On March 6, 1998, I was in a car accident with my red Ford Festiva. Someone ran a red light on 13 Mile Road and M-37 in Sparta, causing an accident that resulted in me having a broken hip in four places and a brain injury that paralyzed my left side. I spent two-and-a-half months in three different hospitals, Butterworth, Grand Valley (a half-way hospital) and lastly, Mary Free Bed. Police told my husband that if I had been in a larger car, I would not have survived.
I went from a wheelchair to a walker, then a cane and, eventually, I was able to walk without assistance. My doctors say that I’m a miracle. It was a long road to recovery and I’m still not the person I was before the accident. I have lingering paralysis. My left side, along with my mouth and tongue are still numb. I feel like I talk with a mouthful of marbles and my equilibrium is off so I feel drunk when I walk. I live with these symptoms every day of my life. It’s my normal.
I have no memory of the accident or the months in the hospitals, which is probably a blessing. I refer to those months as the time when the light was on but no one was home. My family tells me I cooperated with my therapists and grew stronger but I didn’t really “wake up” until two weeks before I left Mary Free Bed. Before that, I thought the hospital was my home.
I’ve been a receptionist for the past 15 years, which has been my therapy. After the accident, I could not talk, write or walk. As a receptionist, I have to talk on the phone, greet visitors, write notes from phone conversations and write stories. Each action has helped me improve.
Before the accident, I was attending Grand Rapids Community College, where I discovered my artistic talents. I paint and draw, but my creativity also has branched off to embroidery and sewing. These are all fun ways for me to express myself.