Q&A: The Accident that Caused my TBI

Carrie: Carolyn, can you take us back to that day? How did you find out about the accident? What were some of your initial experiences?

Carolyn Bouldin: Kelly was just 15, a couple of days after her birthday. And I was not popular, because I didn’t let her ride with teenage drivers. The first night I let her do that was after her first JV cheerleader game. I let her ride with an 18-year-old family friend, who had never had a beer, a few blocks from my home to get supper after she cheered at a game, and that was my first time I let her go out. It was about 10:00 at night, and she didn’t come home, and I got a call at 10:20 from, mercifully, the doctor whose yard the car crashed in.

There was a bend in the road and a distracted driver. He just hit the telephone pole, and I never cried. I went into the numb zone, so to speak. My husband and I went directly to the hospital. I had to endure a lot of red tape. And we were, after a while, taken in to say goodbye to Kelly, because they said she probably wouldn’t live. She was hemorrhaging in all ventricles of her brain. She just didn’t die.  It was rough. I don’t know where I was, but I was on the outside looking in.

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal :  Yeah, I was not letting you get rid of me that easy.

Carolyn Bouldin:  No. I didn’t feel hopeful. I didn’t feel anything. It just wasn’t my life. That’s the way I felt. It was impossible.

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal:  Through the looking glass.

Carolyn Bouldin:  Yeah, I definitely think we walked through the looking glass. I didn’t think we’d ever be able to walk back, but we could now, but we don’t want to. We like the people over here on this side of the looking glass. And then, it was months before Kelly came home. We went from a month in the hospital here to inpatient therapy elsewhere where Kelly had to learn… And she was blind, and her right hand still doesn’t work very well, but relearning every basic skill, except she knew computers really well.

We didn’t discover that for a while. She could fly on the computer. My first piece of advice, I don’t know whether it’s yours, for anybody is assume nothing at all, just assume nothing. Don’t assume that your person knows that your shoes should match. Don’t assume that they know what Christmas is, but Kelly, you had high-level skills, and I was trying to fill in the low-level skills. And I could see that your short-term memory was increasing over time. The first time Kelly remembered something from one day to the next day was a landmark moment, because I could see you were improving by that.

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal : But I mean, I can only imagine how hard it must have been, how frustrating. They had to tell me multiple times each day what had happened to me and where I was and why I was in the hospital.

Carolyn Bouldin:  We didn’t mind. The doctors didn’t think Kelly would talk again, and I had to laugh, because I said, “Of all the skills that I know she will get back, it’s talking because she won’t be silent.”

Kelly Bouldin-Darmofal: I mean, I speak slow now, but that’s okay. I live in the South. People don’t really think twice about my speech.

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