In 2016, when I was 12 years old, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It was a normal winter day with fresh snow on the ground and cold in the air. My sister and I decided to go sledding on a nearby hill. After many rounds of fun and laughter we decided to go down together one last time before heading home. We rushed down the slick, icy sledding tracks with excitement and joy, too fast to avoid the remnants of a ramp that had been worn down to a bump. That’s when everything took a turn for me. I don’t remember anything after this moment; I must rely on the stories that I have been told.
I was told that we were launched off the bump and I got ejected from our sled. Instead of me rolling like my sister, I slammed to the ground, hitting my head and knocking me unconscious. My sister called my parents who arrived and called 911. My parents guessed that there were five firefighters, two cops, and two-three paramedics by my side. I was rushed to the local hospital in town, but they didn’t have the ability to treat me. I was placed in a medical helicopter and was airlifted to a hospital in Minneapolis.
After a flurry of tests, the doctors spoke with my parents and shared devastating news. My TBI was bad, and they didn’t know if I would be the same as before. It would take time before they knew for sure how bad it was going to be. I had three skull fractures, a neck injury, and broken ribs. The only thing my worried parents could do was wait for me to wake up. I was unresponsive for two hours and then I was incoherent for 24 hours.
What is a TBI?
A TBI is a Traumatic Brain Injury. It is the result of a violent blow to the head or the body. Most often these occur as the result of falls, sports related injuries, and vehicle related collisions.
These blows can have effects ranging from mild to severe, and can be long lasting depending on the level of trauma to the head. There is a wide range of physical and psychological effects.
My recovery process was long. I stayed in the ICU for a week. Once I got home, I had to gradually readjust to life and school. I went to months of therapy that consisted of re-learning to walk, move properly, how to control my eyes to see correctly, and how to read again. But I did recover. Fully.
While I won’t say that I’m glad for the experience, my TBI has made my life interesting and complicated in unexpected ways. For example, I can say that my life flashed before my eyes. Over the years, I have developed a passion for adventure because I know how quickly life can change. I also maintain gratitude for how much my life didn’t change – not all TBI patients are as lucky.
I don’t share this story to get sympathy or to scare you. Every activity has their own dangers. I tell my story to bring enlightenment to sledding, most don’t think it’s a dangerous activity but, it can be. Always remember to bring a group of friends or family with you. I was lucky that my sister was with me, and I got the help I needed right away. If I was alone, I don’t know what would of happened.
– Paige Kelly ’25
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