Today’s blog was written by Ryan Farrell, who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in 2010 during a cheerleading exhibition. Ryan currently shares her story with teens through BIA-MA’s Gateway Program.
It was the middle of April, 2010. My life was “perfect.” I was just finishing up my freshman year at
college and had been a cheerleader since August 2009. Along with “finishing up,” I had just completed the new member process to become a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority.
On the morning of April 18, 2010, my cheerleading team and I were at the local mall, putting on an exhibition. I was one of the bases (on the bottom) of the stunt-group. The flyer, on top of the stunt, fell onto me, knocking me backwards. As I was lying on the ground, crying, I was approached by my coach who told me to, “Get back up, and STOP making a scene.” I did as I was told, and continued performing.
After about 20 minutes, I collapsed, and was then rushed to the local hospital. Upon my arrival, I was rushed into surgery. I spent a total of one month in the ICU, two weeks of which I was in a medically-induced coma. Exactly one month after my injury, I was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. Upon my arrival, the doctor told my parents, “Your daughter is so severely injured, that at the very best she will only ever walk with a walker.”
After 18 weeks of in-patient rehab, I was finally released and I returned home, not back to college where all of my friends were continuing their “normal” lives. That realization, knowing that everyone was continuing on with all of the academic, athletic and social aspects of college, was tough. While I was trying so fervently, every day, to get my life back to how it was prior to my injury, attending therapies and doctors’ appointments instead of class, all of my friends were continuing on the journey we had started together.
That realization, however, was also my main motivation. If I wanted to get back to where I was supposed to be, I had to focus all of my time, energy, as well as my physical and cognitive strength on recovery.
Throughout this entire whirlwind journey, I have found out so much, not only about the brain and all of the aspects of life that it controls, but also about other people, and more importantly, myself.
I also cannot reiterate enough that if you ever do not feel “right” during any sports’ situation, be an advocate for yourself. Tell your coach or teammates how you are feeling, and insist on getting someone to “clear you” before you continue. No one has the knowledge, or the right, to tell you what you should do, especially in an instance when your life is at stake.