Tammy Wuertley

Tammy Wuertley suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was struck by a passing truck in a hit-and-run accident.

“On August 10, 2019, I was walking across the street in the very early, dark morning, when I was hit by a passing truck that had never stopped. I fell and landed on the hard pavement. Although I was hit on my right side, I fell on my left side, hitting the back of my head against the cement, causing my brain to scatter through my skull, swell and bleed. I lost consciousness and was emergently transported to the Wyoming Medical Center Emergency Department by ambulance. Interesting way to describe this, right?

After an examination by the hospital’s physician and undergoing a CT, I was diagnosed with a “left subdural hematoma with significant midline shift” and was immediately taken to the operating room. I underwent a decompressive craniotomy surgery by the neurosurgeon, Dr. Warren. Following the surgery, I was admitted to the intensive care unit at the hospital.

I do not remember any of this event. I have read my medical records and talked to my family, my friends, and those who visited me at the hospital. Evaluations and testing of my cognitive and neurological functions (taken by my medical providers), revealed neurological deficits and made it very clear that I suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of this hit and run accident, and that I would need extensive speech, occupational and physical rehabilitation treatment to help these deficits. The fall injured my brain primarily in the front and temporal lobe areas. The frontal lobe controls the cognitive part of your brain, including common daily life functions, memory ability, attention span, problem solving, reasoning abilities, organization functions, and your personality. The temporal lobes control language comprehension, as well as our verbal memory and ability.

Following my discharge from the Wyoming Medical Center on August 21, I was transferred to Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper, where I stayed and received two weeks of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I was unable to walk much and spent the first week in a wheelchair. I had rib fractures and nerve damage in my left foot, a scarred head from my surgery and other bruises. I confused a lot of words and had a lot of difficulty carrying on a conversation, and with writing. I worked hard at my therapy, and after one week, my wheelchair was taken away from me. I was walking. I was not allowed to watch any television, use my cell phone or do anything else that would interfere with my attention span and other deficits. As a result, my attention span ability, language use, writing, and conversation skills dramatically improved.

After two weeks at Elkhorn, I was then transferred to Quality Living Inc., (QLI) located in Omaha, Nebraska. This is a well-known medical rehabilitation center that specializes in traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other neurologic injuries. Its primary goal is to get patients back to their normal lifestyle way of living. I spent six weeks there, 20 hours away from home, and lived in a house on QLI’s campus with six men and one other woman, all of us battling with our own injuries. We all became so close and like a family. Every day Monday through Friday, we all participated in our own treatments from 8:00 – 11:00 am, then ate lunch together, and then went back to our treatments from 1:00-4:00 p.m. We ate dinner together and attended things together. I spent several hours each day receiving speech therapy, vocational rehabilitation therapy, physical therapy, and daily living skills. On the weekends, we did activities such as yoga, shopping, visiting restaurants and event went to a rock climbing gym on a Saturday. I was given the opportunity to drive with an instructor, cook dinner for myself and housemates, as well as do my own laundry and chores — just to make sure I was still able to do that! I was released and returned home on October 26.

I am so glad and happy to be back home! On November 4, I returned to work as a paralegal, part-time, but plan on being back full-time at the end of January. My employer and co-workers at The Spence Law Firm, and my boss, Jason Neville, have been extremely kind and good to me throughout this entire ordeal, and I am so excited to return to them! Everyone from my former employer, Williams Porter Day & Neville, were also and still are, so supportive and helpful for me.

Although I went through extensive treatments for my TBI, I still have cognitive deficits that I am still working on. I still have sore ribs and symptoms from my foot injury. I use a lot of tools to help my brain, such as taking things step-by-step, relying on visual aids and recording devices to help me remember things, and keeping complete calendars full with every appointment, event, and schedule that I participate in every day. I ask for written and oral instructions whenever possible. I create checklists, take a lot of notes, and write myself reminders. I also keep calendars to track long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and daily activities. The calendar is also kept on my phone and sends me reminders so I remember what I am doing! The best thing is that the majority of my brain injury symptoms will make great recovery within a year.

This entire event has changed my life. I am grateful to have made it this far in what is normally considered a short time when you think of the injuries I received. I am thankful for life. I tend to look more at the optimistic things and ignore things that are not so great. I work hard. I take it easy when I need too. I still research and study a lot about the effects a TBI can cause. I am more careful. I eat much better, I exercise daily, I play board games. I participate in events and activities that increase my brain’s thoughts and abilities. I keep in touch with my former housemates at QLI. I adore, love and appreciate all of my family and friends. I received so much support from everyone while I was going through my medical treatment, and still do! And to all of the LAW members – thank you so much for the wonderful gifts and for thinking and praying for me! I truly believe that all of the support I received from everyone truly helped me make it through this and I am forever appreciative and thankful!”

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