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Reflecting 3 years after my traumatic brain injury.

It’s really crazy how just a few moments can change your entire life. You think you have a good idea about what is going to happen in your life, and then none of that comes true. My world turned upside down three years ago (9/21/2018) when I received my traumatic brain injury. Initially, I was very open with my recovery because I didn’t think it would last that long. However, as the problems got more and more complex, I began telling less and less people.

I didn’t want to hear people’s comments about how they didn’t get how a TBI could cause all of these seemingly unconnected symptoms. What really rubbed me the wrong way was when people told me that I looked healthy, especially doctors. I am still not ready to tell everyone exactly what these problems are as I am still coming to terms with what it means for my life, but nothing has stopped me yet, and I doubt anything ever will.  

The thing is, my injury is mostly invisible. I don’t have a cast on, and unless you look at me closely, you can’t see my new “quirks.” Others say they don’t know how I do it. But, if you were in my shoes, your only options would be to wallow and give up, or try and make the best of it. I can’t just take one magic pill to make it all better. In fact, 20 pills a day don’t make it all better. 

It has taken me three years to accept that I will never get to live a “normal” 21-year old’s life. For the first year after my TBI, I just imagined that one morning I would wake up and everything would be better. Instead, it seemed like the opposite happened-I would wake up and another mysterious symptom would arise. It became so overwhelming that I just stopped keeping track of it. Whenever a new doctor asks me about my medical history, I just pull up a google doc with a list of everything because I get so tired of saying it over and over. At some point, it just felt like I was reciting lines for a role I was playing, but that definitely wasn’t my life. 

So, where does that leave me today? Well, for one thing, I don’t spend a lot of time wallowing anymore. In fact, I have done more in the last 3 years than I could’ve ever expected. The fact that I still get to graduate on time despite not entering a regular course load until my 4th semester is amazing. I’ve been able to do research on brain injuries at one of the top biomedical research institutions in the world.

At school, I am lucky enough to assist in concussion evaluations and help people return to their “normal” life (playing sports, going back to school, etc.) Sure, I spend my summers and all of my breaks seeing doctors, but that doesn’t really bother me anymore. I have gotten beyond amazing at time management with juggling all of these appointments in between work, school, and my extracurriculars. I always joke that if becoming a doctor doesn’t work out, I can just become a personal assistant.  

Anyways, I guess I’m just trying to say that you should never give up. Eventually, you just adapt to whatever life throws at you and it gets better. Sure, it took me 3 years to come to that conclusion, but better late than never. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings. 

Emily Baniewicz

South Carolina '22

Hey y'all! I am a junior at the University of South Carolina studying Public Health a with minor in Spanish. I am pre-med and one day hope to be a sports neurologist. In my free time, I love watching football and soccer, hanging out with friends, and going to the beach!
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