Kristi Davidson, a sophomore at Tyler Junior College, stands in a hallway of passing students. What sets her apart from them is a physical and mental trauma from her high school senior year, that took away months of her life she can never regain.
“Physically, I don’t show any sign of the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but a few of my motor skills don’t work as well as they use to, and a lot of the time, I find myself visiting with professors keeping me uplifted and on track with assignments,” Davidson said. “There are times, when I feel alone and separated from the world, but I am reminded of how tragic the accident could have been, acknowledging that God permitted and allowed this for a reason.”
Davidson recalled wanting to help a student at Chapel Hill High School who was experiencing personal problems, so she decided to address the situation with prayer and support, attempting to meet with a Prayer Warrior, Teresia Mayo, she knew from her church.
“I called her first, explaining the situation,” Davidson said. “She agreed to pray for the girl, so I decided to take additional information to her home. But while returning to school for a basketball game that evening, I was struck head-on by a truck coming over the top of a hill, on a back country road.”
The wreck left Davidson sandwiched underneath a ton of metal. Her vehicle was crushed on impact. She was unable to move or scream for help.
“I was told one of the passengers of the truck fled the scene into the woods and the driver seemed to show no emotion, reportedly smoking a cigarette until officials arrived.”
She was rushed to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.
“The right hemisphere of my brain was severely damaged, which led to months in a coma. I don’t exactly remember how many months I remained unconscious, but I do know it was morethan a couple,” Davidson said.
Davidson eventually began to stabilize, and regain consciousness. She became aware of her environment, but not of her friends. She had suffered memory loss from the accident and the only people who she could recognize at the time were her parents.
“My friends did come to visit me in the hospital, but eventually they stopped showing their faces, because unfortunately, I did sustain a TBI and according to doctors, I couldn’t remember who they were or how I knew them,” she said.
Despite Davidson’s mental and physical challenges, she was encouraged by doctors that she could eventually go on living life normally. Nevertheless, there are some things that might never be possible for her to do.
“I don’t remember things very well and I don’t think I ever will,” she said. “I carry with me a recorder for lectures in class, and I’m able to get notes from other students as well as access to tutors and professors for extra help during office hours.”
She explained how much TJC has accommodated for her condition, offering great programs, special test taking times and a solid professional student and teacher relationship.
“I am thankful for all the support I received while attending TJC. The teachers are really helpful and understanding. They have made each day more manageable and each step towards recovery less complicated,” Davidson said.
Linda Reeves, a staff technician of TRiO’s special needs learning program at TJC, explained after 12 years of struggling with a disability of her own called Polymyositis, that helping student’s such as Davidson is her top priority. Polymyositis affects muscles in the body enabling an individual to stand only a short time and in most cases not allowing them to stand at all without assistance.
Reeves helps all students, but primarily those with physical or mental challenges.
“It’s hard when you see students who have difficulty with everyday learning. There was a student when I first joined the staff, who would come to study in the Learning Loft with Cerebral Palsy and to watch her struggle with the things she had to go through … my heart just went out to her,” she said.
Reeves explained there is a common bond at TJC and in TRiO’s special learning program. “Regardless whether someone is a first generation college student, or low income, whether they have a disability, or whatever the situation, they all draw support from each other and from our staff,” she said.
Testing Center Manager, Sue Willis, spoke about students who face learning problems and how they can adapt to a college level workflow, through effective one-on-one testing or accommodations.
“I can’t think of one incident in my time at TJC that we haven’t been able to address a students particular problem, whether they needed a colored overlay if they were dyslexic, or an interpreter if they were hearing impaired,” she said. “We are committed to meeting their need whatever that may be.”
Special programs like TRIO and the testing center provide so much to students with disabilities. They are thankful for the helping hand offered at no expense to them, except for their participation and determination to making a positive change.
“It all depends on how hard the students is willing to work and that determines how much they will progress,” Willis said.
“I’ve worked really hard to reach my goals despite many challenges, but I’m focused on making the best of it, and I’m glad to have had the support of TJC,” Davidson said. “We are blessed to be here everyday, to wake up in the morning, or to attend class. No one here is promised tomorrow, so we must give life our all regardless of what we face today.”