Brain Injury with Tammy Kirkwood
‘FAIR – supporting auto accident victims through advocacy and education’
Most people live their lives not giving a thought about what they have accomplished. We plug along with day to day events or situations.
UNTIL …. Life stops the way you’re use to! Your abilities change, for example…..physical movement, memory, concentration, motivation, determination, planning (even hourly), mood/behaviour, you change. This can happen with a motor vehicle accident, or blows to the head, or a fall, to name a few.
After my car accident, the first 6 months involved three different hospitals, for intensive rehabilation. When my glascow scale reached 8 out of 15, I was discharged and then able to go home from the hospital to the care of my brother Mike. He gave me 24 hour care for the next 6 months. He was my rock. He rode the roller coaster of recovery with me!
After the accident I had to relearn many things people take for granted. Learning the skills of sitting up in bed or chair unsupported, being in a wheelchair for mobility, using a walker to re learn how to walk, learning how to use the cane for stability were uphill challenges for me. The basic skills of eating, drinking and thinking all had to be relearned. I was a 40 year old woman with the functions of a toddler.
When this unfortunate experience occurs, we are required to work harder, mind & body, than we ever have before just to try and “regain” our abilities. I looked at my head injury in the beginning, with disbelief, anger, and resentment. I couldn’t believe that this had happened to me.
Through a lot of support from family, friends, and therapists, I was guided in how I could move forward. Do I miss my abilities I no longer have? ABSOLUTELY YES! But, I like me and I’m grateful for what I have. My positive thought has always been, IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!
I’m trying to share what worked for me with the hope that the ideas, might work or help you.
I took my experience as an opportunity to revise me. Through working with and through my deficits, I also learned how to adapt, so I could LIVE.
I’ve come a long way since that day in 2008. Today I am the Vice-Chair of FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform. Now I find myself fighting for other MVA victims so they too can have access to the resources they so desperately need for recovery.
I celebrated my first year of survival with my friends and family. I wasn’t on this journey alone. My youngest daughter did a speech and a few paragraphs stood out to all of us:
“When something negative happens in your life, or if it keeps happening over and over again and you feel like that world is crashing down, remember that you are not alone. Take a good look at the people around you, the people who have always been there for you. We have all conquered what we thought we couldn’t. Because when you’re in that moment of darkness nothing seems right, But once you step out of that hole, and the light shines down on you, it’s right then and there when you realized that you’re not lost. That, we’re all here for you.
Through out the past year the greatest, most courageous, strong woman, has worked so hard to over come what the doctors thought she couldn’t. That woman everyone, is my mom Tammy Kirkwood. This year she has made it through her accident and the affects of it and after all that, look at her now! Not one single person in this room can tell me that she doesn’t look amazing. But you can tell me that we’re all so proud of her. With everything that’s gone on this year, me my siblings, my family, my mom, I’m sure we have all felt alone and hurt and scared but looking at mom now and what she has become is inspiring. It inspires me to let me know that no matter what happens in your life, you can over come it. It takes work and time. She’s inspired me to keep my head up when I thought that I couldn’t and she’s inspired me to go for my dreams.
One of my sister’s made a speech at my 5 year celebration of life. I wanted to share some of her words:
“Then the call came in ….. the police were looking for family of a Tammy Kirkwood . There had been an accident and they needed someone for identification purposes.
“Was she okay?” “Was she alive? ” ….He wasn’t sure but they were air-lifting her to Sunnybrook Trauma Center in Toronto. Unfortunately, because we had a 5 hour trip to make, there was no way of telling what we would face on our arrival. Tammy was alive, but the prognosis was not good. The rest is history.”
And so Tammy began the long, rocky road of recovery. From that first day, seeing her laying in that hospital bed, you could almost feel her fighting to come back. Anyone that knows Tammy — knows her tenacious, fight for what you believe in attitude. And with every visit we could see subtle changes. With the prayers and messages of encouragement from so many, especially Michael, Tammy flourished.
