In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, we’re sharing stories from individuals and families impacted by brain injury. Today, I am happy to introduce you to brain injury survivor Morgan Reploge. For many individuals affected by brain injury, progress isn’t measured in days and weeks but rather in months and years. For Morgan, recovering from a brain injury didn’t come easy and rehab definitely came with its ups and downs.
Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury in April 2013 after getting hit by a car in New York City. After she was deemed stable enough for rehab, she was transferred to Magee where she underwent almost 4 months of intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. I was lucky enough to be Morgan’s Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) at Magee where we both taught each other different lessons each day. While I helped Morgan to eat, communicate and remember information, she taught me all about determination, bravery, and staying positive through difficult days. With lots of hard work, perseverance, and the support of a loving family and friends, Morgan left Magee able to walk, talk, eat, and get dressed. She is a hard-worker and taught me a great deal about never giving up on your goals. For these reasons and many more, Morgan will always hold a special spot in my heart.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 26 and living in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. I graduated from Philadelphia University with a BS in fashion design and moved to New York City right out of college. Some of my interests include art, history and museums. I have an appreciation for the detail of art and the time and dedication that goes into making it.
What brought you into Magee?
I was hit by a car on April 28, 2013 and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was a patient at Magee from the beginning of May until August 30th (almost 4 months-phew!). By the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to get home!
What was the beginning of your rehab stay like?
Because of the severity of my brain injury, I have no recollection of getting to Magee or of my first few weeks as a patient. The first thing I can remember was my 1:1 behavioral aid Ashley and going to the bathroom every two hours. Yep — the nurses checked in on me to make sure I peed every two hours on the dot! I had to adjust to life at Magee, which meant understanding and remembering why I was there in the first place. I remember my mind waking up frantically, but my body not waking up with it. Once I could logically put the pieces together in my mind and remember what happened, the fighter in me woke up.
What goals did you achieve as a patient at Magee?
Therapy at Magee was definitely not easy, and my therapy team worked me hard! Physical and occupational therapy focused on strengthening up the left side of my body — the side that took more of a hit. When I came to Magee, I couldn’t really use my left arm/hand due to weakness. Walking on my own was hard because my legs were unsteady and I didn’t have the natural movement or balance to hold my own weight. In speech therapy, I initially focused on being able to eat, produce voice, and remember basic information about the time, date, and myself! When I left Magee, speech therapy focused on higher-level memory, organization and attention skills I would need to return to work.
What advice would you give to another brain injury survivor?
I would tell any brain injury survivor to tell their rehab team about their goals and what they really want to accomplish during rehab. They are there to help you get back on your feet and want you to succeed. I remember when I first got to Magee, I couldn’t tie my shoes because I couldn’t use my left hand (I felt like a child). My OT Amn found an adaptive way for me to tie my shoes with one hand. Above all else, the biggest thing that helped me get through recovery was the support I got from my family and friends. They kept me company, made me laugh and helped me through the hard days.
Where are you now? Tell us about life after Magee.
I am currently wrapping up my physical therapy and continue to do at home exercises for occupational therapy. Just because you don’t see a therapist doesn’t mean getting better is over! I also work with a cognitive therapist in order to get my brain back in shape to go back to work. In my free time, I have been hanging out with my friends, sewing, and going on walks (the little things you could previously do every day which are taken away from you with an injury). Since leaving Magee, I have been trying to focus on the things I let slip away before or those that I would “one day learn to do.” Experiencing a brain injury at a young age has taught me that life is short and good things can be taken away from you in an instant. You have to fight for what you want!