Friday, March 28, 2008


In the most cliche way possible, I often state I love teaching for those few and sometimes far between moments when I know I am changing someone or helping them in a way that will forever cause them to remember me (isn't that what we all want? to be remembered?).

I have a student now who is touching my heart. They all do in their own way, I suppose, but this one has reached out to me, made me feel wanted/needed/special. A junior girl in my Communication Theory class was in a car accident last June (three days before my wedding, actually; odd to hear stories of people I didn't yet know during the important times of my own life; she was in ICU, I was walking down the aisle...). D. suffered a brain injury that may affect her forever, though they are still unsure. She was hit from the side and the window, being only half rolled down, lodged into the side of her head. Right now she suffers from memory loss, ambient focal disorder (background noise is an impossibility for her), and most upsetting, flashbacks. Twice she has had to get up and leave the room (her best friend is in the class with her and always accompanies her) to go suffer a flashback in the hallway. She feels and sees what she saw that night. Each time she has one, however, she always remembers a little more.

I make accomodations for her: testing alone, late assignments, extra help, whatever she needs. D. says the hardest part of all of it is not just how much her brain has changed, but how aware of it she is. Before her accident, she was a star athlete, straight-A student. She says, "I didn't understand how people needed to study; how people couldn't read faster. Everything was always so easy for me. Now, everything is a struggle." This, perhaps, one of the reasons she's touched me so. I am like that, too: fast reader, eager learner, most everything comes easily. She told me the one thing she's learned from her accident is to be thankful every day, not for being alive, like so many other accident victims, but for the God-given abilities we have and might lose at any time.

D. has been in my class since the end of January, and I have been helping her and getting to know her and listening when she needed someone to talk to. All good. Wednesday, however, she stayed after class. "Mrs. H, I was wondering if you could help me. I want to write about my accident, but I need a reason. Are there any writing contests you know of?" Well, the only one I knew of off-hand was a local poetry contest, but I told her I would look and we'd work on it together. She came in yesterday with timelines, journals, and ideas. I had a list of not just contests I'd found, but many scholarships that would suit her as well. "Scholarships! What a great idea. That would really help me out with all the medical bills we have now." We sat for forty-five minutes just talking about it. She told me everything she remembers and about how an image or a smell or sound can trigger new memories. One: when she went to a Twins' game in September, seeing the Metrodome flashed the images of her descent in the helicopter onto the roof of the ER, as she could see the Dome then. We talked and talked. I told her that everything she just told me could be written down; write everything down, feelings, memories, lessons, reactions, etc. and together we could edit it and make it sing.

It's exciting, being asked to help her with this. D. also warned me when they go to court next year (the accident was indeed the other guy's fault), I might be asked to testify on her behalf, having seen how the accident has affected her. But I am also worried I will let her down. What if she doesn't win any of the contests or scholarships? Our time of course will not be wasted, I think her writing about it will be very therapeutic, but I want her to get something out of it, too. I'll keep you posted on her progress. And if you know of any writing contests or scholarships she might be eligible for, send them my way :-).


Molly said...

Just showing that someone else cares, someone else is there for her is enough, Em. And I'll see if I can track anything down.

Anonymous said...

That's a really great thing you are doing for her. D. sounds like an amazing girl. Good luck.


Molly said...

Oh, my heart, now that I know which D you speak of. A good kid, I agree. I will do some serious research now. (I had two of her cousins too. Still connected, I suppose.)

Jen said...

This spoke so sweetly to my heart. Infact I have tears in my eyes. One thing that I can promise you is that just by the smallest act such as spending time with her is changing her life. Even if she does not win scholarships (which she should!) you have not failed her becasue you have loved her well!

EggDonor1 said...

Heather said:

Reflecting on an accident and how it effected and will continue to effect your life is so important to move on- scholarship or not, this process will help in more than money ever could. The process will help her release resentments that could cripple her beyond her physical disabilities. She is letting go and moving on.

Love Heather,
Chronic Head, Back, and Neck Pain survivor