Over the past five years she has worked diligently to regain her strength and individuality, both physically and emotionally. Although it’s been an extreme challenge, Tammy is pretty much back to her old tenacious, badass self. If it weren’t for her cane and few other flaws, most would not ever suspect what has brought us together to celebrate here today. Who would have thought !!!
Recovery is one of the toughest journeys a person takes after an injury. It’s not a journey we take alone because what happens to us happens to those around us as well.
My oldest sister’s memory:
This was the 40-year-old baby of the family who took pride in her physical fitness – almost every day she either went to the gym or participated in one sport or another. She was energetic in supporting union and political fights to keep open the residential centres for people with severe developmental disabilities. She was the single mother of three teenage children.
At first they didn’t think Tammy would survive the accident and if she did they had little hope that she would ever be able to live without daily assistance.
Tammy has always been a fighter, but this was never more apparent than when I watched her struggle toward recovery. The physical and psychological strain on her was immense. She had to re-learn everything – how to feed herself, walk, talk – everything.
Even when it appeared that Tammy didn’t know us or could not respond to us, we were told that our visits were one of the most important tools in her recovery. It was difficult to encourage Tammy to do things for herself instead of doing it for her, but that too was a crucial step in her recovery.
Some people call her a miracle child and though her recovery was truly miraculous, much of it was due to Tammy’s own commitment. I am very proud of her.
Tammy Kirkwood is a fighter. Tammy was catastrophically injured in a car accident that was not her fault. Early on after the accident Tammy struggled adjusting to her new life. She struggled adjusting from being the organized loving mother thatwas always helping her kids to the injured mother who needed help from her kids. But, with the help of a wonderful team of experienced providers and a good involved lawyer to help her navigate any roadblocks put in place by the insurance companies, Tammy turned the corner and started understanding her injuries and her limitations and it was at that point that Tammy embraced the challenge that stood ahead of her.
Tammy has made a remarkable recovery. Tammy is an inspiration on so many levels–as a mother, as an advocate for the rights of accident victims and as a friend. Tammy did not let the injuries get the better of her and is determined to help others with their struggles. Tammy is simply amazing. Darcy Merkur, Thomson Rogers Lawyers
In my role as case manager I had the privilege of working with Tammy and being part of her rehabilitation team. She adopted a “never quit” attitude and giving up was never an option for Tammy. No matter the challenge or barrier that she faced through her journey of recovery, she maintained a positive outlook and belief in herself. She did not take “no” for an answer and continue to challenge those working with her. Though I did not know Tammy prior to the accident, one could easily see the woman she was – her strength; her devotion to her family; her resilience to continue to meet each new task with determination. These characteristics are the essence of who Tammy is and what enabled her to continue with her journey to achieve the goals she set out for herself.
She is a true inspiration and mentor to others who are also on the journey of recovery. Jodi Harendrof, Catastrophic Injury Management
I supported Tammy in the role of rehabilitation support worker. She was a determined client who wanted to beat the odds. She worked diligently and followed through with anything asked of her.
Tammy kept wanting to be challenged to see where her limitations were and although she would get frustrated she continued to push through.
It was amazing to support someone with such determination, who was going to prove to herself, family and friends that despite this setback she would become “Tammy Kirkwood” new and improved taking on the world in a different way than she ever thought. Benita Leech, RSW
We joined Tammy’s recovery team in November of 2009. Her motor vehicle accident left her with severe left sided cerebral hemiplegia and Tammy is currently undergoing rehabilitation at Back to Function on a weekly basis. She presented with constant pain and inability to fully ambulate in November of 2009. Tammy’s determination amazes us daily, there is nothing that she won’t try and looks at every obstacle in a positive way. Today, Tammy works very hard with her constant battle of rehabilitation and pain control. She is doing very well and is determined to continue to improve, despite any challenges that may arise. She is currently seeing a chiropractor, massage therapist, and a Kinesiologist weekly, and is working on maintaining the success she has gained to this point. A large portion of her rehabilitation process is the work she puts in outside the clinic setting. Without her constant determination to improve and her ability to overcome challenges her current outcome could have been much different. Tammy is a fighter and is always willing to work hard to achieve her rehabilitation goals. She is very strong willed and resilient. Tammy is one of the most positive people and always brings a smile into the office no matter what is thrown her way. Tammy truly is an inspiration to the office and to all that meet her along her rehabilitation journey. Back to Function Staff
Human books share their stories Tammy Kirkwood, who incurred an acquired brain injury after she was involved in a horrific car accident four years ago, chats with Miss Petite Simcoe County Jessica Katie Foster during the Get a Life Festival at the Orillia Public Library Saturday. Both Kirkwood and Foster volunteered to share their stories as human books.
