Around Aphasia Day, I want to share the testimony of Gabriela, a survivor of a skateboarding accident about a year ago, who has resulted in aphasia, and which has improved a lot -as you can see- with the treatment.
As Gabriela says “when you have an accident your life is going to change drastically, in whatever way it is, it is going to change”. So think about it and don’t hesitate. Put the helmet on! I encourage you to watch the video in which he tells us his testimony. I put the last part of the video first, with Gabriela’s message for adolescents, young people and for all people in general. Then I have pasted the link to the full video, whose content is written below.
Thank you Gabriela for sharing your testimony with us, for sending us your clear message, and for helping us understand a little more about the most invisible aspects of a brain injury!
“LIFE IN A SECOND” by GABRIELA TOIRAC, survivor of a skateboarding accident.
Hello, my name is Gabriela and I am 18 years old. Currently I should be in the 2nd year of High School, graduating, since last year I was in the 1st year of High School in Social Studies and I passed it. But there was a problem….
On June 17, 2020, when I had already been approved, I went in the morning to a neighborhood far from my house, with my friends. In it there was a park that had a skatepark, dedicated to the leisure of riding skates, scooters, etc. All our friends went there, some with skateboards, others with scooters and all WITHOUT A HELMET. At noon we already had to take the Renfe to get to our houses.
The only recollections or memories I have about what happened that day, end with me in the skatepark riding the skate at approximately 13 something. After that hour I no longer remember what I did or what happened, and what I know is thanks to my friends and family who told me many times because I was not able to understand it.
Most importantly, neither my friend nor I were wearing helmets. And you will say, what happens for not wearing it? And it is that we live in a society in which there is no necessary education or knowledge of everything that can happen to you if you do not wear a helmet, or do not wear protections.
My friend has told me or explained that we left the skatepark and we were on our way to the exit of the park. According to the story of one of my friends, who was next to me at the time, we were on our way to the exit and we went through an underpass that apparently had ramps in the ground. My idea, unconscious at the time, was to reach the exit of that place mounted on the skateboard. While we were passing by that site my friend was talking on the phone and in a second she saw how I, already mounted on the skate to go down the slope, was staggering from one side to the other. The scooter I was riding on slammed into a ramp on the ground and I went flying, spinning. I hit the ground badly on the left side of the head.
My friend and the rest of the group thought that I was going to fall and that, at the most, I would break my foot, my nose, or any other not very important part of my body. They immediately ran out to check on me, but I was unconscious. I was bleeding from my nose, mouth, parts of my face and arms and the friend I mentioned, along with another guy from the group, were all focused on helping me the best way they could.
Minutes later I began to have a mini-convulsion that lasted a short time, and they immediately ran to put me on my side, together, at the same time, so that I wouldn’t choke on my own tongue. This act of help sounds very easy, but there is a great lack of education on this subject. My luck is that my friends already knew what to do. A few years ago we were lucky that ambulance professionals and technicians gave a mini workshop at my institute on how to react to this type of problem.
Immediately my friend called 112 to request an ambulance and while it came, the call asked her how I was and what parts of my body were affected. When the ambulances arrived, my friends had to move to a side where they would not see this traumatic process. The doctors and ambulance professionals saw that something was wrong and when I arrived at the hospital on October 12 in the emergency room, I don’t even know how many MRIs they did to find out what was happening to me.
My friends had to tell my family, and that was a big blow for them and especially for my mother, who told them while she was working. That was something that affected all my family and friends.
As soon as I arrived at the hospital, after the MRI, they had to operate for the first time to remove the broken parts of my left skull, since it was something dangerous because they could damage my brain and end my life. Two hours after this operation, they did an MRI again, and they noticed that there was blood in this area, so they had to send me to the operating room a second time to try to remove it and that it would not put pressure on the rest of the parts of my head. Hours later, on the same day, they noticed that there was also bleeding on the right side, and for the third time, they had to send me to the operating room for the last operation.
I spent two weeks in the ICU with my mother by my side, and sometimes my stepfather. Let’s remember that the COVID problem had already started there, and if you were of legal age you were without any family member or companion in the ICU. I, thank God, was accompanied by my mother, because I was 17 years old and not even my sisters, my uncles or my cousins could see me. I have to clarify that those first 2 weeks I was in an induced coma, then you have to wake up on your own.
I don’t even want to imagine what my family, my friends, but especially my mother must have felt. The positive thing is that those days I was able to move my legs and hands naturally while in a coma. Even so, my situation at that moment was critical, they didn’t know what was going to happen to me, when I was going to wake up, if it would be me again or if all that was over in a second. After 14 days, miraculously, I managed to open my eyes. I don’t remember anything from that moment. Imagine the joy that all the people important to me had, and all those who regardless of their beliefs, their religion or whatever, were talking to me or whoever it was about me waking up and being me again. It had been two weeks that for them had been like a lifetime.
