My Car Accident Story, Meet Daphne McDonagh

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Meet Daphne McDonagh, the guiding light behind Daphne’s #Healing Hands! Daphne is on a mission to empower both animals and people to lead lives filled with purpose and free from pain through a variety of holistic approaches.

Daphne’s Remarkable Journey to Healing After a Devastating Car Accident

Daphne’s own journey to healing is nothing short of remarkable. At the tender age of 15, she was involved in a devastating car accident that resulted in a severe closed head brain injury. Her situation was dire; she relied on full life support for 14 agonizing days, and when the decision was made to unplug her, there was a mere 0.2% chance of survival. Remarkably, Daphne defied the odds and emerged from an 18-day coma.

With indomitable spirit and unwavering determination, she spent only 8 months in the hospital, where she relearned the essential skills of walking, talking, and caring for herself.

I didn’t remember the crash. The memory of waking up from my coma eluded me. What I do remember, however, is my mom’s words echoing in my mind: “Ok, Daphne, this is the guy you gotta show.”

It was later revealed to me that my mother had said this to me while I was still in my comatose state. Looking back, I recall seeing faces, but I wasn’t bewildered. I was fortunate to have someone by my side, guiding me through the confusion.

Amidst the haze of my recollection, one thing remains clear: the overwhelming love and support that surrounded me. I’ve been told the harrowing tale of what transpired on that fateful day, October 27, 1992, and I’ll share it with you now.

Car-Accident
Car Accident

My mother and I were entangled in a nearly fatal car accident, a collision so intense that it’s etched in my memory through the pictures and stories I’ve been told. We were broadsided, and my head shattered the passenger window, a sight I’ve seen in photographs, making me grateful that I was extracted from the vehicle. The collision left me lying in the middle of the intersection when the spinning cars finally came to a halt.

The first person to arrive at the scene was a paramedic, and the second person had a cell phone to call for an ambulance. The St. Albert ambulance rushed me to Sturgeon General, where the doctors decided it was best to transfer me to the Royal Alexandra Hospital due to my brain injury.

I was informed that the EMS drivers had radioed ahead to the Royal, predicting I would arrive DOA (Dead On Arrival). Thankfully, they managed to keep me alive until our arrival. I was connected to full life support for two weeks, with approximately 18 different tubes protruding from my body. Among them was a shunt in my head to alleviate the swelling caused by my skull not cracking when it impacted the window. The doctors administered 5 cc’s of Morphine and 5 cc’s of Demerol every half hour. They maintained my comatose state to facilitate my body’s healing.

This is where my mom’s words, “Ok Daphne, this is the guy you gotta show,” take on significance. When I later inquired about this moment, it moved her to tears. She revealed that, during that time, I would lift the index finger of my left hand when prompted. My mom was determined to demonstrate to the doctors that I could respond, that my brain was still functioning. I believe this marked the turning point when they reduced my heavy medication.

Meet Daphne McDonagh, the guiding light behind Daphne’s #Healing Hands! Daphne is on a mission to empower both animals and people to lead lives filled with purpose and free from pain through a variety of holistic approaches.

Daphne’s own journey to healing is nothing short of remarkable. At the tender age of 15, she was involved in a devastating car accident that resulted in a severe closed head brain injury. Her situation was dire; she relied on full life support for 14 agonizing days, and when the decision was made to unplug her, there was a mere 0.2% chance of survival.

Remarkably, Daphne defied the odds and emerged from an 18-day coma. With indomitable spirit and unwavering determination, she spent only 8 months in the hospital, where she relearned the essential skills of walking, talking, and caring for herself.

A Touching Connection during Daphne’s Coma and Recovery After the Car Accident

Daphne’s remarkable story also includes a heartwarming connection with her Grandma Dietrich. She would often recount a touching tale of how a mysterious force drew her from Lloydminster to Edmonton just before Daphne’s awakening. Grandma Dietrich entered Daphne’s room, knelt by her bedside, and whispered, “Ok Daphne, Grandma is here, it’s time to wake up and open your eyes.” Daphne might not remember this moment personally, but she has heard the story so many times that it feels like a part of her own memory.

During her coma, the Canadian Finals Rodeo was in full swing, and Daphne’s emergence from her comatose state was announced to the arena. The following day, all the Miss Rodeo Canada contestants paid her a visit, and Daphne still cherishes the photograph from that special day.