Hundreds rally against cuts to auto insurance benefits TORONTO – Changes to auto insurance benefits for motor vehicle accident victims passed in the Ontario legislature Wednesday as part of the provincial budget.“God help us all,” Tammy Kirkwood said upon hearing the news. “We’re getting a lot less coverage for a lot more money and I’m not sure why.” Kirkwood was one of hundreds of protesters at Queen’s Park rallying against reductions in auto insurance benefits which they say will have the most effect on victims with catastrophic injuries. The 47-year-old Orillia woman said protesters were “flabbergasted” that the provincial government “was trying to disable our resources and our funding to recover.”
Orillia woman involved in serious collision slams province’s planned changes to insurance industry An Orillia woman who was in a car crash seven years ago that left her in a coma worries changes to the auto-insurance industry will have devastating effects. Tammy Kirkwood said the province’s plan to reduce auto-insurance benefits that was passed as part of the budget earlier this year will severely hurt crash victims requiring extensive care.
The Brain’s Way of Healing
The Brain’s Way of Healing is about neuroplasticity’s next step — healing the brain using totally non-invasive methods, including patterns of energy to resynchronize the brain’s neurons when illness or injury causes them to fire improperly. It’s revolutionary and in some instances shocking — we’ll see people’s lifelong afflictions improved, or, in some cases cured almost miraculously. But these are not miracles, and Dr. Doidge explains the science behind these improvements. http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/the-brains-way-of-healing
FIVE INCREDIBLE NEW WAYS TO HELP THE BRAIN HEAL ITSELF http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/features/five-incredible-new-ways-to-help-the-brain-heal-itself
We are proud to present the renowned Dr. Norman Doidge as our featured speaker. He has brought the benefits of neuroplasticity to the mainstream, sharing stories and research on how brain injury survivors are finding help and hope.
Tammy’s looking forward to being at the Understanding the Healing Brain Conference tomorrow https://ers.snapuptickets.com/ers/event-files/1983/DETAILED_Program_agenda_v2017.05.18.pdf to meet up with FAIR supporters and friends!
“Social engagements became opportunities for embarrassment and ridicule, causing Melissa terrible personal conflicts. She wanted to be out among the crowds, but simultaneously felt vulnerable and frightened by them. Melissa sank into long sulks and quiet withdrawals. The invitations stopped coming and the phone rarely rang,” writes author and TBI case manager Michael Paul Mason about Melissa Felteau who sustained a brain injury in a car crash.
“Few studies have looked at whether traumatic brain injuries cause impulse control problems,” said the study’s lead author, Cole Vonder Haar, a former postdoctoral research fellow in the UBC department of psychology who is now an assistant professor at West Virginia University. “This is partly because people who experience a brain injury are sometimes risk-takers, making it difficult to know if impulsivity preceded the brain injury or was caused by it. But our study confirms for the first time that even a mild brain injury can cause impulse control problems.”
Being in a motor vehicle accident is a shocking experience.
As a result of the shock, victims sometimes self-assess their injuries quickly, and possibly inaccurately. In the absence of obvious trauma or pain, the natural inclination may be to tell emergency personnel one is feeling ‘okay’ and refuse medical treatment.
The majority of patients improve within a few weeks, while others continue to experience symptoms long after the head trauma. The experts aren’t sure why patients recover at different rates. But they agree that another concussion should be avoided – especially soon after the first one.