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by David Sotto

On the morning of May 8, 1992, I woke up for work like any other morning. I was in sales. I was very happily married to my wife, Cindy.

The next morning I was lying in a hospital bed in intensive care at Piedmont Hospital. I was in a semiconscious state just having undergone surgery for a compressed skull fracture. I had also become a widower.

On the night of May 8, Cindy and I were involved in a crash caused by the driver of an 18-wheeler. Cindy was killed and I suffered a brain injury.

I was at Piedmont Hospital for two weeks, Emory Rehab for two weeks and then Atlanta Rehab for the remainder of that year. I continued physical and speech therapy on my own for several years after that. As a matter of fact, it’s just become part of my lifestyle. However, I try not to focus on my brain injury now.

Initially I had lost almost all of my ability to move or feel my left side. My ability to speak was all but gone and even swallowing was difficult. I had no sense of balance and sitting up was nearly impossible.

With countless hours of hard work in therapy, incredible support from my family and friends, and the grace of God, I have been able to overcome most of the major deficits from my brain injury.

The pain of losing my Cindy is still with me every second but I know she’s proud that I didn’t give in to this terrible circumstance that could have easily and almost did crush me.

Brain injury is scary. It’s scary for you and it’s scary for everybody who cares about you. Nobody really has the answer to the ultimate question. How will I end up? Will I regain my speech? Will I be able to walk again?

It takes a lot of courage to work hard when you don’t have the answers. There’s no guarantee that the therapy will work. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be like you were before.

As a matter of fact, if there’s one guarantee, it’s that regardless of how mild or severe the brain injury, you’re never really the same person. I describe it like a fog that doesn’t ever completely clear.

But the appreciation you gain from learning your own strength, courage, and determination is invaluable. During the days of therapy, I never imagined that I would end up becoming chairman of the board of the Brain Injury Association of Georgia as I did in 1997. Ironically, this board included several of my doctors.

There is life after brain injury, and I’m proud of every brain injury survivor for having the courage to be just that — a survivor.