On May 5, 1986, sixteen-year-old Tiffany Bachli’s life was changed forever. On that particular evening, she was enjoying herself out on the town. She met a new friend, who she decided to go for a ride with. During the car ride, the driver began speeding, reaching 80 miles per hour and he lost control of the vehicle. Their car hit a tree. Tiffany wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and she went through the windshield headfirst, was thrown 300 feet and slid two blocks on the pavement, facts she only knows because they’ve been told to her by friends and family members.
“I don’t remember it happening,” Tiffany explains. “I don’t remember the first 16 years of my life.”
Tiffany had a severe traumatic brain injury which damaged her frontal lobe. She also broke her pelvis in three places, tore her ACL in her right knee and had many cuts and bruises.
After that point, Tiffany’s life completely changed. “They said I wouldn’t live,” says Tiffany. “But I did.” She spent six months in a coma – the first two in the intensive care unit and the following four at a rehabilitation hospital. Her doctors believed she wouldn’t make it through the first week, but she defied the odds and survived. She also learned how to walk, talk and eat again, despite her doctors’ beliefs.
“I came out of it,” she says. “I defied everything they thought they knew.” But despite having good medical care, a “million and one therapies” and a private nurse to help her through her rehabilitation, Tiffany’s struggle was far from over.
Her parents sent her to a new school, which could offer her special education services and accommodate her in a way her old school couldn’t. She didn’t like her new school or feeling different from her peers. Her parents eventually let her return to her old school, but life didn’t return to the way it was.
Before the accident, Tiffany was an honor student, athlete and popular with her peers. After the accident, she struggled in school and had to “relearn how to read and how to learn,” Tiffany explains. Most of her old friends “didn’t understand” the new Tiffany, either. “I didn’t remember what I was before, but I knew it wasn’t this,” she explains.
As the years went on, Tiffany continued to struggle with coming to terms with her brain injury and the issues it caused. “I just thought none of this could be real, so I truly believed I was living in a dream,” she says.
When she was offered brain injury services, she refused them, unable to accept her injury. She also had depression and as a result, battled alcoholism, which is common for many people with brain injuries.
She made it to the other side, however, and went into an alcohol recovery program to get her life back on track. Today she has been sober for 12 years, an enormous accomplishment—and she continues to work to accept her brain injury and limitations. “Learning is a lot different for me today,” says Tiffany. “It takes a lot longer.”
However, she doesn’t let that get in her way. It has been 27 years since the accident, and Tiffany is now a college graduate with a degree in human services, which she achieved with honors, works full-time and has a job at a local hospital where she’s always wanted to work. She also worked her way off of disability payments, which is something she aspired to do for years. Tiffany has been able to teach herself new skills, such as how to crochet, something she was told she’d never be able to do. She even crocheted her own wedding dress.
With the love and support of her family, Tiffany was able to get her life back on track and find a new normal. “From day one, they would sit by my bedside and tell me everything is going to be OK and I would come out of this just fine,” she explains.
Tiffany’s advice to other brain injury survivors struggling through rehabilitation is to never give up. “I want other brain injury survivors to know you can do it,” she says.