Written by: Bridgid Ruden
My New Life’s Purpose
In May 2008, traumatic brain injury interrupted my life. I was propelled into a hurricane of brain-altering occurrences. Due to the depth of the trauma, emergent brain surgeries were necessary. Near death episodes entered my realm. Many perceived I was leaving my physical body. Amazingly I survived and entered a whole new path for my life. Rehabilitation began as if I was 5 years old. I re-learned how to walk, speak, read and write. Life skills were reborn. Where did I go? Who was this person who emerged in the mirror?
Prior to my accident, I was a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. To my dismay, physicians repeatedly told me that 90% of traumatic brain injury survivors never return to their previous employment. Anger and extreme sadness poured within me. I denied the reality. Over time, the realization of my true disabilities emerged. I began to understand the cognitive loss of my health care knowledge. In addition, aphasia, epilepsy, memory loss and daily fatigue jolted my previous existence. My spirit melted downward. Had my career ended entirely?
Before the accident, I was training for my first triathlon. On the last day of inpatient rehabilitation, I tried to walk quickly on a treadmill, wishing to gently jog! I began reading at a 3rd grade level and within a year excelled to a 9th grade level. Speech and physical therapists were impressed. In their practice, no traumatic brain injured survivor progressed as I did. My mind, body and spirit had readjusted and my determination continued to excel. Quitting was not an option. My ability to read enhanced further when I was able to explore my medical records. I questioned and denied these tragedies. Despite my obstacles, a dream arose. Re-connecting to health care in some way, shape or form was my mission.
Slowly, I re-learned how to type and utilize a computer. I researched impacts of traumatic brain injury and the essential needs required to heal one’s mind, body and spirit. Serendipity emerged when brain injured survivor’s experience linked within mine. This provided incredible validation of this lifelong disease. I dove within my brain’s whirlwind grasping ways to create a vessel to display healing that can arise from suffering. Miracles continued to enter my life. With tremendous guidance, I created a Power Point presentation which reflected my brain injury survival. In 2009, my first presentation was shared with speech therapists. A therapist’s mouth opened and tears flowed from her eyes. My story made an impact. As I continued to move forward, a message arose within my spirit. My new life’s purpose erupted!
This excursion continues to blossom. I share my intriguing story nationally and internationally. Audiences include: health care professionals, hospital CEO’s, college students, legislators, health organizations, survivors, advocates and the general public. I’ve appeared on TV and radio and have published in articles and books. Recently, I received a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa. Health care providers describe my presentation as eye-opening and essential. A patient’s story guides providers to re-examine their medical practice and enhance the effectiveness of treatment. Attendees tell me they are amazed, uplifted, inspired and surrounded with hope and reassurance. I am privileged to educate and transform the spirit of those in attendance. Further opportunities to share my miraculous story enlighten and nurture my life’s purpose. You can read more information on my website.