Check out Miranda’s poem, The Lonely Tree, under the artworks section
*Miranda wanted her story to be told, but when it came time to write it she couldn’t do it. She asked me, her mom, to tell her story for her.
This is Miranda’s Story
Growing up Miranda was a shy little girl with a big heart. She was the one who would always stand up for the classmate who was different when the other children were making fun of them. Her thoughtfulness was demonstrated by how she would always bring a piece of birthday cake home for her little sister from a party that she attended. She worked hard to get good grades and wanted to become a doctor. She later changed her mind after an internship at a hospital enabled her to work amongst doctors. One of the physicians discouraged her and told her that if he had the choice he wouldn’t do it again. The financial burden and time dedicated to the profession left little time for a family. Miranda wanted to have a family so she chose to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant instead. She thought it was a wise choice because she could still “act” as a doctor and have the family she desired as well.
Miranda pursued her dream and was accepted into Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, PA to begin the P.A. Program. She was taking an accelerated curriculum and would receive her Masters in 5 years. One of the requirements was to compete 1000 hours as a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Aide). Miranda fulfilled this obligation at a local nursing home during her school breaks. It was during this time that I witnessed the magnitude of Miranda’s compassion. It was the Holiday season and Miranda was working at the nursing home. She was saddened by the number of residents who didn’t get a visitor on Thanksgiving Day. She decided that she would visit the residents on Christmas day and set out to make each one a gift. With the little money she earned, she bought lace, ribbon and potpourri form AC Moore and made little sachets for each one. On Christmas Day she announced that she was going to the nursing home to visit her patients. She invited me to accompany her and I will be forever grateful that I did as it has become one of my fondest memories of “before the accident”. I witnessed firsthand the joy on each resident’s face as Miranda handed them her little token gift she had made. The first room we entered was occupied by an elderly woman who was lying in her bed. When she looked up and saw Miranda her whole face lit up. She smiled as she grasped Miranda’s hand in her own and said “thank you, thank you” over and over again. She looked at me and told me that Miranda was her angel from God. I was moved to tears and had to leave the room. A similar scenario played out as we visited each resident. They were all so happy to see her. It’s ironic that in a short period of time I would be faced with the decision whether or not to place Miranda, at the age of 20, in a nursing home.
Miranda had just completed her second year as a student at King’s College when she had her accident. She was on summer break when she was invited by high school friends to meet in Austin, TX for a reunion of sorts. Miranda was excited to reunite with old friends and looked forward to the vacation. It was August 6, 2000 when the phone rang at 11:30 at night. I was about to live a parent’s worst nightmare. Miranda had been involved in an automobile accident, the voice on the other end said. It was serious and I was told to get to Austin as soon as possible. Nothing can prepare a family for the whirlwind of emotions, fears and turmoil that was about to consume my life.
Miranda was a front seat passenger of a car which turned into the oncoming path of a van travelling at a high rate of speed, trying to make it through the light before it changed to red. The seatbelt she wore did very little to save her from catastrophic injuries. Miranda suffered a diffuse axonal injury to her brain, a c6 vertebrae fracture, a broken pelvis, fractures to both collarbones, and a crushed hand. When I first walked into the ICU to see Miranda I was not prepared for what I saw. Her beautiful waist length hair had been shaven on half of her head, revealing a large red incision that extended down the side of her scalp. There was dried blood on her face and her eyes bulged slightly open from the swelling in her brain giving the appearance that she was awake, but she wasn’t. My senses went into overload as my eyes took note of all the tubes emerging from her body. The machines keeping her alive beeped and seemed to echo in my head. I fell to my knees in prayer at her bedside on the cold hard tile floor of that ICU room and prayed for her life.
That night Miranda’s lungs began to fill with fluid and I answered another late night call summoning me to the hospital for the second night in a row. This time I was just across the street at a Ronald McDonald House and quickly went to the hospital. Somehow Miranda made it through yet another emergency surgery procedure that night. The long journey back was about to begin.
After several weeks in ICU Miranda was airlifted to New York to begin her recovery while I returned to work. To survive a traumatic brain injury is like being reborn as someone else. The old Miranda was gone and a new Miranda awakened from the coma. Miranda needed to learn to talk, eat and walk again. It took 2 years before she was finally released from institutional care. She had been in 2 hospitals and 3 rehab centers during this time and had endured multiple surgeries. A nursing home was recommended. I felt helpless until I met someone who introduced me to a FACTS coordinator with the Brain Injury Association. Robin was a Godsend to me at a very difficult time in my life. She helped me find a program called the TBI Waiver that enabled Miranda to live at home rather than a nursing home. I was so grateful!
Miranda faces a multitude of daily challenges. The pain she endures is a daily occurrence from the multiple injuries she received. I believe that the fractures didn’t heal right because the doctors were focused on the brain injury and life saving measures rather than setting bones. Consequently her frame is somewhat twisted and doesn’t align anymore. It took 2 years before Miranda was able to give up her wheelchair and use a walker to ambulate. The awkwardness of her gait and her misaligned stance causes joints and ligaments to ache from the effort. I sometimes wonder if it would be better for her to return to the wheelchair to avoid the constant pain.
I asked Miranda what she wanted her message to be in this story. Miranda said that she missed her old life and that she still loved her old boyfriend and the friends she had at the time of the accident, even though they didn’t stay in touch after the accident. She said she loved the Structured Day Program she attends as it enables her to create new friendships. She said “I have come a long way since that doctor said I was in a vegetative state, haven’t I mom?” I agreed that she had. She continued “I still want to return to school and become a PA. “ She then looked into my eyes and asked me “Do you think I can, mom”? I felt the tears stinging in my eyes again as I replied “Maybe, anything is possible. Maybe a new treatment someday will make that a reality”. She looked away and shrugged “Maybe”, she said.
In the meantime, Miranda maintains a sense of humor and enjoys her friends at the Structured Day Program at Compassionate Care of CNY. She continues to touch the lives of many – as she did when she worked in the nursing home so many years ago, just in a different way. Her resilience and endurance for life has put new meaning in the words “live each day as if it were our last”.
Miranda inspired me to create Compassionate Care of CNY to assist others with brain injury and help them to build new, lasting relationships. For more information on Compassionate Care of CNY, visit our website at:
Miranda’s Words of Wisdom
Dear Fellow Survivors,
My life changed dramatically that day, but I have learned a lot since then. Things happen. That’s just the way it goes. You can’t change the past, but hang in there. Things do get better if you let it. Just keep on truckin’. That’s my best advice.
My mom is my hero. I tell everyone that whenever I get the chance. She started an agency for survivors of traumatic brain injury so that I, and others like me, could have the supports we need to improve our lives. I have come a long way because of her and the people who work at Compassionate Care. They are a great bunch of people and I love them all very much. Especially you, Mom.
I think I speak for all survivors out there when I say we appreciate all that our caregivers do for us. Thank you, all of you. You just don’t know how much we need you.
Written by Cindy S. and Miranda S. for braininjurystories.org