Traumatic Brain Injury: Amy's story

For two consecutive weeks, The Eagle Bulletin has published articles to acknowledge March as National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The first article covered the seriousness of stroke, the second focused on concussions. This week's article emphasizes the dangers of Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.

In a split second, Auburn native Amy Rankin's life was forever changed.

She was 23 years old, a new teacher in Baltimore, Md. and had just chaperoned her first middle school dance. She and her friend celebrated with dinner and drinks. But after a little too much wine, they decided it best not to drive.

Had 21-year-old Michael Robertson made the same decision, it would be safe to say Rankin's life would have been unaffected.

But he didn't.

Robertson ran up a curb, speeding between 50 and 55 mph in a 15-mph zone and hit Rankin, who was standing in a grassy area off the pavement of a nearby shopping mall where the two girls just spent the evening. A first offender of driving while intoxicated, Robertson spent 18 months in jail.

Six years after the accident, however, Rankin continues to adjust to a whole new way of living.

For 33 days, Rankin was in a coma. She was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury; the difficulty was with the swelling of the brain, her father said. The doctors' prognoses were grim -- they gave her family no hope. She wouldn't be able to walk nor talk. She should be institutionalized, they said.

She spent 101 days in Baltimore -- first at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she was taken after the accident, then at a rehabilitation center where her parents Bill and Patty said she received very poor care.

After what the family now calls a "ripple effect," Bill and Patty brought her to St. Camillus Health & Rehabilitation Center.

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