By her mom, Gina Wagner
August 24, 2013, our 20-year-old daughter, Erica, was injured in a near-fatal car crash. She lost control of the car, and her head and both arms came out of the driver window as she slammed into the cement dividing wall on the freeway. Her head and arms were in constant contact with the wall until the car came to a stop. It is only by God's grace that Erica was not decapitated nor both of her arms lost. Miraculously, she sustained no broken bones, no spinal or internal injuries with the exception of an open-wound head fracture. Erica's brain injury is two-fold; she not only had the open-head fracture (which resulted in removal of part of her right frontal load due to part of the cement wall being embedded in it) but she also sustained a severe Diffuse Axonal Injury, which we all know has very low odds of survival. Erica was in an induced coma and intubated with no response for 22 days. She was then moved to a step-down hospital and remained there for nearly 2½ months in a vegetative state. Literally, during the last couple of approved days' stay at this second hospital before we would have had to move her to a nursing home, Erica began to respond. She then went onto rehab for yet another 2 months relearning everything all over, breathing, eating speaking, moving ,sitting, walking, etc., before her final move to a Neuro rehab facility here in Akron, and then home. Since her aerial home, it has been a painstaking journey with constant rehab and physical training trying to achieve a new healthy "normal."
We are now very confident that Erica will have a very good quality of life. Erica has nearly complete mental capabilities, both long-term and short-term and executive functions. She has been very blessed to not suffer most of the serious aftereffects of a brain injury, though hers was quite severe. She doesn't suffer in terms of headaches or physical pain, fatigue, depression, mood swings or seizures.
Erica is generally a very positive person (something she wasn't before); she is upbeat, kind, and wants to help others like herself. Now, all that said, she does have her share of challenges . . . crazy as it seems, her balance and coordination were damaged and though she is able to walk (has no paralysis) she has had to use a walker constantly and now more recently a cane. For a young beautiful girl who was as she would say a "gym rat" and a high school soccer athlete, this has been very difficult to accept and deal with. It is a major source of frustration but she hasn't let that stand in her way. She is still constantly in the gym, works with a trainer and is now back at school taking classes at Kent State University. She has a fair amount of tremors in her left arm, some speech issues, and slight facial right-side neglect/weakness. She has battled ataxia on one side of her body trunk, has lost the ability to cry entirely, and cognitively, must reread and go over school material often.
Erica has returned to college, taking twp courses. So far she is doing quite well.