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I look pretty normal.
I wear glasses and can see a little, but it isn't until I bring out my white cane that they can usually recognize what is wrong with my vision. People don't really notice my memory loss, sensory problems, or "blackouts" until they have spent time with me.
The second that changed my life
Who would have ever thought that a fall from a piece of playground equipment could change my life forever?
It happened on May 14, 1996 in Plano, Texas. I was swinging on a swing when the "S" hook suddenly broke and I fell. My head and neck hit the hard cement ground.
At first we thought it was a mild concussion. But we now know that I suffered a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. I have long-term memory loss and Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI). CVI is actually a condition where the eyes function normally, but the brain cannot interpret the visual message it is being sent making the person appear blind or severely visually impaired.
My memory capacity is basically about ten days to two weeks long and after that I don't remember anything. I also have "blackouts" every once in a while and they usually happen when things over-stimulate me. One way to imagine them is like a computer that becomes overloaded with too many commands at one time and freezes up making you have to reboot and start over.
Since I have lost the ability to work with numbers, I have a math disability, but the weird thing is my language and writing abilities are still intact. My brain processes things slowly in some areas, but I eventually solve my problems.
To the people I knew before the accident I have become almost a completely different person, but some traits of my past self emerge sometimes.
For the most part I have lost contact with my old friends. My old best friend's dad is my dentist so I see him sometimes, and our parents are trying to keep us in contact with each other. The thing about it is that it is hard because she is leading a new life that is completely different from mine now and the one I had.
Relearning how to walk
In March of 1999 I had surgery to repair the rips in my inner and middle ear membranes that occurred when I fell, which in turn messed up my balanced. The rips are now closed, but I am having to relearn how to walk and move again because after going three years with the rips, my brain had grown accustom to them.
Grass that feels like needles
I also suffer from hyper-sensory sensitivity, which means that I am extra sensitive to things such as noises, textures, smells, etc. It used to be much worse than it is now, but things still bother me.
A simple way to understand this is to imagine walking on cushy, green grass, but instead of feeling the comfort of it the grass feels like sharp, pointed needles poking you through your shoes. I don't listen to music because I am unable to process everything so it makes an enjoyable sound. This basically means that when I hear music I hear everything (instruments, singer, etc.), but my brain is unable to put all of the different sounds together and make an enjoyable noise.
For the 1998-1999 school year I attended Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin to figure out what I would need to attend high school in my hometown. I learned how to use a computer with a screen reader, which I now use for almost everything.
Getting back to "normal"
Now I am a freshman at my local high school with a population of around three hundred students. No one else that attends my school has a visible disability except for one kid with mild autism. I use my laptop for all of my classes, a scanner to scan notes and handouts, and other technology devices. I have an aide that goes to almost all of my classes and helps me with things that I can't read or see.
It has been about three years since my fateful fall. Life is slowly, but surely getting back on track. I have made only one B out of the two grading periods this school year, and am taking Honors Biology and Advanced English.
In October I competed in the Region 10 Sports Extravaganza and won three gold medals for the softball throw, walk, and shot-put. It was a big step towards getting my life back to "normal." Whatever that means.
People that are disabled may need help with a few things along the way, but if they know what they are doing, how to do it, and are independent about it they shouldn't be treated much differently than from those without disabilities.
I never used to think about these things, but now I have to. I only wish people didn't have to go through what I have gone through to understand what I know.
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