Valerie Jo Smith
Hi. My name is Valerie Jo Smith. I am currently 49. A mother of two adult children and grandmother of two (so far!). My TBI journey began in August, 1989. I was in an automobile accident that resulted in a closed head injury (brain injury). The head swelling caused a blood vessel to rupture, resulting in a cardiovascular accident. The result was that I am left hemiplegic (whole body paralyzed on the left side).
I was in a medically induced coma for two weeks and stayed in that coma for two more weeks, making it a month total. Upon first waking up from the coma, I have only vague memories of family members being with me but I did not know why or where this was or what they were talking about as I drifted in and out. As I woke up more and for longer periods of time I found myself in the hospital. I was unable to speak and we discovered I was legally blind after some time and testing. My vision has healed since that time. When I left the hospital after 3 months of inpatient rehabilitation (speech, occupational, and physical) I wore glasses and had a peripheral vision deficit on the left in both eyes.
I had to relearn to walk, talk, and write with my right hand, when I had been left-handed. All of this is a long recovery process. But if you stick with it, keep a positive attitude, and look at what you can still do and give, eventually you can discover new life and joys.
While learning all my daily living activities, I also had two children who were 8 months and 1 1/2 years to raise. I know that life will never be the same but I pray, hope, and strive for the ability to make a new and better life plan, one day and one small achievement at a time.
I learned to mourn the loss of the past and the use of my limbs and everything else that resulted from my brain injury. My children were a blessing to me in my recovery because they motivated me to get better for them, and they kept the focus off of me. I moved into my parents' house with my children. My parents and siblings were a godsend and were by my side the whole time, giving me the courage, hope, faith, and strength to pick myself up and begin my new life. My mother taught me, by her own life example, that life was out there and definitely worth living, I was to still go after all that it offers, and that God has a wonderful plan for my life.
After about a year I moved out on my own with my children. I struggled to do all the daily living activities and still be the mother I was and wanted to still be. There are many struggles and sadness, but also many joys. I was glad to be able to be home with them. As they grew and demanded less of my physical time (but always my emotional love), I looked for other ways to reach out.
I have volunteered and worked for a few different places: the Disability Resource Center, I did caregiving in a private home, I worked at Avita Community Partners, and I volunteer for the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association®.
I guess one of my current goals is to provide hope, faith, encouragement, empathy, and education through my personal life with family and friends that are my world. I love and feel honored to be part of any foundation that reaches out to provide the opportunity to share with others, networking, and educating so that no one would feel hopeless and alone. I know that in my giving I always receive back the same or more encouragement that my life and family are important and worthwhile. Also, that I am still able to have dreams and realize them as I reach out to have a full life and make a difference.