Learning to appreciate life after my traumatic car accident
Sometimes in life, we’re given second chances — opportunities to start over and make something different of our lives. My second chance came in the form of a car accident in 2007.
I don’t remember much of the accident itself, but I do remember my left arm scraping against concrete and then driving my car into some kind of greenery. Fortunately, a police officer happened to be driving by at that moment.
The last thing I remember is calling my wife and saying, “They got me.”
I woke up in the hospital to find out I had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had 13 surgeries on my left arm, which is my dominant arm. I had no function in that arm and wasn’t sure I would ever regain it, a scary thought when you think about how often you use your arms every day.
During my more than a month-long stay at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation – Dallas, I had to learn how to be right-handed. My recovery wasn’t easy, but all along the way, people stepped in to help in ways I don’t think I quite deserved. It made me realize that I hadn’t truly appreciated my life before the accident.
I had taken my health, my wife, my job and my friends for granted. I vowed to never live that way again.
But even after the accident, I still didn’t take care of myself the way I should have. I wasn’t exercising or eating healthy and at that point, the thought of me running a marathon was laughable.
Fortunately, I got involved in a weight loss intervention study through Baylor Scott & White Rehabilitation – Dallas. Because weight gain is common in people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, the study was designed to measure how weight loss intervention tactics could benefit patients like me.
Knowing that I was being held accountable for my activity levels and weight gave me the motivation I needed to change my lifestyle and get my life back.
Related: How an education-based support group helps traumatic brain injury survivors thrive
I started to run every day and prioritized healthy eating. I now have eight medals, including my first full marathon, hanging in my closet. I also ride my bicycle to work every day (with a helmet, of course).
To anyone facing an uphill battle like mine, I would say two things. One, take a look around you at the people by your side. They haven’t given up on you and they’re not going to, so don’t give up on yourself. Second, live your life and don’t be afraid to do something outside your comfort zone.
Just look at me. My story is proof that you’re capable of more than you think.
This blog post was contributed by Miguel Vargas. Learn more about how Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation is helping patients like Miguel get their lives back after traumatic injury or illness.
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