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Her stay at the Royal Alexandra Hospital extended for two months, during which she was occasionally restrained in her bed due to her tendency to pull out her nasal feeding tube, a common occurrence among survivors of severe closed head injuries like hers.

As she gradually emerged from her coma, Daphne’s first words were, “Ask Barb out.” In her peculiar matchmaking instinct, she decided that the nurse and her friend should go on a date. It turned out her matchmaking skills were a bit rusty because Barb happened to be married.

Daphne also recalls the visit of her volleyball team to the hospital. She can still picture some of their faces and remembers how some of them appeared uncomfortable seeing her in that state, post her car accident.

Meet Daphne McDonagh, the guiding light behind Daphne’s #Healing Hands! Daphne is on a mission to empower both animals and people to lead lives filled with purpose and free from pain through a variety of holistic approaches.

Daphne’s own journey to healing is nothing short of remarkable. At the tender age of 15, she was involved in a devastating car accident that resulted in a severe closed head brain injury. Her situation was dire; she relied on full life support for 14 agonizing days, and when the decision was made to unplug her, there was a mere 0.2% chance of survival. Remarkably, Daphne defied the odds and emerged from an 18-day coma.

With indomitable spirit and unwavering determination, she spent only 8 months in the hospital, where she relearned the essential skills of walking, talking, and caring for herself.

Daphne’s remarkable story also includes a heartwarming connection with her Grandma Dietrich. She would often recount a touching tale of how a mysterious force drew her from Lloydminster to Edmonton just before Daphne’s awakening.

Grandma Dietrich entered Daphne’s room, knelt by her bedside, and whispered, “Ok Daphne, Grandma is here, it’s time to wake up and open your eyes.” Daphne might not remember this moment personally, but she has heard the story so many times that it feels like a part of her own memory.

During her coma, the Canadian Finals Rodeo was in full swing, and Daphne’s emergence from her comatose state was announced to the arena. The following day, all the Miss Rodeo Canada contestants paid her a visit, and Daphne still cherishes the photograph from that special day.

Her stay at the Royal Alexandra Hospital extended for two months, during which she was occasionally restrained in her bed due to her tendency to pull out her nasal feeding tube, a common occurrence among survivors of severe closed head injuries like hers.

I do remember the day I was transferred to the Pediatric ward of the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. According to my parents, I strongly resisted the intern’s attempt to push my wheelchair. I can also recall going down a lengthy hallway, located beneath the road, which I found fascinating.

Upon reaching Glenrose, I was wheeled onto a rather ancient elevator with an orange door and a peculiar smell. When we arrived on the second floor, the doors opened to reveal a vast room that resembled a dining hall.

I was introduced to the staff, and they accompanied me to my new room. My initial reaction was one of anger; I didn’t want to be in a bed that resembled a horse stall. It was essentially a bed on the floor enclosed by walls. I didn’t understand at the time, but I later learned that this design was for my own safety, preventing me from thrashing during sleep and avoiding further injuries from falling out of bed.

The staff presented me with a menu of meals for the upcoming week, asking me to make a selection for four days later. This was a challenging task because I had a limited concept of time and decision-making. My energy levels fluctuated dramatically. When I was tired, I was utterly exhausted, and when I was awake, I was raring to go.

Meet Daphne McDonagh, a beacon of hope at Daphne’s #Healing Hands. Daphne is on a mission to empower people and animals to lead pain-free, purposeful lives using holistic approaches. At 15, Daphne survived a severe brain injury in a car accident. She defied the odds after being in a coma for 18 days and emerged from full life support. Her recovery was a remarkable journey from relearning basic functions to independence.

Daphne’s Grandma Dietrich played a pivotal role. Her visits and encouragement were an essential part of Daphne’s recovery.During her coma, Daphne’s awakening was celebrated at the Canadian Finals Rodeo. Miss Rodeo Canada contestants visited her, capturing a memorable photograph.

Her two-month stay at the Royal Alexandra Hospital involved unique challenges. Daphne’s energy levels fluctuated dramatically, and she faced a loss of independence. Yet, Daphne’s resilience shone through. She made a resolute commitment to leave the hospital, driven by determination and expectations of recovery. Her journey is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Meet Daphne McDonagh, a beacon of hope at Daphne’s #Healing Hands. Daphne is on a mission to empower people and animals to lead pain-free, purposeful lives using holistic approaches. At 15, Daphne survived a severe brain injury in a car accident. She defied the odds after being in a coma for 18 days and emerged from full life support. Her recovery was a remarkable journey from relearning basic functions to independence.

