Survivors' Stories

Shelley and Taylor’s Brain Injury Survivor Story

Brain Injury Survivor Story–Valentine’s Day 2010, Shelley and Taylor both suffered brain injuries at home due to carbon monoxide poisoning

Valentine’s Day 2010 would turn into a complete game changer, a day we will never, ever forget.  A day I’ve documented in words so if the day comes that the memory is gone I can always, reflect back on His goodness and mercy.  The following is the account of the night we were poisoned, the night our worlds met His and He provided the most beautiful second chance.  

We were experiencing a “Texas Winter” and had received about 6” of snow.  We had been without power for 3 days and on Day 3 we ran a generator out in the front driveway/edge of our garage with the garage door open, windows in garage open, etc.   The Fire Chief later told us that since it was so cold and there was no wind that the gas probably just settled instead of blowing away and just crept back into the house via the eaves.

Taylor (my daughter) and I had gone to bed in our respective bedrooms and she told us that someone called her name and she was trying to get up to see who it was… She got up, fell face first into the wall, collapsed and crawled outside of her bedroom, shimmied up the wall and collapsed again. The thud of her falling on the concrete floor is what woke me up.

Charlie (her dad, and my ex-husband) heard this as well from the living room and he and I went to the hallway to see what it was and found her lying lifeless on her face.  We couldn’t get her to respond at all and Charlie sent me for a flashlight that was by my bed.  On my way to the bedroom I started feeling like something was not right with me either.  I got the flashlight, and started running back to the hall so I could get to Charlie to let him know I wasn’t ok.  I knew if I collapsed in the bedroom he wouldn’t know to come for me and I had to get to him so he would know I was sick.  (Remember, all of this is going on in the dark.)

The closer I got to him and Taylor the further away I felt like I was getting.  Everything was spinning out of control and I was experiencing the worst feelings I had ever faced!  When I turned the corner to the hallway I collapsed face first without any hands/arms to brace me, falling onto the metal flashlight cutting my forehead to the bone. Charlie had to search in the darkness for the flashlight as it had rolled when I fell and I told him I felt blood running down my face.  Once found, he shone the light, and with one look he said he had to get me to the hospital!   I said, “What is wrong with Taylor, doesn’t she need to go?”  Taylor meanwhile was in and out of consciousness and our life was so out of control.

Charlie was able to wake her and he told her she had to get a towel to put on my forehead to help with the bleeding until help arrived.  My head began to pulse blood out of control.  Me, Taylor and the walls were covered in blood.  When she brought the towel back, she went back unconscious not far from me, and Charlie had to drag her over and prop her on top of me, against the wall as I was having convulsions and banging my face into the concrete floor.  My eyes were rolling back in my head, and Charlie was yelling that I wasn’t going to die on him!

He called 911 and the first to respond were the police.  Immediately upon entering they looked for the lights and Charlie told them we were without power.  They used their flashlights. On first site was my blood, bloody handprints in our hallway where I tried to stand, and Charlie had my blood on him as well.  Immediately they began accusing Charlie of a crime, etc.…and he began explaining what had just transpired.

Shortly thereafter the fire department arrived, and luckily Charlie knew one of the firemen who quickly came to his defence.  The Fire Chief began asking questions as to what we had done earlier in the day to maybe put some of the pieces together as to what had happened. Charlie told of the generator use and immediately the Chief went to the truck to get the carbon monoxide detector.

The fire truck was parked at the street and within steps of entering our driveway the readings on the detector began to rise quickly, so much so that he went back to the truck to recalibrate the device as he did not believe the high readings.  Once again, walking in the driveway up to our front door the readings began to creep higher and higher.  Upon reaching the door he called for his crew to exit the home and began to get Charlie, Taylor and our dogs out as well.

