Finalists for Our 2016 Scholarship for Brain Injury Victims & Their Caregivers

Here at Jim Dodson Law we have seen the life-changing toll traumatic brain injuries take on TBI survivors and their caregivers. Having represented several brain injury victims, we know they often become reliant on family members while trying to overcome everyday challenges. Many TBI sufferers and their caregivers also dream of pursuing or continuing their college education, but the financial burden of ongoing medical bills can make this goal seem unattainable.

Jim Dodson Law wanted to make this dream more possible so we created a $1000 college scholarship offered specifically to brain injury victims and their loved ones. Below are the top essays we received from some of our recent applicants. After reading these compelling stories, we think you’ll be as inspired as we are. To find out more about our scholarship and the application process visit our scholarship page.

"Just 15 Minutes" - Our Scholarship Recipient!

It was a beautiful fall day in Florida on October 16, 2013. We had testing at school that day and I didn't have to be there until 4th period, so I slept later than usual. After getting dressed, I ate breakfast, and prepared my things at the door for school... football practice gear, lunch, and book bag. Then I got a phone call from a couple of friends. I said, "ok, I'll ride along", thinking I'd be back in 15 minutes. However, I didn't arrive back home for five months.

My mom was on the playground with her class when she was pulled aside and told there had been an accident and she should get to the hospital. My dad had been called and was already on his way to the hospital when I was being transported by "life flight".  The accident happened close to school and the news spread so quickly that people from our community and church were arriving at the hospital at the same time as my parents. It was on the news within minutes. I was used to being on the news but for different reasons. I was a three sport varsity athlete. 

That morning I had been a passenger in my friend’s truck. He was racing another friend and lost control while rounding a curve. I was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. I don't remember the first three months I was in the ICU…coma, life support, surgeries, visitors, and lots and lots of prayers. I slightly remember arriving by ambulance at a second hospital in Atlanta 100 days later for rehabilitation, having lost eighty pounds.

Fast forward 2 ½ years. I'm labeled a miracle. I suffered a traumatic brain injury and have optic nerve damage from my accident. However, I get stronger physically and mentally every day. I can't play college ball as I had planned, but I can walk, talk, think, learn, laugh, sing, pray, be thankful, and much more. My doctors say I have more healing to do. I look forward to being able to run again, and do some of the things physically that I used to. I was able to graduate high school with honors, and just finished my first year of college with a 3.3 GPA. I attend college locally while living at home. My mom retired early from teaching and drives me to and from classes each day, as I cannot drive due to my limited vision.

My plans are to be a Physical Therapist one day. All my therapists have been awesome. I volunteer each week at a rehabilitation center. Besides assisting the therapists, I get to talk to and encourage the patients. I’m privileged to talk to some groups every so often. I tell my story and reinforce the importance of making good decisions and always wearing a seatbelt. I’m active in my church who prayed so long for me, and still do. I believe God saved me for a reason, and His plans are better than mine. I don't take anything for granted now, even if it's just 15 minutes.

"Never Quit Testing Your Limits"

TBI, to some people these letters are just that, letters but to me they are life changing. I’m a readmit student to the University of Florida. Why I am a readmit student at this age is because of a TBI injury I received from a car accident in 2011. Let me start by giving you some background about myself.

I started UF in the Fall 2009 on two full scholarships directly out of high school. My GPA at the time was 4.0. Life was looking good. I moved into UF and started my classes and smooth sailing was ahead of me. Now fast forward to the fall of my junior year. My mother and I were coming home from the UF vs Seminole football game and a deer hit our car in such a way that the airbag was deployed and struck me hard in the head. Airbags are supposed to save lives and I guess this one did but it also changed my life forever.

A week after the accident I had lost the ability to speak. I could still make sounds and words but I had acquired an immense stutter which made even saying “hello” almost impossible. I also was carrying a migraine headache constantly and I could not remember what I had done 6 hours ago or the day before. To make a long story short, these were my newly acquired TBI symptoms making itself known. After going to a neurologist for 1 year and receiving a type of electroshock therapy for the pain and tremors the doctor looked at me and said “I guess you will just have to stay on Hydrocodone for the rest of your life.” My mother would not accept that answer and after an extensive search found me a new neurologist and my new life began.

