Tammy Jo Johnson
I HAD A DREAM, I HAD A LIFE, I HAD A PLAN
After graduating from highschool, it seemed as though my life was taking on a new and very special meaning. I had a terrific summer job doing intern clerical work while busily making final preparations for college in the fall. I was involved in many outdoor activities. My favorite sports were downhill skiing, basketball, softball and rollerblading.
At this time there were many great friendships in my life. Every day I spent with my friends included a lot of laughter, shopping, fun in the sun, more shopping, parties and yes BOYS were very high on our agenda! I loved life, I loved my friends, we talked and talked and planned our futures and went out as often as possible. I loved my family, I loved my church. Being an outstanding student with a GPA of 3.4 it wasn’t difficult getting accepted to the college of my choice The University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
A few of my favorite memories include;
- Being a nanny in California during my junior year in high school.
- A plane trip to Atlanta with my church. There were 37,000 individuals promoting the “TO BE ALIVE” program.
- Taking my two nephews Brandon and Patrick to work with me as part of the “bring a kid to work day”.
- The Whitecapp mountains. Downhill skiing
- My senior prom, the pictures, the limo and all my friends just being together.
- In my senior year I took a caligraphy class. One huge project included preparing many samples and labeling my photo albums.
- Spending my senior break in Carmel, California.
- Working the pop booth at the Renaissance Fair
- Writing a quote to my “bonus” stepmother who in turn had it published.
I loved my family and my church but being with friends is what I enjoyed most at this time of my life. It seemed like life just couldn't have been better.
AND then... in a minute, everything changed! Normally I was a very attentive and conscientious driver, almost fanatic about always wearing my seatbelt and considered myself a very good driver.
Then one July afternoon, amid the 5 pm-traffic hour, while on my way home my cell phone rang. When I answered that call my plan changed and I agreed to meet a friend back down town. Because of my expectation of a good time, I became super excited as I hung up the phone and was no longer attentive to my driving. Not paying attention I turned left into on-coming traffic… AND WAS HIT!
Some of my injuries included a collapsed lung and left side deficit. My body function losses are all caused by brain damage. TBI - (traumatic brain injury) means my brain messages remain impaired. A foot surgery was required to straighten my foot that kept turning inward. I was in a coma for 4 ½ months at North Memorial Hospital and THC (a Transitional Hospital). When they transferred me back to North Memorial I was given a special room with a TV monitor because I was still not awake and would most often become highly agitated.
In December, I spoke my first words; “Good morning mom, I love you.” The day after Christmas they transferred me to Bethesda Lutheran Hospital where I stayed for seven months of rehab, still in an agitated state. One day when I tried to get out of bed, I was asked what I was doing; I told the staff that “I’m going to follow my dad home.” As a safety measure they then put a restraint on me and put me into what is called a “net bed” also they tied my right leg down so I wouldn’t hurt myself. Now when my family visited they had to zip open this net bed and be sure to zip it closed when they left. My right leg was constantly in motion. When my parents left, I would holler “rescue me.” I remember the net bed; it was like an upside-down crib, more like a cage.
“What state am I in? Rescue me and Reagan is president” was the total extent of my communication at this time. One year after my crash I went home and for the next year I went to Wayzata-Rehab and a Courage Adult Day Program. Then I went to live at a Courage Residence for seven months. Two years after my crash I went to stay at my first Group home in Eden Prairie. I was there for one year, but it didn’t work out so I returned home for a year, attending ASDP (Adult Structured Day program) every day.
Today my life as it is, is normal considering my short-term memory loss. Although my right side works, I have a left side deficit, but I keep working out in therapy. Because I improve some each day, I no longer attend Courage therapy and they feel I have reached a plateau. I work out every day and have walked with my dad saying; “I will show them!”
A special surprise for everyone was standing up alone on my 20th birthday.
My friends from “before the crash” are now history. They do not call because ‘I am different and communications are difficult.’ Today my parents and minister are my closest support. After the crash while still in a coma, many of my friends came to visit. They wrote comments and feelings about how much they cared in my ‘visitation book,’ which was placed nearby for that purpose. With time their visits have faded, they’ve gone on with their own lives. I often wish I could still be a part of their lives. My family is everything to me. Sometimes I have feelings of fear, sadness and frustration. My biggest frustration was losing contact with my special friend Jo. We shared the same middle name of Jo. We were ALWAYS there for each other and our favorite drink was Dr. Pepper. We drifted apart when Jo went on to college.
About my today life, I just deal with it and keep as mobile as possible by working out every day. One area of concern, is my sometimes loss of control using inappropriate verbal skills and swearing. I am aware that prior to the crash I would NEVER use such profanity. Usually I am aware after I swear and feel frustration when it happens. I work very hard to be positive.
Before closing: “I want to convey the following message to one and all.”
“Please always pay attention, a momentary loss of attention can cause a lifetime loss.”
All because of one quick phone call and a change of plan, I became totally inattentive to my driving by thinking about something else!
Remember me as I am today… This COULD happen to you too!!!
My residence now is not that Wisconsin College dorm, nor that very special apartment of my own. Those are now a lost dream. Today, I am just thankful for my group home where I receive all the assistance that I need.
Everyday I thank God for being alive. One day soon I want to speak with those doctors in ER who saved my life and personally say “Thank You”
Property of Tammi Johnson and Minnesotans For Safe Driving