In early March, we attended our final basketball banquet. We were so proud to see Bri’s name on the program for having earned Academic All-State. ACADEMIC ALL-STATE! Do you realize the improbability of that happening after such a severe traumatic brain injury? I still can hardly comprehend that. Obviously, her class rank and GPA have dropped significantly, so to still have achieved this is just amazing!
Nothing more needed to happen for the evening to be grand. But it did. Bri was awarded the Fighting Heart Award for the girls’ basketball team! I had hoped she would get it last year and even the year before, but she hadn’t. So this year I didn’t even consider the possibility. I know it’s usually given to a girl who’s been out there fighting on the court, whether she plays a ton or not. And in my mind Bri has the heart of a lion and doesn’t need to be given any award to make it so. So at the end of the awards ceremony I was completely unprepared for her name to be called when Coach Parris announced the Fighting Heart Award. And when he called her name everyone was on their feet giving her a standing ovation – a long one. I’m in tears again just thinking about it. He spoke not only of the fight she’s fought since the accident – the one that everyone sees – but also of the fight that many do not see. He commended her for showing up to practice early each day with the rest of the team, even though there would be no playing time, and for continuing to work hard on her grades. He also spoke of her love for the game – how even though she’s no longer able to play she still loves the game and is a fierce competitor who loves to win.
What most people don’t know is that so many days she considered quitting the team. I wish I could say the opposite – that the thought of quitting never crossed her mind. But the truth is she thought of it often. Some days it was torture to watch the other girls practice and play, knowing that she never would again. But I guess that’s what makes it that much greater that she didn’t quit. When it all came down to it, she said that as hard as it was it would have been harder to NOT be a part of it – she just couldn’t bear the thought of not being on the team.
Thank you, Coach Parris, for recognizing her with this honor – for acknowledging this in Brianna. And for having me in tears yet again!
Coach Parris & Bri
I am so proud of you, Brianna. I get to see what no one else sees – the fight you fight every day physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You have the heart of a warrior. You are the definition of a fighting heart.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
I must confess that I was wrong about the basketball uniforms (see last post). Brianna suited up at every Friday night game – each time knowing she wouldn’t go in the game but always hoping for the impossible.
Well . . . the impossible happened.
Friday, February 5th was the last home game and senior night. Coach Parris wanted to be sure every senior got to play. EVERY senior. Bri was introduced as a starter and started the game. Our team fouled immediately so someone could substitute in for her as it is just too dangerous to leave her in and run the risk of getting hit in the head.
We were so excited!! We took video and thoroughly enjoyed her one last time in a game, almost two years exactly from the last basketball game she played.
Or so we thought. With about 25 seconds left in the game, this happened:
Coach Parris had planned this with the cooperation of both teams, their coaches and the refs. We were overjoyed and so appreciative of the class and kindness shown to Bri by people who didn’t have to. Even the fans for the other team were on their feet cheering for her. So I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Coach Parris and everyone who was there that night for allowing Brianna “the impossible” of playing the game she loves so much just one more time.
Last Tuesday, November 10, was our last season opener for basketball. We’ve been a basketball family for many years now and I have LOVED being a basketball mom. Even though the uniforms won’t come off the hangers again this year and I won’t have a player sweating it out on the court, I will have a girl on the bench who still loves the game and, even more so, her team.
The first time we met Dr. Zaman was early Friday morning, March 7, 2014. We had arrived by ambulance the afternoon before to this place that was completely foreign to us and we were still feeling very unsure and afraid. The first thing that morning, the Occupational Therapist had been in to help Bri shower and get dressed. And considering that Bri couldn’t even hold her head up, this was not pleasant for either of us (though looking back we know it was her first step toward recovery and independence).
This is a picture of Brianna her first morning at Baylor right after that first shower.
A short while later, Dr. Dubiel and Dr. Zaman entered our room and introduced themselves. Dr. Dubiel was Bri’s main doctor and Dr. Zaman was doing part of his residency there. We didn’t see Dr. Dubiel a week after that first day because she was on vacation. But Dr. Zaman’s would be the first face that we came to know and look forward to seeing during our first week there. He brought such a bright yet calming presence to our room. He was quick with a smile, a genuine smile, and always made sure to make some sort of physical contact with Bri, even if it was simply a hand on her shoulder. He was kind and encouraging and funny and interested. We grew to love him very quickly. We saw Dr. Zaman every weekday morning for about two months before he left to work at another hospital.
I remember one very difficult morning in particular when Bri was just really sad and depressed. I think it was the morning after I told her about ShyAnn. We were having our morning visit with the doctors and while I can’t recall exactly what we were talking about, I remember that I started to tear up and just dropped my head into my hands. When I got myself together and looked up again, Dr. Zaman’s eyes were red and teary as well. I guess it could have been allergies, but I don’t think so.
Dr. Zaman was also the one who got to remove Bri’s PEG line – in other words he yanked it out!
This picture was taken May 15, 2014. This was the last time Dr. Zaman and Bri saw each other.
One year later on May 19, 2015, Brianna saw a very familiar young man touring CNS with a group of residents. I don’t know who was more excited!
Orange (for ShyAnn) and purple (for Brianna) ribbons and bows everywhere. On trees, on sign posts, on mailboxes, on the entry to our subdivision, on our front porch posts and a huge bow on our mailbox.
I’m not exactly sure when they were put up, but I first saw them on February 14, 2014 when Brian and I were driving home from the hospital to get ready for ShyAnn’s funeral.
Over a year later there are still a few ribbons hanging on. The ribbons on our front porch posts are still there – maybe a little faded, but still there. We’ve had two on our mailbox. One was destroyed when someone ran over the mailbox and the second one blew off on a really windy day. We still have the second bow hanging in our garage.
I wish I could describe to you just how much the ribbons have meant to me and my family. They have brightened some dark days and have given encouragement and hope. Some days they brought tears as I was reminded of their significance. For months I would drive home down Willow Springs just so I could see all the ribbons. And I still drive home that way when I am coming from the east.
So to all the people who tied ribbons and bows all over the neighborhood, THANK YOU!!
Thank you for warm fuzzy blankets and soft comfy pillows – things to make sure we had some semblance of comfort during a very unsure time.
By our second night at the hospital, we had been given a couple of nice soft pillows and several fuzzy blankets to keep me warm on the waiting room couch. I rotated between a stiff hospital recliner in her room (couldn’t take the fuzzy stuff in there) and this couch for two weeks before we got a room at the Ronald McDonald House. Thank you for making sure we stayed warm and cozy during those difficult nights.
I finally get to post a first-day-of-school picture.
Brianna started back to school on Tuesday. She will go to school half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will continue rehab the other three days of the week.
This was a very big deal for Bri. She has been looking forward to this for a long time. It’s hard to believe that it has been 11 months since she has been to school. Almost a year! She said that it’s great to be back and her next goal is to work up to two full days each week.
It was very emotional for me. I cried three times; twice before I dropped her off and one time after I left her there.