Daphne’s Grandma Dietrich played a pivotal role. Her visits and encouragement were an essential part of Daphne’s recovery.

Despite her incredible journey, Daphne also struggled with her appearance. A portion of her head had been shaved due to the shunt, and her left eyelid barely opened, making her eye appear turned out. She constantly dealt with headaches and backaches, which further contributed to her emotional distress.

In her first week at Glenrose, she remembers various therapists visiting her room, but their sessions were limited to half-hour intervals. There was a board in her room outlining the day’s schedule, with “rest” interspersed in half-hour increments, followed by visits from different therapists for various assessments.

Some of the tests were quite challenging. For instance, the psychologist would read her a list of words, and she had to recall as many of them as possible. The words she forgot would be repeated, and she had to try to remember and recite them all. This test felt like it took forever. Meet Daphne McDonagh, a beacon of hope at Daphne’s #Healing Hands. Daphne is on a mission to empower people and animals to lead pain-free, purposeful lives using holistic approaches.

Daphne’s Recovery After the Car Accident: A Remarkable Journey to Independence

At 15, Daphne survived a severe brain injury in a car accident. She defied the odds after being in a coma for 18 days and emerged from full life support. Her recovery was a remarkable journey from relearning basic functions to independence. Daphne’s Grandma Dietrich played a pivotal role. Her visits and encouragement were an essential part of Daphne’s recovery.

During her coma, Daphne’s awakening was celebrated at the Canadian Finals Rodeo. Miss Rodeo Canada contestants visited her, capturing a memorable photograph. Her two-month stay at the Royal Alexandra Hospital involved unique challenges. Daphne’s energy levels fluctuated dramatically, and she faced a loss of independence.

School was incredibly challenging. Her teacher, Tami, and assistant, Wanda, worked tirelessly to help her regain lost skills. Daphne couldn’t even write her own name initially. With virtually no memory skills and a short temper, her half-hour sessions were always eventful. Little did she know that the skills she was relearning would prove invaluable when she returned to regular school.

Her physiotherapist, Cam, had her working on leg lifts to regain strength. Three months of inactivity had taken a toll on her muscles. She struggled to maintain balance on a wobble board and walking along rails felt like teetering on the edge of a makeshift bridge, given her unsteady and weak legs.

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Milestones in Recovery After the Car Accident: 

I can still vividly recall the day I stood up independently from the floor, and it feels as if it happened yesterday. My mom was there with me, and Cam and I had meticulously gone over the steps beforehand to ensure I was prepared. I started from a seated position and began the process of standing up. I brought my left heel under my right thigh, up to my right buttock. From there, I got up on my left knee, with my right leg bent and my right foot on the floor.

This positioned me in a kneeling stance on my left knee, with my right foot on the floor and my right knee bent. I then stacked both my hands, one on top of the other, and slowly but determinedly pushed and lifted myself up. The whole endeavor involved a fair amount of trembling, but my mom stood there with her arms out, ready to catch me, although I never fell.

To me, this achievement felt like one of the most significant milestones in my recovery. I also remember attempting to walk on a trampoline, which proved to be quite the challenge. I had virtually no balance, so each step I took required painstaking effort. I’m incredibly thankful that Cam helped me regain my strength because I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to walk again after the news car accident.

My speech therapist engaged me in exercises where she’d show me pictures, and when I believed I was seeing the same picture for the second time, I had to tell her. She would then make a discreet mark on the page, and I never knew if I was correct or not.

In contrast, the occupational therapy experience felt somewhat disjointed. There was no consistency in the therapists I worked with, and I never knew who I would see from one day to the next. Nonetheless, I still have the tape case that I constructed during those sessions.

Kim, my recreation therapist, always brought a smile to my face and warmed my heart. She seemed perpetually cheerful. There was even a time when she took me and Sean to play mini golf at the mall. I believe it was the collective support of all these individuals that made my recovery truly remarkable. I’ve always been grateful for their help. As time went on, I discovered that the more gratitude I expressed for what I already had, the more positive things came my way. In my mind, I was determined to conquer all the challenges I was facing.

