Miracle Day: Eight Years After My Traumatic Brain Injury

I’ve put off writing this post until this moment, because I wanted to make sure I enjoyed every. Single. Second. of Miracle Day.

“Miracle Day” is what I’ve decided to call November 21, 2005. It was the day I almost died–but I didn’t. Last summer, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare asked me to tell my story for their annual report. Please watch this short video to learn about my journey (mobile users, click here):

I feel bad for the video editors, who had to cut down 2+ hours of my speaking about my experience into two minutes. 😉 I think they did a great job, though. There’s so much I have to say about all of this; as you may recall, I’m working on my memoir of this experience now.

Words are my gift, my tool, and I had to fight hard to get them back. Initially, I couldn’t speak, except through the American Sign Language alphabet that Jennifer and I had taught each other (half-correctly) at ages 5 and 7. Even after I was no longer intubated, my throat was damaged and my words were sludgy in my mind. With the help of some amazing therapists and the encouragement of my family and friends, along with a lot of hard (rewarding) work, I was able to make a tremendous recovery. It was this experience that taught me just how crucial communication is, and that my gift with words might be a gift indeed. It gave me the courage to be a writer, because I finally saw a way to make a difference through my writing. And I’ve never stopped.

I feel like God gave me back my life for a reason, and I have a huge sense of destiny and duty to give back and help other people. I never feel like I can do enough, and sometimes I worry I’m not working hard enough or being good enough. I know that my memoir is part of that destiny, and that’s part of what intimidates me–but also excites me–about it.

Although I only had <5% chance of surviving that injury, and even less chance of recovering to any great extent, I did. I am incredibly grateful to God and every person who helped me to come back. Each day since then has been a gift, even the bad ones, because they are days I almost didn’t have. I don’t feel like I’m living on borrowed time, but rather gifted time. My loved ones are a huge part of that gift, and I’m going to love them as hard as I can (and tell them so) to thank them for making my life so worthwhile and for all they do to keep me alive–not just when I was in the hospital bed, but also in the way they nourish my spirit and give my life purpose.

Today, Jennifer voted to wrap me in a comforter and hold me in a rocking chair by the fireplace. While I appreciated the loving thought, we deemed this too sweaty and bulky an option. Kidding aside, I feel overwhelmed by the love, congratulations, and protectiveness that surge forth on this day from loved ones. I was surprised I actually managed to convince my dad to go shopping with me today–not the shopping itself (he has always gone shopping with us and has personally found many of our best pieces), but the leaving the house on the day. But, we did have a miracle to celebrate, after all.

In retrospect, a day that might have seemed mundane was actually quite symbolic–almost eerily so. This morning, my dad picked up a collared shirt for me from Wal-Mart for my country-themed birthday celebration coming up. Eight years ago, he also picked up a couple of collared shirts for me from Wal-Mart to wear during therapy at Marianjoy. When he got back today, we left to buy a ball gown I’ve been pining over for two years, which I plan to wear (spoiler alert!) to the next Marianjoy gala. It was a far cry from the hospital gowns I was wearing as a Marianjoy patient eight years ago. To go with those hospital gowns, eight years ago, my dad had to buy me high-top gym shoes to wear in the hospital so my feet stayed upright while I slept/the muscles didn’t pronate. Today, we went shopping for shoes for my job at that hospital. We even took a picture today in our nearby downtown area, with all the Christmas lights in the background wrapped around trees and poles–pretty different than pole lights and X-rays in my hospital room. Then we ended the night with pizza, which was my #1 requested food item at Marianjoy, which they were so sweet to accommodate. So maybe I’m just reading too much YA literature, or maybe I’m just trying to justify making my dad go shopping with me, but I thought the day was awesomely symbolic.

I never feel more grateful, blessed, or awe-struck than this day, each year. It’s a nice feeling to have–it makes me feel simultaneously small in the universe and hugely impactful, predestined but powerful, loved and loving. Thank you to my family, friends, doctors, nurses, therapists, and firemen who rescued me not just from death, but from a darkness I might have entered, too. And thank you to you, my dear readers, for following my journey. ❤

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15 thoughts on “Miracle Day: Eight Years After My Traumatic Brain Injury

  1. Congratulations Amanda on miracle day! You are such a brave woman!! Thank you for letting me be a part of the day and being able to spend so much of it with you. I am VERY proud of how valiantly you have fought to regain your capabilities. You have achieved so much and helped many others along the way. Your constant encouragement to others and desire to help people is a very noble thing to do and I am very proud of all you have done and achieved.

    With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many of us will give pause to think of the special nature of it. After your event there is little doubt of the existence of Angels on Earth and of the celestial variety (the prior a title of one of your poems)!

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    • Thanks so much, Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you! Thank YOU for spending your day with me–I can’t think of many men who would willingly take their daughters shoe/dress-shopping. 🙂

      I really appreciate your kind words. Thank you; I hope I am helping as many people as possible. It will always be my goal.

      I so agree–no doubt of angels. I’m glad you were there with me; you were certainly one of my earthly angels! ❤

      Thank you again for your kind words and support! ❤

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  3. What a beautiful post from a brave and determined girl! I feel doubly blessed to be on your journey with you. It is a wonderful gift – you use to help others, especially your upcoming memoir. Keep counting the blessings!

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  6. Oh… wow… there are TEARS! I am so glad that you survived such a scary ordeal… well, not just survived–you almost seem to have turned that terrible misfortune into your golden egg. Congratulations don’t begin to weigh into the magnitude of your achievements, but I will say them anyway. Congratulations. Keep rocking on! 🙂

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  9. Reblogged this on Jelly-Side Up and commented:

    Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years from my first Miracle Day. It was a day my life almost ended–but instead began anew. Sometimes, you have to lose everything to learn what’s really important to you–and it’s all the sweeter to regain it once you’ve had to fight to get it back.
    I’ve long thought the 10-year anniversary would feel especially momentous to me, but in reviewing my post on this day two years ago, I feel much the same as then, but more–more grateful, more inspired, more driven. Life has changed in interesting ways, but our life stories should be just like good books, not knowing what’s on the next page until you’re there. And sometimes, it’s a relief just to move the story forward, to turn the page, and to know you’re still there, still the hero(ine) of your own journey.
    I’ve been blessed every single year since Miracle Day with a life full of love and joy. It can be hard work sometimes, but it’s worth it. I’m proud to say, since this post two years ago, I’ve worked more towards that “giving back” goal I made for myself, speaking on disability awareness panels, organizing charity donations, and, most importantly–spreading kindness wherever I can. Thank you, dear readers, for your constant support every step of the way. For, as the bracelet my sister gave me in the hospital says:
    “A journey of 10,000 miles starts with a single step.” Here’s to many more steps, with eternal gratitude to the loved ones (including you, dear readers) in my life.

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  10. Congratulations on your 10th miracle day anniversary Amanda. You are certainly fulfilling your promise to yourself of giving back and doing kind things for others. Not only did I learn the meaning of courage and strength from you watching you go through your injury and rehabilitation 10 years ago but I see how I could be a better, kinder, more compassionate person from you each day. Thank you for that gift as well.

    You see Amanda, while you thank us; it’s us that should thank you! I have had the pleasure of seeing you speak at events and help promote disability awareness along with how you interact with people of all kinds and as a father, I could not be more proud.

    With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I take stock of my blessings and you, Jennifer and mom are the ones I am thankful for twice over for all that each of you do.

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