By Daniel Andre Ignacio
As a full-time coordinator for St. Jude Medical Center’s Brain Injury Network, I assist survivors of traumatic brain injury, which can result from a concussion, fall, a motor vehicle accident and many others. It is an honor and a privilege to be beside those who embody the definition of human resilience. Helping individuals with disabilities find personal relevance in life and attain their fullest potential has become a passionate pursuit for me.
I know how impossible this goal may seem at times since I, too, am an adult with a disability.
In 2008, I was pushed off a three-story balcony. Left lying in the soil, unconscious and seemingly lifeless, I was eventually picked up by emergency services and transported to a nearby medical center. While I stayed unconscious for the next three weeks, my family and friends waited anxiously day in and day out, even when a doctor informed them of my permanent vegetative state (or so she thought). I was 18 years old.
Awaking from a coma, I had no control over my body; I could only blink my eyes. I could not lift my arms, move my head, or speak. I did not know what had happened, where I was, who were the people pushing my stretcher, or why my body would not work. I was trapped in a broken shell with many exploding emotions and no way to express them.
I spent all day forcing myself to go to sleep, desperately hoping that I would finally wake up from this nightmare. As I sat in my wheelchair, I developed a deep appreciation for the daily abilities that I used to take for granted and an even deeper frustration that I could no longer perform them. Over the next few months, I relearned how to walk, how to talk, how to eat, and how to use the bathroom (among many other things). I thought I had overcome the worst, but it was only the beginning.
After returning home, I slowly started managing my physical ailments, but it was the devastating mental…