Carla is in her twenties, with curly blond hair and enormous brown eyes. A self described jock, she enjoys snowboarding and riding her trike in Airdrie. She has friends on Facebook and loves downloading music. She has artistic talent and has been known to shake her booty to live music.
This resilient young lady has endured more in her twenty years than most people will in a lifetime. Let’s rewind …
One week before Carla was to start grade 11, she flew to visit her sister Claire in Vancouver. Her mother Sue and Carla’s first boyfriend hugged her goodbye as they dropped her off at the airport.
Carla arrived in Vancouver to glorious weather and she headed to the beach with her sister and friends. Life couldn’t get any better than this! While enjoying this beautiful day, Carla was offered a ride on the back of Claire’s boyfriend’s motorcycle. She accepted – the spontaneous act of a 16 year old celebrating summer. In this moment of time, Carla could not have known what would happen next.
She was given a helmet that may have been too big for her. The motorcycle was involved in a collision. Carla was thrown over 60 feet. Her helmet came off. She suffered a broken neck and a severe brain injury … she is a survivor.
Although Carla has no memory of the crash, it changed her life in a moment.
Read on to discover Carla’s Second Chance …
Carla was taken to the Vancouver General Hospital and continued at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre. She eventually participated in the live-in program at the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka, who then referred her to ARBI for longer-term rehabilitation. The teams from ARBI and Ponoka coordinated her transfer back home and into the ARBI On-site program.
When Carla arrived at ARBI she had made great gains in her therapy. She was beginning to walk with assistance and to speak again. However challenges lay ahead. She was easily tired and had trouble sitting up for long periods. Her right arm and hand would not cooperate fully. She struggled with speech and at times she spelled out words to communicate effectively. She had difficulty with short-term memory and understanding auditory and reading cues.
Her initial goals were to walk, speak more clearly and to cook and clean. She had played soccer for 10 years, and longed to play again … She also dreamed of finishing high school. Her ambitions evolved to include walking without a walker and “not to be bored.” A personalized rehabilitation program was designed for Carla to address these goals.
Her program included tasks to improve the function of her arms, hands, memory, visual skills and basic math skills. Carla has shown improvement with the strength in her right hand and with coordination and motor control. Her speech-language skills have improved, especially clarity of speech. She worked on core strength, coordination, balance, walking and endurance. Wheelchair propulsion and transfers in and out of her wheelchair were also practiced. Carla made tremendous gains in the first year at ARBI and strong gains in the second.
She has taken unprecedented steps forward. She graduated ARBI’s On-site program in 2011 and continues in the Community Integration program. Her greatest wish is to be part of the community, to do something meaningful and feel valued. She would like to volunteer and make a real difference. She longs for friendships beyond Facebook. And we know the community will embrace her – for she is anything but an ordinary young lady; in fact, we believe she is extraordinary.