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Woman from Winston-Salem uses personal experience of brain injury to raise awareness.

Over twenty years ago, Kelly Bouldin Darmofal came face to face with an extraordinary moment that would change her life forever.  On September 17, 1992, just five days after her 15th birthday, Kelly Bouldin rode in the passenger seat of a friend’s car, which crashed against a telephone pole and sent Kelly headfirst against the dashboard.  The traumatic brain injury she suffered that day sent her into a medically induced coma, and when Kelly eventually awoke, she had essentially become a different person. The accident had changed the machinations of Kelly’s brain, as she forgot certain memories and even some personality traits.  She also lost the ability to quickly retain information at school.  Now twenty-two years later, Kelly Bouldin Darmofal hopes her memoir, “Lost in My Mind: Recovering from TBI”, about her experiences and hardships, may influence those seemingly unaware of the dangers of traumatic brain injury and raise awareness for those suffering from the same issues.

According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, 138 Americans lose their lives from complications of TBI every day, while two percent of the population suffers from lasting effects from a prior injury.  Kelly Darmofal, no stranger to the difficulties surrounding TBI, recounts the initial stages of her recovery, when she had to relearn how to write and dress herself appropriately.  Her path to “normalcy”, as she describes it, was arduous and astringent, filled with a myriad of frustrations.  When doctors suggested that she return to her old high school, a year removed from her accident, she encountered memory problems, forgetting the names of teachers and even losing her personal belongings.  She also had difficulty speaking, couldn’t walk properly, and was legally blind.  Worst of all, were her social encounters with old friends and acquaintances, who lamented the loss of “old Kelly”, without necessarily supporting or aiding her.

“I wished to die, not because I disliked therapies, but because I remembered the excellence I had lost,” Darmofal said. “Few friends knew how to respond to my changed persona; they wanted ‘old Kelly.’ Rejection isn’t easy to live with.”

Thankfully there were some real friends that helped Kelly along the way.  Her friend, Nicole Lodano, could sympathize with the difficulties Kelly faced, and did the best she could to accommodate Kelly.  Her and a few others even shaved their heads, to mimic Kelly after her brain surgery.

“Seeing your best friend, who had been cheering with you the night before, lying there with tubes to monitor brain activity and assist with breathing, not knowing if she would wake up, was absolutely terrifying,” Londono said. “I remember holding her delicate hand, talking to her and watching the numbers changing on the machine, which indicated that she was listening to me. That’s when I knew she was going to make it.”

Kelly has come a very long way over the years, graduating from Salem College, getting married, and giving birth to her now three-year-old son.   Now she dedicates her life to raising awareness for TBI and helping others going through the same problems she went through years ago.

“A black hole exists in America’s educational system, and this is TBI,” said Kelly Darmofal, who now tutors students with special needs at the Triad Academy at Summit School. “Currently, there are no programs in America which provide training solely for the instruction of the TBI. It is time for education to wake up.”

Source: Winston-Salem Journal