I had just finished my last university exam for the semester when a family friend asked me if I would be available for the day to help her company set up for an event. When I arrived, the scene was already full of chaos. They were behind on setting up the huge event tent, and hadn’t yet put the walls up that would provide a barrier from the intense wind. Dozens of glasses fell and shattered, the balloons were all popping, and the coordinators were rushing to finish on time. One detail I remember so clearly was watching 3 ladies struggling to put a huge support pole into place. They hadn’t set it down on flat ground, but because the coordinator was helping them, I assumed it was on purpose. I desperately wish I could go back and say something about that, to show them how unsteady it would be in the wind.
I was tasked with decorating a table, and as I was hunched over smoothing out the wrinkles, I heard a gasp from the ladies facing me. I didn’t have time to react before I both heard and felt a loud thump, a sound I have re-lived over and over in my nightmares. I can still remember how it felt. My first thought was, ‘Well…that isn’t good.’ I had no idea then how monumental that moment would be in my life. As I held my head in my hands, I looked around and saw that the huge pole had been pushed in the wind and had come down on my head. My memory is very fuzzy after the hit. I remember little things, like telling myself over and over not to cry. I wanted my parents to come pick me up, not realizing they had moved to Brussels 3 years earlier. The world was spinning, at times it went black. The next few weeks were spent in a complete fog.
My next clear memory is of waking up thinking I was 17 years old, and not knowing who Brayden was. My memory of meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Brayden was gone. I remember waking up and seeing Brayden. A rush of panic took over my body, I couldn’t say a single word. ‘Who are you?!,’ I wanted to scream.
‘Good morning, Laura!’ He smiled at me. I was confused by how calmly this stranger looked over at me, and then went back to reading. My head was pounding, and I had to stumble to the bathroom to throw up. I saw my belongings mingled with his, our wedding album laying on the coffee table. I felt like I was stuck in a hazy nightmare I couldn’t escape. This wasn’t the first morning I woke up after the accident (I can’t even remember it!), this was just a normal daily occurrence for us. Nearly every morning I woke up gasping in fear. Sometimes I screamed, sometimes I cried, and sometimes I was lucky enough to remember I wasn’t in danger.
Over the course of the next two years I spent every waking moment in tear-jerking, white-knuckled pain. In addition to the TBI, the pole had caused damage to my spine which led to constant back spasms and never-ending tension headaches. Any noise, light, or movement caused me to cry out in pain. I remember one night the pain was so intense I was terrified I might die. Brayden rushed me to the ER where we waited for hours before the doctor shined a light in my eyes and said, ‘It’s just a concussion, go home and rest.’ Another doctor told me, ‘It’s just a concussion, get back to work and you’ll feel better!’ Every doctor seemed to say something different, but they all used the same dismissing tone. No one seemed to recognize the seemingly inexplicable pain I was facing every minute of every day, or the awful memory loss. I had to leave university right before my final year and face the realization that I may never become a teacher. I lost my ability to read, write, and speak coherently. The company responsible didn’t step up and I was too sick to push for compensation, so I went without much needed treatment due to finances. At one point Brayden reached out to them, but only received an, ‘Oh no, hope she feels better soon’ type of text. I felt hopeless, misunderstood, and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.