I was a nurse. I worked in an Operating Room. I was 40 years old. That was on March 22, 2013.
I had worked way too many hours. My last memory is I had worked 33 hours straight in OR (operating room) and I was exhausted. I had left work to head home. I was turning up my road at the light. I don’t remember anything else after that or from the wreck.
I read the State Trooper report that I had had fallen asleep. He measured the whole wreck and said there were no marks, no black marks on the road. Nothing. When I wrecked, apparently I hit 2 trees, went down a 14 ft. cliff before stopping at the bottom. I don’t remember falling asleep. I also was not wearing my seatbelt. I was approximately 2 minutes from my home when everything changed for me.
I was dead at the scene. I was bleeding in my brain and gained fluid, so they airlifted me to the hospital. I was in a coma for 9 months. I broke 27 bones in my body including every bone in my face but my nose. I had cracked my skull in 3 places. They couldn’t do surgery at all due to hemorrhaging in my brain and fluid build up. I was on life support.
I don’t remember any conversations while I was in a Coma. I do remember that at one point I was going towards a light. I saw my mom. This is significant because my mom died in 2007 and after seeing her, I then came back and woke up.
I was paralyzed and couldn’t talk at all then. It was frightening and horrible. I started praying in my head cause I couldn’t talk. I was asking God to help me.
When I woke up the Doctors told me that I would never walk or talk again. I had the mindset of a 12 year old right after the wreck. They told me I would not recognize myself and to prepare myself for that because I had broken every bone in my face except my nose. I even broke my eye bones and ear bones. It took a lot of time, but they healed. My face looked different, even to me. My cheekbones were not where they were previously. They healed in a higher position.
A few months later I started walking and talking. I had also acquired a TBI and PTSD. It is very hard fighting my brain daily. It never stops running.
I do think my memory is great, which is the opposite of what most people experience. I don’t forget anything and it drives me crazy. My brain never stops thinking. I can think of 50 things in 10 mins. I have insomnia now as well. It is hard to sleep due to my brain not wanting to stop. I was told by everyone that it seems most of my other memories are still intact.
So many people do not understand me. I am a different person now in a lot of ways than before the wreck. In other ways some parts of me just got accelerated. I have not had any plastic surgeries, though some people think that I have. My face was so badly fractured that it healed so differently than the way it was before.
My horse is amazing therapy for me. She accepts me for who I am. She is a disabled horse. She was beaten and is now blind in one eye. I wanted desperately to relate to someone who could understand my disability. I found this in Lacey (my horse). We have a gentle understanding and respect for each other.
Life has been hard since my TBI. I still have my nursing license – they did not take it. However, I am totally disabled and will never work again.
I would say the most difficult things I have to deal with and have had to adjust to are trying to control my brain over my body. I struggle with my motor skills. I overthink things. I have really bad anxiety now. I get scared over lots of things that didn’t bother me before (like lots of traffic, big crowds). I am now scared of heights. I am not sure why though. The Doctors who take care of me now say that my brain lets me know heights are scary because of the way I flipped over and over again. I still sometimes have a hard time accepting that I cannot remember the wreck.
There are a lot of positives and good things that have come out of my experience. I would say it has intensified my cleaning and need for things to be in specific spots. I would say that life has a bigger meaning for me. I am more grateful. I appreciate everything and do not take it for granted. While I feel strong in my points of view now, I also feel I have more humility.
I worked very hard to get my independence back separate from my family. I moved away. They still acted like I was dead and like they didn’t know me. I continued to work on myself to get back to relating at an adult level. I became much stronger as time went on. I never gave up on myself. I thank God every day. I feel special that he chose to keep me here.
I currently still see about 8 different Doctors per month. I see a Brain Surgeon, Neurologist, Eye Doctor, Hip Doctor, and a Bone Doctor for my back. I have PTSD and this is a part of me for life now. My anxiety seems to be the worst part though. I have had no formal therapy, just my horse.
I had become a loner and withdrawn. I didn’t get close to others. I couldn’t get close to them. I am not even sure why. This went on for a long time.
I have a very powerful story. It is sad in a lot of ways. I am living proof though that miracles happen. I want people to see that Miracles happen. That is what telling my story is about. My wreck was March 22, 2013. I was 40 when I got in my wreck. I just turned 44 on November 2, 2016. I am still alive.
The messages I want other people to get from my story encompasses a few things.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- Don’t listen to others when they encourage you to work past exhaustion. I was told “you’ve done this before, you’ve got this!”….Obviously, I didn’t “have it”.
- Set healthy boundaries with your workload.
- Don’t drive when you are exhausted.
- The moment you actually believe it can’t happen to you, it will. I didn’t think it could happen to me. I lived well I had a good life. I lost everything.
I lost my career. I loved Nursing. I graduated in 2000. I had worked in nursing 13 years in the dental field before that graduation. I also participated in Rodeo’s.
I lost everything in a blink of an eye.
Everything, except my life.
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5 thoughts on “Katina Small – Survivor”
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This is such an inspiring story and you are the strongest woman I know. I can’t imagine how much you’ve been through and still are pushing through motivating others. Thank you for sharing this for me and everyone. Keep being that fighter you have always been! love you
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Great story of how things can happen in a persons life in a ‘blink of an eye’. Something like this can prove how STRONG a person can be and that life is NOT over cuz of something bad. YES, getting over something like that is tough but, I believe it makes us stronger. Thanxs 4 sharing your story.
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