I can’t recall precisely how long I had been at Glenrose when I met Sean. All I remember is a guy around my age entering my room with four pins screwed into his head, which were attached to a large brace. I later learned that it was a head brace to allow his neck to heal after a car accident fracture.

I’m not entirely sure why Sean stuck around, considering I probably wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around during my recovery after the car accident. Perhaps it was because neither of us had anywhere else to go or be. Over time, though, we developed a strong friendship. We spent many mornings, afternoons, and nights playing crib and pool, or he would push me in my wheelchair so we could get off the Pediatric ward when we weren’t occupied with our various therapies.

I even found myself developing a bit of a crush on him, and I suspect he might have felt the same way, although he never admitted it to me. As I progressed in my recovery, we would often have meals together in the hospital’s big cafeteria. I genuinely liked the staff on the Pediatric ward. Elsie was one of the primary staff members, and she reminded me of my grandmother, which made it easier to accept her assistance. Shirley was another cool staff member who would play pool with me when Sean wasn’t available.

John was the head of the Pediatric brain injury patients on the ward, and he was quite cool. He had long hair that he always wore in a ponytail, and he carried around a small wooden flute-like instrument. Whenever he played, I couldn’t help but smile. We played crib together, but I had a feeling he might occasionally cheat just to see if I was paying attention.

I only stayed in my initial room for a few months. When I needed less support, I was moved to a different room. In my new room, I felt somewhat isolated, especially since Sean had left the hospital, and I was left feeling very alone. I didn’t have much interest in socializing with the others there, as they were all younger than me, except for one guy who was about my age and had also experienced a car accident.

His name was Bryan, and he had also survived a brain injury due to a car accident. However, I couldn’t quite connect with him. At that point, I had made more progress in my recovery, and he seemed to get on my nerves, limited as they were. I’m sure I was challenging to be around, and that’s why I’m uncertain about why Sean continued to be my friend.

Recovery and Return to School After the Car Accident

My Driving force to leave the hospital was the overwhelming desire to ride my horse again after the car accident. My parents even brought my horse to the hospital so I could see her, and it was an amazing experience. Of course, I had to venture outside, and I still had my walking belt on during that time. I have a videotape of that special moment, and I believe the focus I placed on riding my horse was a major motivating factor in my recovery.

When I finally got to ride my horse after the car accident, the doctors insisted that I wear a helmet. The only helmet we had available at home was a motorcycle helmet, and I must admit I looked quite silly with it on. It also seemed to throw off my balance considerably.

Before my car accident, I was a creative kid who loved making murals on my bedroom walls. So, when I found myself at the hospital, the bare walls struck me as rather dull. Upon being transferred to my second room, I decided to remedy the situation by decorating the walls with a plethora of pictures. This helped make the space feel more like home.

My stay in that room was relatively brief, and I was transferred once more, this time to a four-bed room right next door. In this room, I shared the space with two sisters. I believe they had also been in a car accident, although my memory is somewhat hazy. What I do recall is that they weren’t at the hospital for very long, and they didn’t seem inclined to socialize much. I’m not sure if it was because I was challenging to deal with or if they simply felt more comfortable with each other.

Around that time, the idea of becoming an outpatient started to emerge for me after the car accident. When this came up, I had to decide whether I wanted to return to grade 10 or go back to grade 9 for the remaining months of the school year. I chose to go back to grade 9. The junior high I attended was small, and I knew I’d receive the support I needed. Prior to the car accident, I had only spent two months in grade 10.

My teachers came to the hospital to meet with Tami, my teacher, so she could provide them with information on how to assist me. I’m grateful that I opted for grade 9 after the car accident because I received the support necessary to be successful in school once more.

Educational Pursuits and Career Path After the Car Accident

Returning to junior high after already having been in high school was a bit unusual, but everyone was exceptionally helpful to me. The following year, I was fortunate to be placed with the grade 11 students despite my limited time in grade 10 after the car accident.

Some subjects in school were quite challenging, particularly the ones that required memorization of what I considered to be rather pointless information. However, I persevered with the valuable skills and strategies I had learned at the hospital after the car accident.

I graduated from high school in 1995 after the car accident, alongside my best friends, and even served on the student grad committee as the Decorations and Theme chairperson. It was an enjoyable experience, and everything turned out great!

