Tiffany McCullock – Survivor

On September 20, 2014 I was in a motorcycle accident,I had a helmet on, however, I received a closed head injury (TBI). It was considered a Moderate TBI, due to the GCS of 11. My brain was injured like a child who had shaken baby syndrome. I was 42 years old at that time.

I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage in a few places in the Parietal lobe. I also had an Occipital scalp laceration, where my hair needed to be shaved off to clean it;
I tore my left rotator cuff,  had lacerations to the knee, shoulder, face. I also had headaches, neck pain too.

I was at Duke University Trauma hospital for Duke Hospitalalmost 3 weeks. In the beginning I was in a semi-coma where I wasn’t talking or responding, only when I was pinched hard, etc. I would moan. I was mostly asleep for a little over a week. When I woke up, I was not able to communicate, mostly whined and said off the wall words, etc.  I was so dizzy that I couldn’t even sit up straight. I had a stomach tube for almost 2 months and wore the protective gloves for a week. I also had some brain swelling, swallowing issues and high blood pressure.

My husband was with me the entire time so he gave me all the details.

I lost a month and a half of my memory. I still do not remember anything then and it’s been 2 ½ years.  For a few weeks the doctors didn’t know if I would even live.

After three weeks, I was transferred to UNC Hospitals for rehabilitation care. I stayed there for about 2 ½ weeks.  I was still very dizzy and had to continue to take nausea meds every day. In the second week at UNC, they taught me how to walk again some and tried to do the vertigo techniques to help with the dizziness. I was so dizzy and scared to have my head tipped down, so I fought the doctors and said I couldn’t do that.

They tried several times and I eventually let them to a certain point. It helped my dizziness a lot. I still had to take nausea meds most of the time for a total of 3 months. I had to learn how to walk and turn my head each way, which was hard. I learned to balance, etc.

I went home, after a total of close to 6 weeks in hospitals. I was still using a walker at that time because of balance and dizziness. I went to UNC outpatient rehab for over a year and also did cognitive rehab for memory, word finding, etc.  I also had Neuropsych testing to see how well my brain works cognitively.

So now after 2 and a half years, I still have pretty bad short-term memory issues, aphasia (can’t find words in communication). I have ADHD that is much worse than before the accident. I take meds for ADHD too, but it took a year for my brain to even handle any of these meds. My emotions are much more sensitive so I have to take meds for that. I also have severe depression (which was mild/moderate before the accident). It is still hard to accept that I am not who I was before and I cannot do the jobs I use to do, my resume is null and void pretty much.

My biggest struggles are my memory, negative attitude, feeling like a victim, communication (word finding), and lack of motivation.

I also have mental fatigue daily and have to plan a nap about 5 hrs after I wake up, which is hard to do, but if I don’t its like I hit a wall and my attitude and communication are worse. Then if i fight it and not take a nap, I get insomnia and/or wake up in the middle of the night/wide awake for at least an hour… I still have high blood pressure and take medications for it.

I still live with my husband, however, my lack of motivation, not caring for him, etc. have severely strained my marriage.

I am here because God worked miracles to keep me here., I am doing so much better than I should because of God.

I want people to know that there is hope and we can do this, even together if needed.

I lead a monthly TBI group to help people know they are not alone because it makes a huge difference.

We are TBI Warriors!