Never Take No For An Answer

By Angela Kim

Although it has only been 2 months, my experience at B.R.A.I.N. has been a truly beautiful one. When I first visited B.R.A.I.N., I knew this was a place where I belonged. Every week, I enjoy seeing everyone’s familiar faces, and the loving atmosphere at B.R.A.I.N. always warms my heart. B.R.A.I.N. is not just an ordinary support network, it is a place of hope and healing for all brain injury survivors like myself. It is a place where we half the pain and double the joy and celebrate in the beauty that life has to offer for our friends, family, and survivors alike. It is a place where I am continuously encouraged and where I affirm my life’s calling.

This is the journey of my extraordinary life.    Angela Kim

At age 9, I suffered a traumatic brain injury, and this turned out to be the worst and yet best thing that happened to me. For some very odd reason that very day, I had the strangest urge to climb the towering basketball side post that was standing right before my eyes. At that time, I was a 9-year-old girl who had little to fear. I wanted to conquer what seemed like a very challenging climb, so I scrambled up the post like a little monkey. It was a matter of mere seconds that I went from being the victorious conqueror of this post, to a terrified little girl. My hands slipped for just a moment, and I fell onto the cold concrete below me. My head hit the hard surface first, and the world faded black before my eyes.

I was later told that my parents drove frantically to the hospital, and as soon as I arrived, I underwent an eight-hour brain surgery. At the end of their dreaded and exhausting wait, the doctors who saved my life told my parents that I was one lucky girl. If I had arrived to the hospital five minutes later than I did, I would have died due to the uncontrollable bleeding inside my head. As I fell into a deep sleep after my surgery, day after day went by and there was no sign of life from me besides the monitor that indicated I was still alive and breathing. During this time, the doctor told my parents that only a true miracle would wake me up. If I did not wake up within two weeks, I would most likely never wake up.

Miraculously, I awoke on the fifteenth day. With blurry eyes, I noticed my mom and dad, who were full of joyful tears. However, before we could have a happy reunion, I immediately noticed something different. I was able to move the left side of my body, but the right side was completely paralyzed. I was able to think and recognize everyone, but no words would come out of my mouth. Every moment was a dreadful battle against myself, to fight with a part of my body that simply did not work. I was beyond annoyed with my body’s failure to respond to my thoughts and my uncontrollable muscle spasm and tone that simply would not subside as long as I was awake. In my mind, I had been a fearless, nine-year-old girl who went to sleep but woke up disabled. Even my doctors did not really know how to treat me as my condition was so severe and unique. Despite the fact that I was able to make remarkable progress by relearning how to speak, walk, and do most things with just my left arm, I despised myself and my disability. I could not help but ask:

Why did this have to happen to me?
What did I do wrong to deserve this?
Why can’t I live a typical life like everyone else?
What is the point of living if there’s only suffering?

These questions continued to haunt my mind almost every moment I was awake.

Over the years, I have come to realize that similar to the stages of grief, individuals with disabilities go through the psychological stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Some people go through these stages faster than others, and some remain stagnant in one stage. However, for me, I was caught in the first three stages and went back and forth between them for many years until I finally came to understand the bigger picture and God’s unique purpose for my life.

Through a retreat I attended, I gained a new perspective on how to live my life to the fullest. I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that I cannot change what I cannot control but I can change my attitude towards it. I cannot change my past and my brain injury but I can change my future and the meaning I ascribe to my accident. Ever since, I became a goal-driven person and became determined to try and achieve everything that everyone had thought was impossible. I was determined to prove to myself, my family and friends, and everyone else that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to despite my disability.

Even though my life changed drastically after the injury, and to this day I fight my own battle trying to recover from what could be a permanent brain damage, I believe that my future and my dream to become successful remain brighter than ever. My strong determination to never take “no” for an answer and prevail through life’s challenges has helped me overcome my disability. People may describe me as physically different from everyone else, but I believe it is this exact difference that makes me unique and beautiful.

I am thankful for my life as I believe that my life was specially designed to be a beacon of hope for others and to encourage them to believe in their inner strength. I also believe that as disabled individuals, we have the ability to shine in life and become superstars by creating miracles through achieving ordinary life events. This is the message I want to deliver in my practice as a prospective speech therapist. I want to not only treat the physical wounds of my patients’ ability to speak, but also touch their emotional and spiritual wounds and give them an ability to shine in life.

I graduated 2011 from UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology

I graduated 2011 from UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology

Soon after graduation, I moved out of my parent’s house and have lived on my own ever since. Independence is a valuable gift.

Soon after graduation, I moved out of my parent’s house and have lived on my own ever since. Independence is a valuable gift.

This past January, I achieved the biggest dream of my life to drive!

This past January, I achieved the biggest dream of my life to drive!

Volunteering at B.R.A.I.N.’s F.B.I. meetings

Volunteering at B.R.A.I.N.’s F.B.I. meetings