After high school, I made the decision to move to the city to work, but it turned out to be a mistake for me. I missed my parents’ country home and the daily sight of the horses. I returned home for a while before the opportunity arose to live with a friend in Barrhead after accident. While in Braehead, I worked as a waitress at various places and also at a company that processed scratch and win tickets. Then, when my roommate had to be away for a while, I found myself thrust into the role of managing everything, which was a rapid transition to adulthood, to say the least.

During that period after the accident, I made the decision to return to school to further my education. While I was unaware of the Law of Attraction at the time, I knew I wanted to work in a field where I could help people.

It was almost as if my path led me to the Rehabilitation Practitioner Program at Grant MacEwan in Edmonton after the accident. They offered an outreach course that I could complete while still living in Braehead, and I didn’t want to remain stuck in that town forever. It was during this program that I met Bonnie, who happened to be the instructor. She played a pivotal role in helping me navigate through it, and we still maintain contact to this day after the car accident.

Career in Rehabilitation, and a Beautiful Wedding

As I worked through the course after the car accident, I also applied to be accepted into the program itself. To my delight, I was accepted on my first attempt. It felt like a calling for me, something I needed to do based on my life experiences after the accident.

I had been in a relationship with a guy for nine months before starting the program after the car accident, and he served as a strong motivator for me to complete it. That Christmas after the car accident, he proposed to me while my entire family was present, and I said yes. However, I expressed my desire to finish school before we got married after the accident, and he completely understood.

Working through the Rehab program after the accident presented numerous academic challenges, but with the support of the school, as well as my family and friends, I persevered and graduated in 2000 with first-class standing after the accident, just below the Dean’s List.

I did require some special accommodations to assist me through the program after the accident. During tests, I needed to go to the student counseling department and sit in an office by myself because, due to my brain injury from the car accident, my heightened senses made me easily distracted by even the slightest noise.

In my second year after the accident, I had someone take notes for me during lectures, using special carbon paper so we both had copies. It wasn’t easy; what took my classmates two hours often took me four, just for studying. Many nights, I found myself burning the midnight oil to complete assignments or prepare for exams, struggling to memorize everything. I must say, acronyms were a lifesaver after the car accident; I don’t think I would have made it through school without them.

Daphne’s Resilience and Recovery After a Life-Altering Car Accident

During my school years, I had the opportunity to assist Tami, my teacher from Glenrose, in presenting on Acquired Brain Injuries at various teacher conventions. Tami delved into the medical aspects of brain injuries, and I would follow, sharing my own story. At the time, I didn’t consider it a big deal, but the reactions of teachers afterward made me realize just how impactful my experiences were. They were astounded by what I had overcome.

It was during this period that I ventured into the field of rehabilitation and discovered my true calling. Helping people on their journey to recovery became my life’s purpose.

Through thick and thin, my partner stood by my side. Then, one Monday morning, he surprised me by asking if we could set a wedding date. With school behind me, the timing seemed right. So, I suggested, “Why don’t we get married when we go to Jasper on Wednesday?” We had already planned the trip for a holiday, and it felt like the perfect moment. We managed to arrange it, and it was nothing short of perfect. Standing beside Pyramid Lake with the majestic mountains as our backdrop, our wedding pictures turned out breathtaking. Two weeks later, my parents hosted a grand celebration at their country home.

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Exactly a year and three months later, we were blessed with our remarkable baby boy, Kolten. His arrival, nine weeks early, took us by surprise, but it was a beautiful one. Kolten weighed a mere 3 lbs., 4 oz. and spent only a month and nine days in the hospital. He passed all the required tests and was sent home before he even reached 5 lbs. As a first-time mom, I was overwhelmed, having just moved into a new home with a tiny baby. That was five years ago, and today, we have a remarkable Indigo child who has embarked on his school journey.

My friends like to tease me about my memory and how I constantly repeat information. They affectionately call me the “List Queen.” I owe that title to Tami. Lists have become my lifeline, and I honestly don’t think I could function without them.

To this day, I still contend with vision issues, as well as occasional head and backaches. I get tired more easily, and my left eye is slightly turned out. However, with unwavering determination and perseverance, I’ve come a long way. Every night before I drift off to sleep, I express gratitude for the good that has come my way that day.

My purpose now is to support families navigating the challenges I faced 14 years ago, showing them that a fulfilling life is possible after surviving a brain injury, such as the one I experienced in the prom night car accident. I’ve walked the difficult path myself, and I aim to inspire and help those facing challenging times.

Sincerely
Daphne McDonagh

 

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