Tammy Kirkwood – Never take your life for granted, things can change in an instant

Author(s): Darcy R. Merkur

May 26, 2016

Hi, I’m Tammy Kirkwood. I’m a survivor of a car accident that happened on October 24, 2008.

Tammy in a coma

I was on my way to work, and my car was hit by a dump truck pulling out onto the highway I was travelling. I have no memory of the accident. I only know from my family, what they lived through after they were notified I was in the accident and was being airlifted to Sunnybrook Hospital. Although I have no memory of my care at Sunnybrook Hospital, my family has told me, they took good care of me and were very supportive of them.

“Most people live their lives not giving a thought about what they have accomplished. We plug along with our day to day events or situations. UNTIL ….. Life stops the way you’re used to! Your abilities change, for example. physical movement, memory, concentration, motivation, determination, planning (even hourly), mood/behaviour. YOU CHANGE. This can happen with a motor vehicle accident, blows to the head, or a fall, to just to name a few.”

After my car accident, the first 6 months involved three different hospitals, Sunnybrook Hospital, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Tammy with brother

When my Glasgow Coma Scale reached 8 out of 15, I was discharged and then able to go home from the hospital to the care of my brother Mike. He gave me 24-hour care for the next 6 months and never left my side. He would tell me that I couldn’t let the accident own me because I was Tammy, and he wouldn’t let the deficits I had, redefine me. He rode the roller coaster of recovery with me!

Tammy awake in the hospital

I had to have a lawyer, and one was referred to us in the second hospital. This legal representative met me, and my brother. He answered what questions we had at the time. After a year, we found that this legal representative was not a good fit for me. It was suggested that we contact Thomson Rogers and speak to one of their lawyers. I filled out the online contact request form we found on their website, and Darcy Merkur got in contact with me. We set a date to meet and interview Darcy. He was so knowledgeable, and I felt comfortable hiring him. The relief we had, knowing that Thomson Rogers was looking after my case, was immeasurable. My recovery was as important to Darcy & Thomson Rogers as it was to me.

“I was angry because I felt like I was starting life over at the age of 41. I also had times I cried a lot in the first year and I wanted to withdrawal. I was embarrassed because of my deficits. I was afraid to be out there in the public eye, because I thought people would pity me and not accept the person I was now. Every negative feeling a person could have, I had.”

I saw a psychologist, Dr. MacLeod. He helped me to understand why my emotions were running rapid. He taught me strategies to rein them in.

I had a couple of case managers. My first case manager, Paula Warkentin of DMA Rehability, was helpful to make sure my recovery team was in place. The second one, Jodi Harendorff from Catastrophic Injury Management, helped me by ensuring that my recovery team continued working to assist me in moving forward.

I had Physiotherapist, JR Neiuwland, Skill Builders, that guided me through the first 2 years after the accident.

I also added Larry Bell, Back to Function, to help address my physical deficits that didn’t seem to me to be improving fast enough.

I had a wonderful Occupation Therapist, Alison Poole, Skill Builders, who worked effectively with me, and my brother to ensure I was always safe in or out of my home. I had to add a different occupational therapist to my team because of Allison’s maternity leave. I hired Melissa Provost, Solutions Rehabilitation & Consulting, she was good at listening to me and helping ensure my needs were met.

I had a Speech Pathologist, Kelly Irving, MacPherson Communication Clinic. She helped me relearn how to read, write, and speak more fluently, so I could communicate better. I wanted to be able to release the thoughts running through my head.

My most valuable team member to me was the rehabilitation services worker, RSW, Benita Leech. Lawlor Support Services Inc. Benita was my support rope. She followed all the directions she was given by the rest of my team when I wasn’t with them. She made sure I followed through with my rehabilitation homework.

I truly had a great recovery team. We had open communication most of the time, and they were able to assist me on my road to recovery.

“Recovery is my full time job! I adapt to the things I cannot change, because they are what I call, the “residue” I have after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. I embrace the ability that I am able to maintain or improve my skills that I thought were taken away by the accident.”

Never take your life for granted, things can change in an instant!

Tammy with cane

Tammy Kirkwood suffered a catastrophic brain injury after being t-boned on her way to work. She was represented by personal injury lawyers Darcy Merkur; a partner with the law firm of Thomson Rogers.

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