I am a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor of 11 years. My injuries were sustained after an F-150 t-boned the passenger side where I was (my seatbelt broke on impact.... at 45 mph-at least). I was in a comatosed state for 9 months following and received extensive daily rehabilitation for over 6 months,-PT, OT, ST, and academic therapy. I was 15 y/o at the time. The right side of my body was paralyzed- including my vocal cords, my lungs collapsed, my ribs were broken, my pelvis was shattered, and my brain sheared internally (diffuse axonal injury) along the pons, corpus callosum, medulla, cerebellum, and etc...I had no hope to live and if I did live, I would need to be put in a home.
Since that day, I graduated high school on time and with HONORS, graduated from college with a B.S. Ed with a major in speech language pathology and minored in nursing. I have lived to tell the tale and have seen how citizens of the United States react to disabilities.
My boyfriend is a former professional cyclist, Saul Raisin, who received a TBI during a race in Italy. His recovery in Atlanta, Ga inspired him to create a foundation: RaisinHope.org (catchy name, don't you think) and has written a book: Tourdelife.org to raise awareness for Traumatic Brain Injuries. We met at my former hospital during a B.R.A.I.N. program (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) I was working for and his foundation sponsored. We have volunteered at several places raising awareness for traumatic brain injuries and know that something needs to change before there are acts of terrorism on homeland soil.
We both know what it is like to be on top of your game and all of a sudden everything crashes and you are left with only your soul. I am trying to get into graduate school to finish my degree so I can work as a speech pathologist and help others who are experiencing similar circumstances. You would think I would be easily accepted, not so. I have been turned down from 14 universities after sharing my personal story, struggles, explaining why my overall GPA-3.08 (8 yrs of school, over 185 credit hrs) was largely due to the fact that I was in a coma at the age of 15 and had to re-learn EVERYTHING- how to eat, spell, add, subtract, write my name, etc. NOT ONE OF THE UNIVERSITIES FACTORED THIS INTO MY APPLICATION AND THAT IS DISCRIMINATION! I do not want to leave out the fact that I graduated on the Dean's List my last year of college, with a 3.45 GPA in my major's program. I meet ALL REQUIREMENTS AS STATED BY ADA and IDEA. I meet the requirements set out by the universities I have applied to, I paid for testing fees: transportation to and from testing sites (6 different times); meeting face to face at 10 different universities: (going to two same universities during my second year of applying and explaining myself all over again), paying for transportation, lodging; printing out application materials for the 14 schools I have applied to (over a two year period); paying for transcripts to be sent; paying for GRE scores to be sent; paying for U.S. Postage for all 14 University Applications for Graduate School; that is only a portion of the work I was required to do.
I have been to the following colleges and spoke with someone in the department describing my situation
Georgia: University of Georgia (applied twice= two year time span), Georgia State University (applied twice= two year time span), University of West Georgia (applied twice= two year time span), Valdosta State University, Armstrong State University
Tennessee: University of Tennessee-Knoxville, East Tennessee State University (I am on the waiting list here)
North Carolina: Appalachian State University
Alabama: Auburn University (applied twice= two year time span), and University of Southern Alabama.
Something is not right. I really would like to go to a school in state and know that I am not the only one who was not accepted, I have a lot to offer and work hard. However, this is my second year of applying and 14 different schools have not accepted me. And try finding employment. Yes it is hard at this moment for everyone, but when most of your time is spent studying and going to doctor's offices with migraines, chiropractor for back/hip/shoulder pain, get certain tests performed so i can qualify for disability at school and through SSI, then try thinking about vocational rehabilitation and their attitudes, plus focusing on my studies is very hard to land a great job that is flexible with your school stuff and understood why you had to go get numerous tests performed at various locations across the state. I am not longer a night owl, I do not sleep right and require medication to get an adequate night of sleep on some nights.
Individuals with TBI are being discriminated/ denied appropriate access to :
1. Pursuing higher education
2. Finding/keeping stable employment
3. Receiving benefits due to them in a timely manner
4. Held responsible for actions/messages given during which they are not cognitively aware.
Soldiers are returning with TBI's/PTSD, after fighting for OUR FREEDOM and they do not receive the correct treatment or help. Instead society shuns them and treats them as if they are a waste of space (maybe some VA's are reputable). TBI's are becoming prevalent in the U.S., yet there is NO MENTION OF TBI in ADA or SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT, and THERE IS NO GOVERNING SYSTEM IN PLACE EXPLICITLY PROTECTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS/LIBERTIES OF U.S. CITIZENS WITH TBI'S. U.S. citizens do not recognize a TBI because the damage occurs inside the brain. The brain controls the central and peripheral nervous system. Numerous agencies and organizations have been created to assist with this cause and still, NOTHING CHANGES. Equal rights to individuals with brain injuries are not given at the local, state, or federal level. I would like to make a change! Please help me.
I have made appointments to speak with the GA state Senator, and my Congressman, as well as sent mail via congress.org to the President, Senators, Congressman, and Representatives yet my request is deemed unimportant by the individual taking the call. I would like to create a change to the Americans with Disabilities Act/Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and would like to meet with Congresswoman Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly to raise awareness (my father is also a Annapolis graduate- U.S. Navy retired Cdr.). Raising awareness for traumatic brain injuries is critical and would appreciate the opportunity to contact these individuals or any other figure you deem appropriate. Please help me make a difference now and for the future.