My survival story

Dedication: All the PTSD & TBI survivors!

September 18th, 2015 is a date I will never forget, but a day I’ll never be able to remember. I can tell you what I’ve been told happened… I drove 2 hours with my parents to officially enroll in cosmetology school. We then grabbed lunch and explored the area. We looked at a few apartments near by and found one I loved. After a great day we headed home. Like most teenagers out of high school, I wanted to celebrate an exciting day with my friends. I went to my best friends house, and hung out with her and her boyfriend as well as my boy friend at the time. We got drunk like a lot of other nights we were all together. Around 1 AM the boys decided they wanted to go get their Xbox so they could play each other. My ex drove because they decided he was the most sober. My best friend and me sat in the back seat, and I laid down with my head on her lap. I passed out almost immediately because of how drunk I was. On the short 15 minute drive my ex decided it would be fun to see how fast his car could go. He hit 130 MPH seconds before we crashed. He lost control of the car around a curve heading straight for a rock wall, and he reacted as fast as possible to save our lives. With a sharp pull to the left he hit a fence head on, ejecting me 50 feet from the car at 130 mph. The paramedics got the call at 1:18 AM about a crash involving ejection and entrapment. They had no idea where I was or if I was alive. When the paramedic finally found me I was lying there unconscious, breathing so shallow he thought I was dead. After realizing I wasn’t dead they rushed me to the closest hospital. I was immediately put on life support. Test after test they decided my injuries were to extreme for the resources they had. I was then flown out to Philly in a helicopter to a trauma one hospital. I had injuries head to toe, but my most serious injuries were 2 intracerebral hemorrhages, 3 TIA’s, a severed carotid, and complete lumbar spine fracture. I fractured my shoulder blade, collar bone, sternum, 2 ribs, knee, and my foot. Also the skin on part of my arm was completely shredded up. After a week of my doctors fighting about what needs surgery first, my neurologist decided everything had to wait. They took me off life support, and she thought my brain needed time to heal before I could live through anyone trying to fix my broken body. They had told my family IF I survived that I WOULD be paralyzed from the neck down. 2 more weeks passed without surgery, and continued improvements. First a slight movement of my hand, then a slight squeeze. Everyday I would move a little more than the day before. The day I was switching from the hospital to the rehab hospital I “walked” with two therapist basically walking for me, It wasn’t easy but I did it. Then comes the rehab hospital that I can tell you about from my personal memories. A couple days in, and about a month after the accident I remember waking up. Although I had been awake, this is my first memory for a month an a half. I woke up in what felt like was a dead persons body. I couldn’t move any part of my body. I couldn’t talk. I WAS TRAPPED. I remember a tear running down my face and feeling absolutely terrified. I don’t remember much from the rest of that week, but pieces of each day as time went on. I remember the doctor waking me up at 7 AM and being so mad because I’d want to go back to sleep. He’d ask if I knew my name, the date, and where I was which I got better at answering as time went on. I remember a week or two after being at the rehab hospital trying to walk with my therapist, literally thinking to myself left foot then right foot. My feet wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried. I went back to my room, looked out the window and cried for hours. After being hoyer lifted back in to bed that night I prayed. I said, “Lord can I please just die tonight in my sleep this isn’t fair.” One morning I woke up and thought, “You were given a second chance at life. You can either feel sorry for yourself and suffer, or you can fight and see what happens.” Thankfully god gave me the strength and courage to fight and never look back. I was in the rehab hospital a total of 7 weeks. In that time I retaught my body how to function and support itself enough to sit, walk, get dressed, go to the bathroom, shower with a chair, brush my teeth and feed myself. I retaught my brain to talk, remember, and process things. As time went on, out patient therapy 3 times a week for 4 month helped me learn to jog, drive, put my hair up myself, and other major things any 18 year old would want to do. Mid 2016 as I overcame a lot of physical obstacles I then began facing my hardest obstacle yet, PTSD. Trying to understand what happened to me and what I had been through with a Traumatic brain injury was near impossible. I didn’t understand why I was mad, sad, angry, or even happy. I often felt like there was two people trapped in one body. When the one “person” would feel mad that someone would eat a sandwich, the other “person” would remind them its insane to be mad over something so dumb. Everyday I would fight with my own emotions. I thought I was insane and should probably just kill myself, but then would be angry at myself for even thinking that after being given a second chance. After months of dealing with my own thoughts and emotions, I remembered that dealing with all the horrible physical pain I went through was easier than my own demons, I began cutting my arms. I never cut to kill myself, just to distract myself from my emotional pain by causing physical pain. I never wanted my family to know, because they were my biggest support system, second to god. So I began cutting my thighs but it didn’t hurt like my arms. One day my dad saw my one arm under my sweatshirt and asked,”did the puppy scratch you?” I said, “Yes.” It was quiet for about 15 seconds, then I started bawling my eyes out and screamed through my tears,”NO DADDY. I NEED HELP. I AM NOT OKAY.” After months of seeing a counselor I overcame cutting, left my abusive ex (the driver of the accident), and finally started getting a grip on my life again. I realized all that I’ve overcome. My family was told I might not live to see another day, I probably will never walk again, and I will need multiple surgeries… all which I proved to be wrong. In January, 2018 I started my job as a PCA in an Autistic support classroom. I now work in a life skills classroom and couldn’t be more thankful to have overcome what I have and be able to share my story to help others. Thanks for reading and please continue to share my story!

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Delaney Hertzog

I would love to be able to travel and share my story with school, churches, hospitals, and any other crowd I can. Please share my story!