After 2009 accident, local teen thankful
Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 9:03 pm
By JENTRI GILBERT
Special to The Messenger
To some, the holiday season means making memories with family, presents and Santa Claus. To Brooke Albright, this time of year is about being thankful.
In April 2009, Brooke and a friend were driving from Troy to Union City. As they traveled east along Highway 51, Brooke’s thoughts were around trying on a dress for prom. She never arrived for the fitting.
About 3 that afternoon, Brooke and her friend were involved in a two-vehicle accident. The truck in which Brooke was a passenger flipped over. Although she was thrown from the vehicle, Brooke sustained traumatic brain injuries, multiple fractures, a broken arm, hip injuries and a broken jaw and had to be airlifted to Memphis.
After she spent a few days in the hospital, doctors had to perform a craniotomy to relieve pressure in her brain. During the surgery, a piece of her skull was removed and preserved in a frozen state for use later. During her recuperation, Brooke had to wear a special helmet to protect her head.
Following her initial surgery and recovery, in May 2009, Brooke was sent to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for additional inpatient/outpatient treatment. She had to make use of a back brace and a wheelchair after her injury until rehabilitation helped her upgrade to crutches.
Brooke’s recovery, however, hit a bump about one month later, when she began to sweat and breathe roughly, while her eyes stared straight ahead, as if fixed on an object. According to Brooke, doctors said she had suffered a seizure, although not the type typically associated with convulsions.
In July 2009, a cranioplasty was performed to insert the skull bone that had been frozen. During the next several months, Brooke’s body began to reject the skull bone. In February 2010, a second cranioplasty was performed to remove the bone and replace it with a man-made piece that was specially designed through 3D imaging to fit Brooke’s skull.
“It is really neat,” said Brooke, laughing while describing the device. “I would like to know how they are made.”
Brooke suffered a second seizure earlier this year during a family vacation to Florida. She said doctors had been experimenting with changing her medication because subsequent tests had showed no seizure activity. “I’ll never forget that doctor in the ambulance,” she said.
“It is just amazing how through all the events that occurred, looking back we can see that God was watching over us the entire time,” said Linda Albright, Brooke’s mother.
“The day of the wreck, we believe God cushioned her fall,” she said, noting how Brooke’s father was driving behind his daughter and was able to call 911 immediately. “The helicopter that showed up for Brooke was piloted by her dad’s first cousin,” added Mrs. Albright. “When she had the first seizure, she just happened to be with her therapist, who specializes in that field.
“The second seizure, we were in Florida,” she said. “If we had been at home, my husband and I would have both been at work, and Brooke would have been home by herself. Also, even though she doesn’t remember, Brooke walked to the bed before the seizure began and lay down. She knew it was coming. If she hadn’t, she might have fallen and hit her head, which was already damaged.”
Returning to school has been a challenge. Brooke was enrolled in an Individualized Education Program at Obion County Central High School because of short-term memory loss. She has no memory of the accident or of events a couple weeks prior to the incident.
Today, Brooke has no trouble walking but sometimes suffers from lower back pain and hip aches. She has several scars, one of which is in the shape of a cross on her hand.
She has been cleared to drive, and her family says she appears to be enjoying the freedom that driving can bring.
Otherwise, Brooke has returned to activities typically associated with an active high school senior. She is the field commander for the band and a member of a member of HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), where she promotes giving blood. After graduation, Brooke is considering attending Dyersburg State Community College and majoring in physical therapy.
“Brooke is a strong-willed person,” said Mrs. Albright. “She has had a hard time with things, but she just always tries to find the positive. We all do. Finally, after all this time, things are beginning to feel normal, like it used to be before the accident.
“We just know that miracles happen. We have truly been blessed, and we are very thankful for the prayers,” Brooke’s mother said.
“I hope my story helps people,” said Brooke. “Sometimes we wonder what we have done to be so blessed, but really, it’s not about us. It’s about what God wants and He has a plan for us.”
Editor’s note: Jentri Gilbert is serving as a communications intern at Goodyear-Union City. She is a public relations major at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she plans to graduate in May.
Published in The Messenger 12.22.10