Editor’s note: Molly Welch, a junior at Auburn University, was pursuing a career in journalism when her plans and life were significantly altered following a February 2008 car accident that left her in a coma.
In the spring of that year her mother, Mary Welch, contacted Appen Newspapers Inc., and asked if Molly could secure an internship when she recovered enough to come in. Therapists told the family getting her back into the work she enjoyed would be a crucial step in her recovery. We, of course, said yes, admiring her courage.
Molly chronicled her journey through this life-altering experience. The following is the culmination of that work.
I was in a terrible car accident in February 2008. I was one exit away from Auburn when I crossed the median and hit a truck. I think I fainted; I did twice at Auburn before, and I was anemic.
I was supposed to graduate a semester early in December 2008. Not anymore.
I still really want to graduate, so I’m going to school online. Also, I want to walk without assistive devices and live on my own. Right now I use a cane full-time and a walker when I’m tired. The biggest thing I want is more independence.
I’m aware that it is scary, but I also want to drive again. How can I live a normal life without driving?
The brain is funny, because injuries affect the opposite side of the body. I hit that truck on my left, so the functions on my right side were affected. I was right handed before — now I’m now left handed. That has taken some real getting used to, especially typing and using a mouse.
I don’t know if I’m glad I got messed up physically rather than mentally. If I was injured mentally I wouldn’t be able to go to school.
What I’m happy about with this accident is that I laugh at the little things more often — that’s all I have to look forward to. My boyfriend, my siblings, my parents and I are also a lot closer.
Here’s one of my biggest issues: I hate asking for help, and I have to get over that. I have to ask for help when I need a glass of water or need to get something that is out of my reach.
It is annoying to me how much I ask for help, but with the cane and the walker it is hard to get things down — especially with my right side not working. My left side is really strong because it has to lift up all my weight and do everything for me.
It’s amazing what you take for granted.
Also, I hate when people stare. They look up and down at the cane or walker as if these simple walking devices are going to bite them. Sometimes I feel like yelling, “What? I was in a car accident!”
Here’s another thing that only exacerbates my troubles: My speech suffered with the accident, which makes it difficult to communicate, even though I’m fully aware.
When doctors incubated me during my coma, they damaged my vocal cords. Although my speech will improve, it will always be raspy. You can understand me, but some words need to be repeated.
I have no problem repeating them at all. In fact, I like it better when people ask and don’t just nod their heads pretending they know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes when someone doesn’t understand me, I feel like saying, “I’m sorry, I’ll try not to be in an accident next time!’’
Little kids are the worst because they’re so curious. I know they don’t know any better, but just when you think you have left their stares, they turn around and follow you with their eyes.
It’s like they’re going to catch a disease or something.
What hurts the worst is when people think you lack intelligence. They think you can’t do your work. They insist on helping you. What they’re really doing is hurting you because it hurts when people assume that you’re
I went to a store the other day, and if one extra person had asked me if I needed help I was going to scream at them. Well, not really. I’m a nice person, but I surely felt like doing it.
I wanted to say, “That’s nice and all that you ask to help me, but my mom is right here and I’m not that big. She can catch me if I start to fall.”
I’m just learning how to use the cane. If I need help I will ask for it and my mom or dad will hold my arm up. People think I was born like this, and that I’m going to be like this forever.
I hope to be running before too long. It’s not too far-fetched — I’ve really made a lot of progress.
In the beginning I was in bed, then I was in a wheelchair. Then came the walker, and now a cane.
I actually have names for all of them. The wheelchair I call the devil, the walker is purgatory, the cane is Earth. Walking with nothing is heaven.
I want to walk so badly — it consumes me every day. People who see me compliment me if they saw me a long time ago. Back then I wasn’t walking as well and they can see the progress.
Plus, it’s important to just get going. People are not going to give you compliments if your arm moved a little more or if you seem more intelligent.
And it is really important to be more intelligent, too, because I’ve got to finish school.
I am taking an online class at Auburn. It is very good to be an Auburn student once again — but I have to finish up my core classes at the physical school, so I need to have better mobility to go back.
And guess what? The class is in communication disorders. I, unfortunately, know all about that.