Traumatic Brain Injury
She is not the same as she was. She does not remember much from her past.
Yet something true to her original self persists, an elemental trait that the accident could not wipe away. There is a determination that runs deep in Le'Aisha – pronounced Lee-AY-sha – a decisiveness. You see it when she talks about her dream of owning and running a food truck that serves soup, sandwiches, and salads. You see it when she lifts food trays from a table, without being asked, and separates the remains with the care of the culinary professional she aspires to be.
Today, as before, Le'Aisha is a striver.
Several years ago, on a night she cannot remember, Le'Aisha and a friend were riding his motorcycle when he lost control on the highway. Le'Aisha was thrown 50 feet from the bike. Neither she nor her friend was wearing a protective helmet.
"I'm glad I don't remember," Le'Aisha says.
Norberto Andaluz, MD, a neurosurgeon with Mayfield Brain & Spine, helped Le'Aisha survive. He removed a portion of her skull at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, allowing her injured brain to swell while she recovered in the hospital's Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit. Several weeks later, Dr. Andaluz replaced the portion of skull, and Le'Aisha continued her recovery at UC and then the Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care.
"I knew I wasn't going to stay as I was, not being able to walk," Le'Aisha says. "I knew I was going to get better."
People who survive a severe brain injury re-emerge with abilities and losses that are unique to them. "No two people are the same," says Le'Aisha's mother, Willa. "Some have less than Le'Aisha, some have more. Le'Aisha has been competitive since she was a little girl. She always wanted to do her best. That resilience has helped."
Dr. Andaluz considers himself privileged to have witnessed "this determined young woman fight back" from the most severe form of disability. "She would let nothing get in her way to recovery."
Le'Aisha had completed three years of college when the accident occurred. You can see that intelligence – she's a Walnut Hills High School grad – when she pulls out a four- or five-syllable word from the recesses of memory. If acquiring a bachelor's degree is no longer an option for her, her ambition remains. Today, Le'Aisha works two part-time jobs and has begun classes at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State. She says she is struggling with some of the arithmetic that comes with measuring and multiplying in a professional kitchen. But she has no trouble imagining the soups, sandwiches, and quiches she will serve one day from her food truck.
She also lives independently. She likes reggae music and movies. She watches the movie Avatar several times a week. "I've watched it so much it's starting to skip," she says with a laugh.
"With the unconditional support of her family, she made it through to independent living and employability, which are the ultimate goals – and usually almost impossible to achieve – in survivors of severe traumatic brain injury," Dr. Andaluz says. "Her radiating energy and attitude are inspiring, a testament to what we do, and a strong motivator to continue to do our very best, even in dire situations."
To get around, Le'Aisha takes the bus or gets a ride from her mother, who has stood by her throughout her recovery. "I'm a true believer in my God," Willa says. "He gives you strength to do things when you're wondering how. But you do as your footsteps take you."
Le'Aisha's philosophy is a blend of striving and acceptance. "You don't try to be who you were," she says. "You try to be the best you can."
Hope Story Disclaimer -"Le'Aisha's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.
"With the unconditional support of her family, she made it through to independent living and employability, which are the ultimate goals – and usually almost impossible to achieve – in survivors of severe traumatic brain injury." -- Norberto Andaluz, MD