June 12, 1998; a day she will never forget: When 15 year old, Sarah Jackson, climbed into a car with an underage drinking driver, she didn't know that choices can impact dreams. The driver lost control and Sarah sustained severe injuries. She underwent 5 months of rehabilitation and the traumatic brain injury that she lives with today, as a result of the crash, is a constant reminder of how lucky she is to be alive. Having a foggy memory of herself that treacherous night, she still lives with the pain and tenderness of the day she almost died; the day she will never forget.
Sarah, now 19, lives in Shoreham, Vermont with her younger sister, Kristen, mother and father, Robin and Steve Jackson. She attends Community College of Vermont, part-time, in hopes to get her Associates Degree in Communication. Sarah travels throughout Vermont and beyond, to speak to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as teacher trainings and other various organizations, telling her story hoping to prevent further tragedies.
In 1998, Vermont ranked #1 in the nation in alcohol related deaths per capita.
In 2001, when she was 17, Vermont ranked #48. Sarah is a common believer that she has helped these statistical numbers decrease by speaking to her peers.
Sarah continues to fulfill her goal. She has participated in the 2000 national conference held by Students Against Destructive Decisions. Her first national speaking experience was in 2000 at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving National Youth Summit and the 2000 MADD International Candlelight vigil.
She represented Middlebury Union High School in the 2000 Prudential Spirit of Community Award Program and was runner-up in the state of Vermont. In 2001, Sarah attended the SADD National conference as a delegate and a speaker. In that same year, she attended the National Organization of Youth Safety Conference. At this conference, she shared her experience with others in a video made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Sarah has also received the 'Highway Hero' award for her efforts to promote safe and healthy lifestyles for Vermont teens. Furthermore, the Vermont Brain Injury Association awarded her with the 'Survivor of the Year' award in 2001. She is constantly looking for opportunities to spread her message locally and nationally. Jackson believes this is an increasing nation-wide problem that is killing many people year after year and needs to be stopped.
Peter Daigle - Rebuilding a Life
It all started with my aspirations to become an engineer. That instead of living from one party to another. This dream of course would acquire more education. So after doing all the proper prerequisites I was ready to go. I got a ride to the campus with a guy I new who was also attending the same school. 1st week went off without a hitch. So what next, Head home but, with maybe too much exhalation in our blood.
The accident accrued when the driver proceeded to pass two trucks on the interstate. (He was going way over 100 mph). When he started to go by, a car that was in between the trucks pulled out. He hits the brakes. We slam into the side of a bridge going over the road. I am thrown thru the windshield and ended up 250 ft. up the road on the pavement. When the ambulance crew arrived I was pronounced dead. Then a friend of the family who was also a member of the ambulance squad just happened to be going by. He reviewed the stats and said "We have to save this boy "(i.e. I was then 19 yrs old.) They brought me to the local hospital were after 1/2 hr of no response decided to transfer me to the medical center 65 miles away. (i.e.: I had a fractured skull, bruised kidney, bruised heart, punctured lung) This just to appease my Dad but, with no hope of me surviving.
After arriving I was rushed to the operating room (this after drilling holes to relieve pressure on my brain in the parking lot) when there I was operated on for 5 hrs. Most of my right frontal lobe removed. Temporal lobe badly damaged. After being fixed as good as possible I was put in the intensive care unit where nobody had ever came out alive. Prognosis: doubtful he will live but, if he does he will be a complete vegetable.
Well after almost 3 months in a coma, dying a few times .( i.e. Resuscitated apparently), I actually became conscious. More like living jello, but alive. I have all the medical reports/9 volumes. .Anyway. So far my recollection is mostly hearsay but now was to start a life long rehab. What's amazing is that back in 1976 rehab for brain injury was almost non-existant. But by the motivation given me by my family and the grace of God I kept on it until this day I am fully functioning, father of 2 and grandfather of 3.
But there is a lot more to this story. My 1st cognitive evaluation in 1979 pointed to a lot of cognitive therapy being needed. Didn't exist back then. Physically after the hospital my family was very instrumental in my exercise program, which I continue to this day. In 1981 I moved to Miami Fl. and started a life. Got married, kids, job, which I sustained with power naps (10 min no thinking and Ginseng tea to keep me awake. That was the biggest problem. Staying alert and focused. But after a few different jobs I found as my doctor would say the perfect job for my psyche.
So in 1994 we went thru hurricane Andrew (frontal lobe, emotion stuff) After rebuilding and working 20 hrs a day things calmed down. Things had really changed in my psyche. I would cry when asked how thing were. Family was doing well, my company put us up in a nice hotel. Ins. On the home would leave us financially OK. Nobody we new was hurt. BUT- something had really changed in me. I was super anxious, unsatisfied and an array of new stresses. I was offered a nice severance package and chose to accept it and move to VT. After working for awhile I had to take a psychological evaluation because power naps were not acceptable.
The test determined that I needed meds, which for 23 yrs I had not taken. It was a turning point in my rehab but, the transition wasn't smooth.. After 3 times in the psyche ward /a wide variety of med changes and doses then a divorce (more stress). I had to finally accept the fact I was disabled. I see a psychologist once a week. A respected brain injury psychiatrist A couple case managers. I've overcome some great aversions but, now I have a whole new set of greater ones, but I will overcome. The most important thing for people to know is that there has never been a better day than today to become well. If I can overcome, and continue to overcome, anybody can. I have a lot of hope that soon, the realization that a brain injured individual, given the right resources can become a much better individual. Maybe not as multitasking as before, but given the right environment, exceptional.