of course I did. He said something about her being hit by a car while walking across the street in town. I remember standing up as I looked at the clock. I was really confused as she wasn't even scheduled to work. Why was she in town? She doesn't work there? Then I heard a mothers biggest nightmare. Screams from my daughter as she cried in a voice I'll never forget. I heard sirens approaching and tons of chaos as the pieces came together. The officer then told me a driver ran a red light while she was carrying her sign. She was hit at 35 miles an hour. She couldn't move her legs and could be paralyzed. He went on to say he was sure there was internal bleeding and it was life threatening. They didn't know if she would make it. Don't drive yourself, he said.

At the hospital it was even worse. No one would give us any answers and everyone seemed to know her. She was like a celebrity. They wouldn't let us see her and my husband went anyway. Her only concern was me. After an hour or more they eventually came for me. God was definitely watching over her. She had numerous cuts and scrapes but had broken her pelvic in 2 places. There was no internal bleeding. She had a large bump on her head the size of a softball but they said she would be OK. Her hospital room became filled with immediate family and co-workers calling from all over the state. People she had never met.

The hospital began teaching her to use crutches and sent us home on our way. Over the next 6 weeks she became very irritable. All she wanted to do was go back to work. She cried alot and when she wasn't crying she was so angry you couldn't stand it. We had physical therapy 3 days a week for her hip and back. By the end of summer she was released to go back to work.  They started training her to answer phones and work inside. Summer was ending and she was excited to get back to school. On the outside she seemed OK. She complained about her pain alot but something about her was very different. Besides the terrible headaches; it seemed that when she wasn't crying she was angry at the world.

It was a school physical when her doctor suggested we see a neurologist. A professional 2 hours away. Her pediatrician had noticed this change as well. After seeing him and a battery of specialized testing it was confirmed. They had missed a TBI. We gathered all the information and thought we were ready for school to begin. As she headed back to school as a Sophomore we never expected school would pose such a threat. She never had it easy in school by any means. It seemed she was always being taunted by someone. Just 3 days after notifying the school of the TBI she was jumped by another student coming out of class. Right then and there I decided to take her out of her school. It was sad as all the kids had been with their friends since Kindergarten. We made the decision to transfer her to a rural school which was going to require alot of commitment on my part. It would mean a 30 minute drive one way to school each day. It would be nearly another month before we learned she needed to start therapy everyday in town. Again the doctors insisted on her dropping out.

Our daily routine was now to spend 5 days a week in therapy retraining and learning all over again. 4-5 long hours a day. All awhile driving back and forth to school 2-3 times each day. She also worked 2 hour shifts a couple days a week and would take hours attempting her homework. Between the teachers at the small rural school and the team of doctors along with her determination she slowly began to regain skills. One task at a time. She had lost nearly all her friends and it truly became just us in what seamed like we were taking on the world.

December brought another challenge as we learned she had gotten pregnant. I'm sure you can about imagine what her us as well as her doctors thought about that! Instead she added yet more to her plate. She reached out to Birthline and took class after class in parenting classes and joined numerous teen youth groups and support systems. Not once did she ever give up. By the end of her sophomore year and the economy taking an even further plunge we made the unforeseen decision to again transfer her schools back home but in an alternative setting. Her entire Junior year she and baby attended school together just 2 days a week. It was less of a burden on her but she was 5 credits short at the end of her Junior year and longed to go back to school full time with her peers. She knew it would require everything she had left in her but set her sights to reach for the stars and walk with her class. After attending summer school and 2 more credits down we finalized all plans for her Senior year.

That first day of school I think was the roughest on her. She wasn't sure how people would react. She worried she might still be picked on. But mostly she dreaded leaving her daughter all day to attend school. She worked and worked in Senior year harder than I've ever seen a kid so determined. She went to homecoming, Winter Formal and always kept an upbeat, positive attitude. She made many new friends and rekindled old ones. After 3 years she even eventually left her pizza job and moved on. She, my daughter, finished all course work today. The end of 2nd Tri-mester. Nearly 3 months early. She's hoping to have made the A Honor Roll. I'm happy that she just finished.

As we woke this morning there was alot of mixed emotions. A day long awaited and fought so hard for. Alot of dedication and hard work. Alot of sacrifice. As I wrote her a short note on her facebook wall congratulating her a tears began to fall. Only I, the one who sat with her through doctor after doctor, who drove her to school each day and all her appointments could ever understand exactly what it took for her to get here. She had alot of support from so many people but she also had just as many telling her it couldn't be done. She plans to start college this fall. First and foremost, she did this for herself and for her daughter. I believe she also had to prove something to herself and her doctors.... Never say never! She chose her destiny! A single mom. A full time parent at 16 with a TBI.

Congratulations Katie. We are so very proud of you..... You did it!


Megan Rockenbach

I am still crying....... congrats Katie you did it!

Borrowedangel Janna Rockenbach

Congratulations to my beautiful granddaughter Katie. You did what most people said you couldn't do. We are so proud of you. You summed it up beautifully Tammi. One phase of her life is over and the start of another starts tomorrow. Thanks for sharing Katie's story with the world so others can see that there is always dreams that can come true even for those that are injured. Katie.....reach for the stars!!!


That is beautiful. Congrats Katie!

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