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
Orillia Business Women’s Association – Women of Distinction 2019 Nominees
FAIR (Fair Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform)
To understand how Tammy has and is continually achieving excellence and is an innovator for the work that she does, I would like to say a bit about what happened to Tammy to bring her to the point she is at today. On October 24th 2008 Tammy was T-Boned by a dump truck on her way to work. The injuries she sustained were catastrophic including a severe brain injury and many permanent physical injuries. The crash changed her life completely and her recovery was nothing short of a miracle as the doctors did not give much hope to her family for her recovery. However, Tammy, being the determined and amazingly strong willed person she is, did recover. Over time, and with much rehabilitation and determination on Tammy’s part, she has accomplished so much. She continues to live with the injuries she sustained, both physical and mental and has thrived in her ‘new’ life giving back to all who come not only come in contact with her but the community and all those that can’t speak for themselves.
She currently works for FAIR which is the Association for Accident Victims and Accident Insurance Reform. In her role she does many administrative duties, but where she really shines is her advocating with government bodies and the public at large for fair treatment and access to benefits that survivors of serious injury so desperately need. Since her accident, insurance companies and the government have cut settlement monies for rehabilitation and on- going life management and Tammy has been vocal about what is needed and necessary for individuals to recover, flourish and in many cases such as hers, create a new life while dealing with permanent life changes. She attends budget meetings, speaks at government committees, writes numerous letters to MPP’s and anyone who will listen including the press about survivors’ plights and rights, and tries to make the insurance companies and the government accountable to some of the most vulnerable members of society. Ail of this she does without expecting a thing. She does not look for accolades or pats on the back. She does this because she believes that everyone is entitled to a good life.
FSRA speech – Tammy Kirkwood Feb 7 2019
Since 2010 our coverage has been slashed and reduced by the insurers lobbying for changes that increases their profits on the backs of MVA survivors and their families and ultimately us, the tax payer. With every cut to coverage we move closer to public auto insurance. With every ‘threshold’ insurers create, there is a new barrier to access recovery tools.
Our premiums keep rising and now the standard or basic coverage is not enough to provide necessary resources or funding for seriously injured people.
This has led to an enormous number of auto insurance related cases in our courts and a lack of faith in the industry overall……read more
Since 2010 our coverage has been slashed and reduced by insurers lobbying for a changes that increases their profits on the backs of MVA survivors and their families and us, the people.
We’ve gone from millions in coverage to over 80% of claims now capped at $3500 for medical and rehabilitation in less than a decade.
Our premiums keep rising and now the standard or basic coverage is not enough to provide necessary resources or funding for seriously injured people.
10 years ago I survived a very serious car accident just outside of Orillia. I wouldn’t be here without those necessary resources & the funding that was available to Ontario drivers back then.
Everyone deserves a chance to recover but in Ontario that isn’t possible anymore.
We pay big dollars to be covered so we expect that if somebody gets injured, like I was, there would be resources for them to get back to their lives.
We don’t expect to pay high premiums and end up being dumped by our insurer on OW, ODSP and welfare. Now accident survivors are expected to lean on others and one of those ‘others’ is you and I, the taxpayers.
We need to remember that when Insurers fail us, they are taking away the ability recover and the possibility of becoming a productive member of society again.
The amount insurers have paid doesn’t come close to the real costs of recovery. According to the Attorney General of Ontario the previous government failed to hold insurers financially accountable for the agreed transfer of funds to the province to cover some of these medical costs..
The last government never went after those funds – and it is well over a billion dollars lost. Will you make them pay?
It’s time we hold insurers accountable and make them pay the real costs of recovery and support. It’s not time to lower premiums or slash coverage. It’s time for insurers to come clean about where all the premium dollars have gone and why they continue to fail Ontario MVA survivors.
In my written submission you’ll find the links and more information on the financial loss to our healthcare and social services.
2016 HSPRN report estimate of the healthcare cost to taxpayers was $383,099,805 for MVAs in 2013/14. http://www.fairassociation.ca/2016/03/hsprn-report-cost-of-public-health-services-for-ontario-residents-injured-as-a-result-of-a-motor-vehicle-accident-3/
The Auditor General pointed out failure to index medical costs from insurers in 2005 and 2011. The transfer payment was last increased from $80 million to $142 million dollars in 2006 so in the past 13 years over $1 billion has fallen through the cracks. See page 65 2011 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arreports/en11/301en11.pdf
Insurers routinely download the costs of accident victims onto social services such as OW, ODSP. Social Assistance Summaries https://maytree.com/wp-content/uploads/Social_Assistance_Summaries_ON.pdf
Brain Injury Can Change Your Personality
Traumatic brain injury or concussion are both considered to be forms of brain damage and have many long and short-term impacts on the patient. We all know about the headaches and sensitivity to light and sound that can occur, but many people are less aware of the fact that brain injury can result in changes in personality. The changes can be sublet of severe and can be permanent.
SEATTLE — A large study offers more evidence of a link between traumatic brain injuries and dementia later in life, with repeated injuries and severe ones posing the greatest danger.
Researchers analyzed 36 years of health records of 2.8 million people in Denmark, where a national health system makes it possible to explore connections in a far-reaching way.