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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Guest post: Kelly Ribeiro on brain injury, “Heal first, life can wait.”

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Today’s post shows how determination alone isn’t enough to put life back together after a brain injury. Kelly Ribeiro had a true passion for her career, and appeared to be defying the odds when she continued to climb the career ladder following her car accident. But then suddenly it took a second bite out of her….

Guest post: Kelly Ribeiro on brain injury, "Heal first, life can wait."

Heal first, life can wait

I was driving home in the early morning after a Friday night out. My blood alcohol level was .01, so it was well below the legal limit and it would be fair to say it didn’t impact my driving. The details are a little hazy, but I believe I swerved to avoid an animal. My car went onto the grass sloped divide between the North & South carriageways where I was ejected out of the sun roof. This was despite wearing a seatbelt, in my brand new car. Not only did I suffer a traumatic brain injury, but I also broke all major bones except my left arm. I was left in a coma for three months.

Since then I have had approximately 20+ surgeries.  It is a blessing & a curse, but I recall, now 21 years later, most of what happened from the night of my accident to the time I entered the rehab in Braintree Massachusetts. However from then my memory is sketchy. I am not sure I was cognitive 24 hours a day when I was then moved, but thanks to insurance I had little choice but to go with it. After relearning basic life skills over again, four months after sustaining my brain injury, I was sent home. But I was not independently walking or able to fully care for myself.


As soon as I was home and able to regain life, I hurried back to work.  I worked for a National Mutual Insurance Company, I loved my job. A job I had no memory of what to do beside knowing my love for it. I worked the next 18 years having countless number of surgeries and needing ‘brain breaks” and suffering from epilepsy. Each year, despite my condition I was rewarded with raises and a promotion.

Then one day, I realized what had happened.  I had no support, understanding or compassion at that point from my employer. I had a break down.  It hit me;  I’d almost died! This caused a major depression which brought many of my deficits up front and center. My short-term memory was at its worst, my gate had become obviously hindered. Almost as if I had caused a second brain injury thru emotion. My employer would not wait for me to “get better” again.

Today, no longer employed, I work daily to regain what I was able to do following my accident when I returned to work so I can get my life back.  Not only financially but emotionally.

My message to all is to feel,  you need to heal first, life can wait.

Did you try to return to work? How did your employer respond?


9 replies on “Guest post: Kelly Ribeiro on brain injury, “Heal first, life can wait.””

This piece was so inspiring! I returned to work about a year and a half after my TBI (which was the result of a car accident I do not remember), and it was a definite shock. I could not even do basic math to use the cash register at the movie theater I had worked for years prior in high school. How humiliating! I am finally giving my brain a chance to heal and rest and recover and we are finally getting to know each other again. Thank you for sharing your powerful story and God bless you!

It must have been so difficult for Kelly to be able to reconcile what was happening after she had triumphed over it for so long.

Good to hear some genuine comments.Organizations who make big earnings from contact sports that cause head injuries, will always say the evidence is inconclusive” in my opinion. Always follow the money. As I understand the science so far, our brains go through another very vulnerable phase beginning in the teen years and lasting until about age 25. That, unfortunately is the age of most high school, coĺlege, and pro athletes. It only takes one brain injury to significantly damage a life! My son played 3 years of HS football- all star athlete. 2 brain injuries undiagnosed until 6 years later were enough to progressive rob him of any quality of life. Medically everything was tried but it was too late to make much difference cognitively. He ended his own life. I think their is a link to high suicide rates in young people, boys and girls, and the devastating impact of brain injuries. When we know young brains are vulnerable, to all kinds of things, how can we continue to argue over protecting young people”s lives it is lives we are talking about. Bravo to the players and the young people who choose their futures. Peace

I’m so sorry about your son. That is so tragic. The despair your family has been through is incalculable. So sad how a sport that I’m sure he loved, ruined his life so badly that he didn’t want to continue anymore. ?

I had to be back at work 2 days after my car accident, although I was allowed to work from home for a bit because my husband was injured, as well, and I had to care for him. I couldn’t handle the computer for more than 30 minutes at a time. Too much information. Couldn’t remember conversations or compose proper correspondence, plus dealing with anxiety from PTSD. I finally quit 4 months after the accident because I cut a check for $2000 to pay a bill that had already been paid but I didn’t remember. It has been almost 2 years since the accident and I still battle so many things even after cognitive and visual therapy. Not able to return to work as yet, still unable to read a book, and struggle with short term memory, as well as other issues…

2 days? Wow I thought I tried to go back too soon after 2 months!
I think doctors need to give us more advice as it’s all to easy to think you’re doing the “right thing” by pushing yourself for the sake of your career.

It is necessary post head injury to know the full effects suffered. They are not easily diagnosed unless you go through the proper procedures. The most important information needed is your cognitive status. That is rarely properly diagnosed without neuropsych. testing…and then the procedures, rehabilitative procedures if needed start from there. “Cognitive remediation” classes are well adapted to bring out the whole cognitive statues caused by the injuries…

My employer didn’t understand the impact of emergency brain surgery and living with a brain tumour. I worked in a school as a communicator for the deaf, I had a seizure while in class, a large mass was found, then surgery. I had no contact from my headteacher, after 10 weeks I contacted HR and her as I didn’t know what was happening about pay etc, I was told attend a formal meeting and explain why I was absent from work, she already knew this as she rang the ambulance and my daughter had visited her to explain how poorly I was.
I should have never have gone to that meeting, I want well, my speech was slurred and mixed and that was the first time out of the house. I cane away feeling guilty for being such an inconvenience to the school.
The lack of compassion and support was terrible, I couldn’t give them a return to work date, I was still with a Neuro rehab team and watch and wait with the remaining tumour. My mental health began to really deteriorate, as I was ignored, letters not sent, medical reports not passed on, phone calls not returned. I even had a member of staff decide she knew my diagnosis and herself and the head would disscuss my private information, when I hadn’t told her anything. The list is long of disappointment by my employer, HR, colleagues and occupational health. In the end the decision was made for me that my brain injury ment I wasn’t fit for my job or any other work. I was glad to be rid of them, they set me back so much in my recovery. I am sorry to have lost my career, I loved being an interpreter for the deaf.
As for now I am looking after my poorly brain, it’s improving slowly, especially away from the negative people who I worked for the last 11 years. What a difference some compassion and kindness would have made.

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