Let me explain my new life to you. I have gone from being an independent man to being a man that is insecure, scared, unsure, anxiety filled and those are just my emotional problems. I also have migraines, granted not as bad as the beginning, idiopathic myoclonic jerks, stuttering when speaking and short term memory loss. I have gone from a man that never took even a Tylenol to having a pill caddy that my mother takes care of and hands me my pills morning and evening. I have learned some coping mechanisms to help me with these problems. What I live by though and even have tattooed on my arm is the motto “never quit testing your limits”. I will not and have not stopped trying to be the best person I can be. I overcome most fears and have even played Santa at the local grocery this past Christmas. I am now asking for your help in returning to UF and starting my new dream of being a therapist to help others that have to now live with the letters TBI in their life.

"Never Forget to Never Quit"

In a moment, life can change. For me, it was a car crash at fifteen years old. My car was rear ended, and my head hit the window. The first responders called it a minor collision, but months later the doctors called it epilepsy - a major injury. I fought against this label of “brain injury” with every fiber of my being - I was unwilling to believe that there was something wrong with me.

Going about my schedule and life as normal proved difficult though - I’d get my words mixed up, my handwriting became sloppy, and sometimes I’d outright forget a homework assignment. The hopelessness and frustration I felt during that time was irreconcilable, I wanted to give up my future goals and plans.

Since I was ten years old I wanted to attend New York University to study film and one day direct movies. This seemed impossible after being diagnosed with epilepsy - how could I ever hold a camera steady or even remember simple direction? I was put on medication and forced to accept that I did have a brain injury. It changed my moods, challenged my memory, and forced me to obey a strict sleeping schedule, but instead of becoming bogged down in self-pity, I chose to rise above this TBI, this epilepsy, this label that defined a condition I had, but not who I was.

I began to work twice as hard as everyone else around me, spending hours making flashcards and memorizing terms, and constantly writing everything down. I graduated at the top of my high school class and made it into my dream school - I’m now in my senior year in Film & Television at New York University.

I still have epilepsy, I still take my medication every morning and night, and I still struggle to remember simple things sometimes. But I haven’t let that stop me from pursuing my goals - I’ve come a long way from the fifteen year old who refused to believe she had a traumatic brain injury. Now I see my TBI, accept it’s presence in my life, and refuse to let it determine my future.

"Go Big Or Go Home"

Les Brown once said, “Our ability to handle life’s challenges is a measure of our strength of character”. My journey began on January 18, 2010 on a beautiful sunny day and there were no signs that day we would learn how valuable life is and how important it is for family to always be united.

My father’s horrific accident left us with a sense of silence and a 10% of chance of life from the doctors; we felt like all hope was lost. We found that all that my sister, my mother, and I could do was pray that this day would get better. My father remained in the ICU in a coma for three weeks, until one day the doctors told us that he woke up and that day was the first day I believed in the possibility of miracles, however the long journey was far from over.

As the days passed, I saw him getting better and better, but there was no movement in his legs. I mustered the courage to ask a question I felt I already knew the answer to, “Is my father ever going to walk again? As I looked at the doctor’s face the only words he could utter were “Just have faith.” From that moment and those simple words I knew I had to step up and become the man of the house. I knew I had to help my mother with whatever my father used to do. I knew this was a beginning of a new journey that wouldn’t be easy, but father had set a foundation of strength in my family.

My father was released three months later, in a wheelchair. He was not able to transfer himself to bed; he couldn’t get his own food, he was not able to stay stable in one spot, the man I knew was no longer himself. We had to do everything. Today my father is still in a wheelchair, but my family and I continue with this battle as a united front. Every time I see him smile, it just motivates me to continue in life. It makes me stronger every time he tells me “Go big or go home.” Many ask me why I always say those words and I do because it serves as a motivation for me.

Everything I do, I do it for him because I don’t want him to feel disappointed or to think we have given up on him. I know this journey has helped me be the man I am now, the person that likes to help others, a person that just can’t say no when he knows he has already too much on his plate, but in the end I am the person that values what other people go through and offer some relief and understanding, this is the man I am today.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.