There are few injuries that are more debilitating than Traumatic Brain Injury. Those who suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury almost always have opportunities stripped and physical independence taken away in a single moment. Sixteen-year-old Alicia Payne suffered a severe a Traumatic Brain Injury in November of 1997 when she was she was driving home from a band contest and was hit by an oncoming car that caused her to slam into a tree .
After doctors examined her at the Children’s Hospital ICU, they refused to tell her parents the results of her CAT scan or MRI, she said. They simply told her family that she was going to die. She was diagnosed with a rare form of Traumatic Brain Injury which affected both sides of the brain. “You’re either dead, or a vegetable,” Payne said.
After being in a coma for over a month, she regained consciousness three days before Christmas, but the miracles didn’t end there. She recovered enough to the leave the hospital after 11 weeks.
Today, Payne is a junior at Oklahoma State University where she is taking 12 credit hours to earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Promotion. More importantly, she is has become a one of the signature advocates for those who have suffered TBI. She is helping students with disabilities by creating a way for students to meet, share ideas and educate others about what it means to live life while combating disabilities.
“I do not want to see another student go through what I went through,” she said. “Now it’s my turn to help share what I learned in the last 12 years with those with brain injury or those in the medical field.”
Payne began her work in 2002 when she and Ashley Washsauen, also a TBI victim, created TBI Raiders to provide an online organization for TBI survivors, Payne said. The group has about 20 members from the United States and Canada.
During the summer of 2004, Payne represented Oklahoma at the National Youth with Disabilities Leadership in Washington, D.C. After attending the conference in Washington, she decided to turn TBI Raiders into a volunteer service organization with the hopes of increasing opportunities to education and let people who have TBI, as well as those who do not but care about the issue work together.
In 2006, The Oklahoma House of Representatives recognized her for her work with TBI Raiders.
Payne is now targeting OSU students with disabilities through a new organization called Increasing Leadership Empowering Advocates with Disabilities, or ILEAD, so she can show students with disabilities they are important and have a voice. “Alicia set up the organization TBI Raiders years ago, and her skills and connections gained from her work with TBI Raiders will be invaluable for ILEAD,” said Allen Sheffield, the disability specialist at Student Disability Services. “She is a knowledgeable and vocal advocate for disability-related issues and a valuable asset for other students on this campus.”
For us here at Davis Law Group, Alicia Payne is an inspirational figure whose story we not only draw hope from, but also use an example of what is possible even in what appears to be the worst possible circumstances. Her courage to finish school with her disability alone is inspiring, but the fact that she has made a conscious decision to also help and support others with TBI is remarkable. We at Davis Law Group wish her continued success in her future endeavors.