Tristen Sharp is a freshman at Illinois State University. She hopes to turn her Political Science/Pre-Law degree into a career as a lawyer.
“The girl that got hit by a car” is the way people now identify me. I was a girl who had so many things going for her until life handed me a set of cards that I had never been prepared to play. On October 14, 2015, the life I had been living would forever be changed. I was crossing the street to attend church, and was struck by a vehicle.
At that very split second, my whole life came to a halt. Little did I know just how much impact that would have on me from that moment forward. I was immediately rushed to a trauma unit hospital to further assess my injuries. My brain was bleeding and swelling, but to what extent was yet to be determined. The pressure in my brain continued to rise to extremely dangerous levels, and I was immediately taken to the operating room to have my skull removed. Without the removal of my skull, the doctors advised that they would not have been able to sustain my life. My injuries were severe to say the least. The injuries to my head were traumatic, but I also suffered a fractured sinus cavity around my eye, three pelvic fractures, a punctured lung, numerous abrasions, wounds, and infections all over my body. The next three weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was an extremely critical time for my family, as they waited for me to wake up from a coma like state. This very moment would eventually come, but from a girl with very little memory of who she was before. I was now labeled as the girl with a Traumatic Brain Injury, one of life’s most invisible injuries.
On November 6, 2015 I was transported to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in Maryland Heights, Missouri where I would begin my rehabilitation. My assessments were not promising, and it was estimated that I would remain in this facility for a very long time. When I first arrived, I couldn’t walk, talk, or swallow, let alone care for myself. By the grace of God, the fourth day at the rehabilitation hospital was a turning point in my recovery. The progress I continued making would ultimately allow me to return home, and begin the process of trying to remember exactly who I was, and to receive extensive additional outpatient therapy in my home town. This process in itself was probably the hardest part of this whole journey, as this is where the emotional side of things kick in that nobody truly prepares you for. The extent of my brain injuries would show in everything I tried to do, and my emotions would eventually begin a downward spiral. How are you suppose to know what you are working towards when you can’t remember who you were to begin with? Nobody truly understands what it is like to have to rebuild your whole life from scratch until you have to live it. I had spent my whole life working towards being the best person I could be academically, physically, and mentally, and in a split second, I had it all taken from me at no fault of my own.
In March of 2016, I was able to return back to school on half day homebound status. My goal was to complete my junior year of high school along with my peers. Before my accident, I had a 4.0 GPA and was ranked number one in my class. As a result of this accident, I suffered memory deficits, and a reduced reading comprehension level along with many other difficulties. I was able to complete my junior year with a 4.016 GPA, and ranked number 16 in my class. I wasn’t satisfied with my ranking, but I was proud of my accomplishments.
As I head off to college this fall, my recovery continues to be an ongoing process. Every day continues to be a work in progress, and I push forward from a life that I don’t fully remember. To say this journey has been easy would clearly be a falsification of the truth. My struggles have been great, but my strength and determination has been so much greater. This has undoubtedly brought me to where I am today. As much as I would like to question why this happened to me, I know that this would not be God’s plan. I choose not to consider myself a victim, and I can only hope that one day I can be a testimony to others on what a person can accomplish. Often times, in the midst of a tragedy, people become bitter. By allowing this mindset to overcome you, the chance of learning who you are again can be lost. Life lessons have the ability to help prepare you for the future, or they can distract you from reality. In the midst of this accident, I have learned three important aspects of life. Tragedy does not discriminate, life is not intended to be fair, and most importantly tomorrow is never promised. The ability to continue through life with a better understanding of how the world we live in actually is, will assist you in developing the strength to persevere through life’s most difficult moments that you thought were impossible. In the face of adversity, I am no stranger merely because I choose to not give up on the life I so desperately intended for myself.
Academically, I worked towards securing the financial aspect of my college career, but that part has changed as a result of this accident as well. The financial impact this accident has placed on my family has been significant to say the least. My ultimate goal is to pursue a degree in political science with the intentions of becoming a criminal/civil attorney in the future. I have spent my whole life knowing what career path I wanted to pursue, and that career choice has intensified after my accident. Due to the financial burden placed on my family, I don’t know if this will be possible, but I will make every attempt to fulfill this goal, and fight for the rights of others injured in these tragic situations.
Sometimes life can end with no explanation like a dead-end road, but often times it actually just continues on in a different direction than what it used to. Life did in fact throw me a curve, but most importantly it taught me how to navigate the road by learning the sole purpose of the map.
Preventing accidents such as mine would involve increased public awareness about the effects and outcomes of distracted driving. While statistics will show a large number of individuals that have participated in distracted driving themselves, the number of accidents caused by distracted driving is steadily on the rise. The more education provided about this very serious issue could ultimately change someone's life forever.