88: Accidental Destiny

88: Accidental Destiny

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Accidental Destiny

Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.

~Sophocles

As a restaurant manager, my days off were few and far between. But tonight I had a rare evening off and I couldn’t get out the door fast enough. Just as I was leaving work I heard my assistant call out, “Phone for you, Cecile.”

As tempted as I was to pretend I was not there and have them take a message, I took the call. My assistant handed me the phone and he knew right away something was wrong. “Hello, Cecile speaking,” I said, forcing cheer into my voice.

The voice on the other end of the line was familiar, but my father’s tone was an unfamiliar mix of panic and worry. “Hello, Cecile. Papa here. I’m so glad I caught you. I can’t seem to get through on your cell phone.” Suddenly, my throat tightened; something was wrong. Mom did the calling in our house, not Papa. He would come on the phone after Mom and I chatted, usually at the end of the conversation so he could say, “So good to hear your voice, Sunshine. I love you!”

“What’s wrong, Papa?” I demanded, knowing he tries to sugar-coat things for his little girl.

“I have some news. Are you sitting down?” he said with a choke in his voice. At that instant, I knew that something horrible had happened. Our family unit of three was a solid triangle. We were a team, and little did I know that team was going to become very important and much stronger.

He barely choked out the words, “It’s your mother. There was an accident. They don’t really know what the damage is, but she hasn’t woken up yet.”

The room started spinning. My mind was struggling to piece it together. My knees felt weak. My assistant immediately recognized that this was not just a work phone call and something had gone terribly wrong. I felt so helpless and far away.

I began driving as the sun rose. Thirteen hours to the Kingston hospital and I think I made it in eleven. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. I didn’t tell my father I was driving, because I knew that would worry him. I just kept calling him and asking for updates.

Finally I raced through the emergency room doors. “My mom is here; she was hit by a car,” I gasped. There was no hesitation from the young girl at the desk as she instantly jumped to her feet. “You must be Wendy’s daughter,” she said and led me into a small room where my mother lay hooked to tubes and machines. My father was sitting beside the bed, his head buried in hands.

The moment I entered, my mom stirred. “Cecile?” Then her voice trailed off and went silent.

My father’s head jolted up with the sound of her voice; he had been waiting for her to speak since the accident the day before. He stood up and looked at me; tears streamed down his face as he squeezed me. “God bless you. I knew you would come. I knew you would come.”

I tried to share his optimism. I expected bad, but this was worse. Most of her ribs were fractured; she had a broken leg and a back injury. It was the brain injury that changed my mom; it transformed and challenged our family in ways I had never dreamed it could. Getting her out of the hospital was only the beginning. Her rehabilitation included speech therapy, dozens of tests and multiple therapist appointments.

The change in her personality and mental stability was the hardest to grasp. I felt that I had lost my best friend. Our parent/child roles were reversed. My mom had spent her life as an entrepreneur who also volunteered teaching disadvantaged children theatre arts and drama. She still had a strong fighting spirit inside her, and even on those days when her mind was clouded with pain and confusion, determination was there.

For the first two years, I traveled back and forth and I pored over the latest research on brain injury. At first, it was like a foreign language to me. Gradually, I began to not only decipher the information, but I became fascinated by this amazing organ that is the brain. I began devouring medical journals and studying case reports of traumatic brain injuries. The more I researched, the more amazed I became. One day, like a cloudburst, it came to me. This is what I wanted to devote my life to.

Suddenly, college was making a lot of sense. I applied to university, was accepted, and I am now in my third year and in the top ten percent of my class. I continue to manage my mom’s ongoing care, and rarely does a day go by that she doesn’t exercise her brain with some brain games that research shows improve cognitive function and memory.

Support from the community is so important. In fact, when I discovered there was no brain injury support group in my part of the country, I made some inquiries. One step led to another, and I am now helping to launch a support group in my city and becoming the area’s contact for the Brain Injury Association of Canada.

It has been just over five years and I am very content with the life I have chosen. My family is closer than ever and my mom is still my best friend.

~Cecile Proctor

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