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Marianjoy Scholarship Program

Amanda Fowler

 

Amanda Fowler is a four-time Marianjoy Scholarship winner. When she was a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she received a traumatic brain injury. Despite formidable odds, she went on to pursue her dreams in school and as a writer. Below is a speech she gave in 2007 at her second Marianjoy Scholarship award ceremony.

“There are probably very few people outside this room that would understand my saying, “It feels so good to be back at my old hospital.” But, everyone here knows that this hospital is a thoroughfare of and for countless amazing people-each one of whom has a unique, and equally impressive story.

My name is Amanda Fowler-but the story I will tell you is not just mine. It is the story of every doctor, nurse, therapist, friend, every other patient with whom I have come into contact. I can literally say I would not be here without every ounce of care, inspiration, and faith that these incredible individuals have lent to me.

In November 2005, I received an acquired traumatic brain injury as the passenger in a severe car accident. To summarize, the accident was so bad, that I had to be cut out of the car with the Jaws-of-Life, and receive brain surgery immediately. Although the doctors did their best in trying to save me, I was only assessed a 10% chance of survival. I was unable to speak, swallow, or move any part of my body. I was also diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia, acute kidney failure, a subdural hematoma, a pulmonary contusion, double vision, several nerve palsies, and a few broken bones.

Luckily, I was blessed with the good fortune of coming to Marianjoy, where I received intensive physical, occupational, cognitive, psychological, and spiritual training, since my departure from the ICU, up till August of 2006. Every person I have come into contact with here has made a lasting impression with me, and I will always carry a piece of each of them with me, for the rest of my life. I have learned invaluable lessons here, that I would never learn anywhere else on earth. So, while I of course am not happy that any of us would have to undergo difficulty to arrive here, I am grateful that we have all had the chance to meet and communicate with one another. All of the people in this room lead richer lives than any billionaire, for the experiences that brought them here today.

Not only is this story is not mine alone, but it is that of everyone in this room, and the loved ones that could not be here today. I am in unspeakable awe of my fellow recipients-and my sincere congratulations to you all, by the way. The people receiving awards alongside me have demonstrated immeasurable strength and bravery.

As for me, despite initial suggestions to wait at least a year before re-enrolling in classes, I decided that for maximum speed of my recovery, it was best for me to return in the fall. I’d like to tell you that it was easier than ever, and that I’ve never had anything go so smoothly...but I don’t think I could even pretend that was true. It wouldn’t even be possible, though, without all the help and support of my therapists and loved ones. But, with all they taught me, and with the generous gift of financial aid and encouragement from the Marianjoy Scholarship I received last year, my dream of returning to school was made into reality.

Testing, taking notes, studying...even things like transportation proved difficult. I basically had to re-learn how to do everything, in a different way. But, that’s what college is for, right-learning? And I did learn. Sure, I learned a lot about educational policies, and Victorian poets, but what I learned the most about was myself. I learned that, more than my experiences had disabled me, they had enabled me. I thrust myself back into the same environment as before-but with a modified skill set, and a new perspective incomprehensible to most people. With the support of my family, friends, and all of Marianjoy behind me, how could I lose? You people-everyone here-have given me the bravery to continue living, and pursue my dreams. That’s what takes real courage, right?

And so, I applaud my fellow award recipients, and will have you know that I look to each of you as a role model. This fall, in addition to taking a full load of classes, I’ll be president of our university’s anime club (nerd, right?), student-teaching, continuing to submit poetry for hopeful *cross fingers* publication, continuing my improving piano and violin playing, and anything else that may come up. And you know what? I can do it. We can do it. I invite my fellow recipients to show the world how, though we may technically be “disabled,” we are more enabled than most anyone could ever dream. Thank you.”

JUNE 2013 UPDATE: Amanda graduated from UIUC with a BA in English. She went on to receive a MA in Writing & Publishing from DePaul University in 2012. She then began working in the Marketing Department at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. She continues to write, and she is currently working on her memoir about her TBI, among other projects. You can read her blog about life and writing at www.jellysideupblog.wordpress.com.

Click here to watch Amanda speak about her journey to rehabilitation with Marianjoy.

 


 

 

 

Amanda Fowler, four-year scholarship recipient, now works at Marianjoy as a marketing specialist and blogger for AbilityLinks.org