Katina Small – Survivor

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.katinahorse

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.

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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.

  1. Always wear your seatbelt.
  2. 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”.
  3. Set healthy boundaries with your workload.
  4. Don’t drive when you are exhausted.
  5. 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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