A couple of Paramedics were left inside with me to get me stable enough for transport to the hospital.  Once outside, they realized that Taylor had “started” this whole incident and the firemen told Charlie they wanted her checked out as well.  I left by ambulance with Charlie and Taylor in his truck.  On route to the hospital, through nothing other than God’s grace, Taylor made some of the scariest and bravest phone calls she’s ever made to my sisters alerting them of what had transpired and seeking their immediate help.

Several firemen stayed at our home to open windows and stay and watch our dogs for sickness and make sure they were in a safe place before leaving.  (Way beyond the call of duty!)  Once at Mansfield Methodist Hospital they checked mine and Taylor’s blood gases and they were “through the roof”, hers being much higher than mine.  They were not prepared or skilled to handle emergencies such as ours and they began preparing us to be transported to Dallas Methodist to get in their hyperbaric chamber.

First, my head had to be stitched up, 15 stitches and I had to have a CT Scan to make sure I was transportable.  Off we went, on the ice, Taylor and me in the ambulance, her sitting and me on a stretcher, both with oxygen masks on.  Somewhere along the way my oxygen ran out and the face mask adhered to my face, being claustrophobic, was not a fun experience.

The Paramedics were wonderful!  Upon arriving at Dallas Methodist, a doctor began to explain to us the procedures for going into the hyperbaric chamber (hyperbaric chamber therapy can be used to quickly reduce both the carbon monoxide level in the blood and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.) All of this I am trying to comprehend while the carbon monoxide was still doing damage to my brain!

I must add that at some time after our arrival we found out that the family that had just been in the chamber had all died except the father, not comforting!  Taylor and I are both very claustrophobic, but were survivors after our approximate 3 hour stay in the chamber!  (Taylor was such a trooper, as they had a very difficult time getting her to the depth that we needed to be to be successful.)

2 ambulance rides, 1 CT Scan, 2 blood gases, 2 hyperbaric chambers, 15 stitches and 1 concussion later, WE SURVIVED!  Nothing says “I LOVE YOU” like a brain injury on VALENTINE’S DAY (02/14/2010)  

Afterwards my sister Kimberley moved in for approximately a month.  Physically I was trying to heal my head, but mentally I was left with a traumatic brain injury.  I literally started over with kindergarten flashcards, looking at an apple and saying library and my friends and family completed most of my sentences, scooped Taylor and I up and helped us heal!

My Neurologist told me that people don’t survive what we went through and there really weren’t patients like us.  He said they really don’t know how to treat me.  Through his honesty, he became a great comforter to me as I struggled so much with memory and cognitive skills.  I was treated for about a year and a half with him.  On one of my first visits he took his hand and made a fist and began knocking on my forehead.  He said the poison goes into your brain and destroys whatever it attaches to, and that we have no control over what functions it destroys or limits.  I’ve come a long way.

My short-term memory is horrible at times, and I’ve lost so many precious memories both long-term and short-term.  Taylor and I have a saying when it comes to trying to remember things, we just look at each other and say, “Did we have fun?”  The one who remembers says to the other, “Yes, we had fun!”  That’s all that matters.  To be alive is amazing, in whatever capacity!

God is good; no great, His grace is unending!   I continue daily to deal with balance, breathing, vision, memory, or lack thereof.  These are daily struggles for both Taylor and I.  I have fallen more times than I’ve stood it seems, had injuries that ranged from Band-Aids to orthopaedics visits.

By far my greatest challenge is breathing.  Every day at some point I struggle to breathe and coughing has become my norm.  Some days are better than others.  Sunny days are my friend, cold, wet days I lean on Him for every breath I take.   The more I talk the worse my coughing is and I talk so much for work. Recovery continues every day for me and Taylor.  Luckily her Dyslexic brain is used to accommodating skills and this continues to be her saving grace on a daily basis.  She is young and healing has come differently for her, but memory and migraines are big battles she continues to face.

Side note:  When we arrived home from the hospital I grabbed Taylor’s forearms and said to her, “You know the voice that woke you up was not me or daddy?”  Her response, “I know mom!”  My faith is amazing! God’s mercy is incredible!


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