Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

Kendra Gottschall, Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor

“I was in a coma for two weeks before beginning my long road to recovery.”

In May 2004, when I was sixteen years old, I was involved in a serious car accident. Aside from breaking both arms and legs, which required metal rods to be inserted into them, and puncturing a lung, I acquired a traumatic brain injury. I was in a coma for two weeks before beginning my long road to recovery. After spending more than a month in hospital and five weeks at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, I was discharged just three weeks before I began my grade twelve year of high school. While I finished high school without delay, my marks decreased significantly due to the short-term memory loss I had as a consequence of my brain injury. Determination to bring my marks back to the honours level they once were at lead me to achieve acceptance into St. Francis Xavier University. My marks steadily improved throughout my four years of university as I learned techniques for accounting for my short-term memory loss and in May 2009, I graduated with first class honours and was accepted into the Bachelor of Social Work program at Dalhousie University, continuing my education with the Master of Social Work program.

There were physical implications of my injury as well. I was unable to walk independently following being comatose. When I left the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, I was able to walk for five minutes independently. When I returned home, I began to use the treadmill our family had in our home, working up to walking for a half hour. After about a year of contemplation I opened a gym membership. Here, I continued to walk on the treadmill and when I seen others running, I wanted to do this too. I began twenty-minute intervals of two and a half minutes of walking, two and a half minutes of running and, over several years, worked my way up to being able to run without stopping for a half hour. In May 2012, eight years after my accident, I ran in the Bluenose Marathon 5k. The pride and sense of accomplishment I felt after completing this race cannot be put into words.

Kendra Gottschall

Antigonish, Nova Scotia