I woke up, they were talking to me, but at that moment I was out of place. I didn’t understand what had happened to me. And three days later I already began to be me again. Even so, things were failing me… Cognitive aphasia was what affected me the most. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t direct myself, I couldn’t explain myself. The most he said “blue”, he said “blue” to everything. Because I had blue hair before. He told everything “blue” and “rich”, “tasty”. My mother teases me a lot about that now, she laughs a lot about it. It was what I was able to say. He spoke like a girl. And also my behavior was like a child in those moments when I was in the hospital, that is, very spoiled, very crying. And for example, my mother calmed me down like when I was a child, cuddling my face, and I calmed down like a kitten or a little girl.
I spent three weeks in the hospital, two in a coma and another. Well, that week I was with the speech therapist, with the occupational therapist, with the… I forget the word… with the movement therapist. I had no motor problems, I could walk even though the coma affects me a lot. I was trying to get back to walking strong, walking and moving. And with the speech therapist or occupational therapist, he would show me photos and I had to tell him if it was a boy or a girl and what he was doing. But it cost me a lot.
After those three weeks I returned home. Imagine, my super happy family, my super happy sisters and me too. It seems silly, but only one week in the hospital I had a terrible time. It’s the fact that you don’t understand what’s going on, and the fact that you don’t understand it frustrates you. I felt like I was in jail. My mother laughs at that. I felt that they were tying me up, because since I am very impulsive, -and at that moment even more so because you have no knowledge of what has happened to you-, I was in bed with my hands held, so as not to tear my tubes off. Because I ripped them off, I’m too impulsive and rebellious, I took off the rails because I thought, what do I do with this, if I haven’t done anything? I thought that the day before I had gone skateboarding and had a great time, I had a great time. But hey, hahaha, it turns out not.
Back home, my family and especially my sisters had to accept my childish behavior. A behavior of “I’m right in everything” the first days and months. I’m so sorry sisters and family, but now I understand. It is a situation where the shock of the brain causes problems.
Already in July I was in my house. In August I was going to a hospital with a speech therapist. The problem is that I went twice a week, for half an hour each day. It did help me a lot to say super basic words, but not enough.
We did not know that CEADAC (State Center for Attention to Acquired Brain Injury) existed, but we found out from the social worker at the hospital. In September I came to make an assessment. I didn’t quite understand what was happening to me, especially my cognitive aphasia. But I also had other problems and I didn’t realize it. The problem of not being aware of what had happened to me, and how I am, and that I couldn’t go back to high school, that I couldn’t study psychology, that I couldn’t do all the things I had planned to do. Because to begin with I couldn’t go on vacation with my family and friends.
So I entered CEADAC in October and I’ve been here for about 7 months now, and I’m super happy and super grateful to the workers and professionals.
One of the things that I am most happy about is that I continue to maintain my personality. Things have changed, but I’m still me. And of course, right now it is not so noticeable. They have to operate on me and put the skull in, but that is no longer noticeable because my hair has grown. And then I have managed to explain myself, speak, relate to people in a positive way. I appreciate that people tell me if I explain myself well or not, so I can improve. Thanks to being here for a few months, it is incredible that in such a short time I have achieved so much. And at the beginning of being here I didn’t even know how to say “pen”, it confused me. That’s what Amor (neuropsychologist) told me. Obviously I still get confused about things, but everyone can forget about something… but they aren’t such important things either, it’s very slight. I’m super happy.
I want to say two things. To people who have not had a TBI or accident and also to people who have gone through something related:
To the people who are without any problem, who have not suffered an accident, I want to tell you that we live in a society where we have gotten used to it and shown that we can ride a skateboard or bike or whatever we want without wearing a helmet. I thought so myself. But the fact that you wear a helmet is not going to mean that you are a small child, that you are not cool, that you are not in the mood…. It will mean that you protect yourself and that you don’t want to go through what has happened to me and worse, what other people will have gone through. Because the fact that I am as I am is a miracle. Everyone thought that I was going to die and thanks to force I am like this. So really, we have to be aware and think that it is something necessary for everyone. And that there is nothing wrong with putting on a helmet. You will continue to be you and you do not lose anything.
And then to the people who have had a trauma or a problem similar to mine, I have to tell you that at first everything seems like a storm… You don’t know how to solve it, you don’t know what is going to happen in your life… if you are going to stay the rest of the years in your room crying, depressed, because you have no way to solve it. I thought that at first. But I have realized that if a door is closed, a window opens. That we have an idea of doing something, but it’s not the only thing we can do. We have to know the rest of the possibilities that we have. And you have to be strong, you have to be positive, you have to be happy and grateful to be where you are. Because what could have happened to you is to be dead, which is hard to say but it is to be dead. And you are as you are. It doesn’t matter if you have a motor problem, or if you have a cognitive problem. It doesn’t matter. You are alive, that is the important thing and you have to be grateful to be as you are and to BE YOU AGAIN.
If you want to see the full video, you can access it at the following link: