Andy has always been a positive and upbeat person. In fact, her physicians and care team credit her progress and remarkable recovery to her sunny outlook and determination. The 48-year-old mother of two active boys remains positive to this day, even after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
"I am an extremely active person and often thought of as an over-achiever," Andy says. "My perspective throughout my recovery has been that this situation is only temporary, and I knew with a positive attitude and a lot of hard work I was going to overcome this."
Almost a year ago, Andy was riding her bicycle on the trails near her home when a deer jumped out in front of her. She swerved to miss the creature and flew off her bike, landing on her head. Fortunately, another cyclist was nearby and immediately called for help, being careful not to move Andy for fear of a broken neck.
Andy was taken to the nearest hospital and then flown to the Level II Trauma Center at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, where she remained in the intensive care unit for two weeks. Andy's injuries were extensive and very serious. She had a broken eye socket, neck, shoulder and ulna, as well as a traumatic brain injury. Almost a year later, Andy's body has mostly healed but her brain is still recovering.
"I think this is the hardest concept for people to grasp," Andy says. "Everyone always tells me I look normal, but I definitely don't feel that way. The majority of the public doesn't understand about brain injury."
Andy's recovery is still a work in progress. After her accident, she was in and out of consciousness for almost seven days, and for three and a half weeks her brain was so traumatized she couldn't speak. When Andy was finally discharged from the hospital she was far from better, in fact her road to recovery had just begun. Luckily the experts at Sutter Rehabilitation Institute were there to guide her.
"Sutter Rehabilitation Institute is amazing. The therapy staff and doctors are incredible and prepared me to get back into society," Andy says. "I would not have been very capable of getting back into the real world by myself. They really understand the big picture and knew the steps to navigate me on my journey."
Looking back on her recovery, Andy compares the process to a baby's development. She had to learn to stand, walk and even talk. Everything that she took for granted and did so quickly in the past was a struggle, but she was determined to heal. Her recovery was a challenge, and like anything that was a challenge in Andy's life, she confronted it head on.
The journey was far from easy. "It was very depressing, even for me, but I just had to remain positive, mind over matter, you have got to believe in yourself or you will fall into a very deep hole," she says.
After weeks of intense therapy, Andy was finally ready to return to the community, applying what she learned to her new everyday life. Though her recovery is still a work in progress, Andy does what she can to remain active. Along with her visits to outpatient therapy, Andy has started barefoot running and kayaking at the lake near her house. "These activities I can take at my own pace," Andy says. "Being barefoot when I run allows my feet to connect with my brain easier so that I have a better chance of not falling, and the kayaking is a fun but very safe sport."
But even now, Andy still takes things slowly. Due to her brain injury she still has to rest or take naps during the day and is unable to work, but her outlook is still positive.
"It was hard to come to terms with how different my life is, and the whole experience has been a bit humbling, but I am not going to let it define my happiness," she says. "My advice to anyone with a brain injury is to hang in there, try to remain positive and to work hard. Listen to your rehabilitation team. I wouldn't be where I am today without them."