By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Megan Clothier of Lake George is a traumatic brain injury survivor on a mission.
“I’m a member of the New York State Brain Injury Coordinating Council,” she said. “We change laws and impact the TBI (traumatic brain injury) community. I’m not the only one who feels I have inadequate help.”
Her mother Tracey said Megan is the only TBI survivor on the Coordinating Council, having been appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“She’s the most amazing person I have ever known,” her mother says.
Megan, 36, was in her senior year at the University of Vermont on Sept. 11, 1998, when her life changed in an instant.
“A bus had stopped and the driver waved me on, and as I was walking in front of the bus, a drunk driver went around the bus and hit me,” she said.
“I went into a volleyball roll, but my head hit off the hood of the car, and then hit the ground. I had a serious head injury.”
She said she doesn’t remember being in the hospital, but found out later a nurse told her mother that she was never going to walk, talk or breathe on her own again
“My mom said, ‘You don’t know my daughter.’”
“Doctors likened it to Shaken Baby Syndrome, where all of the circuits disconnect,” said Megan’s mom. “She had a devastating injury, the worst injury you can get to your brain.”
In intensive care and on life support for 10 weeks, Megan went into cardiac arrest three times and was brought back.
When she was able to communicate, Megan said “the 90’s kid came back, with the sarcasm and the arrogance. I had no idea what I was saying, and had the whole bloody hospital laughing their heads off.”
After three months in Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, and another three months in Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, Ms. Clothier went back to try to finish her degree at UVM.
“But my brain could not process that,” she said. “I had to go back and find out for myself.”
Returning to Lake George, she started volunteering at the Caldwell Library, Glens Falls Hospital, St. James Episcopal Church and the Double H Ranch.
“And in 2008, I started giving talks at local high schools, and spreading my name around,” she said. “I believe it’s very difficult to find the right level of rehabilitation…There are millions of us. Many of the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan have brain injuries, and we all need specialized care.”
Megan said TBI care “tends to be generalized. The biggest part of rehabilitation is figuring out what you can do and figuring out what you can’t do.
“For me, I have had to develop skills to compensate for short-term memory loss. Early on, I used to change my clothes all the time. I became very anal. I was an infant again. I had to figure out how to be an adult again.”
She said she enjoys being an advocate for TBI patients, and is bout to become a brain injury peer mentor at Sunnyview.
“My goal is to help people who are training to be independent living skills trainers to recognize how to help TBI patients,” Megan said. “There needs to be unique treatment for each, not general rehab. I have fired five agencies.”
She now has an aide who comes in twice a week for about three hours total. She works as an office assistant at the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“I’m making it,” she said. “I’m doing okay.”