On September 13th 2011, I defied the odds after my bike crash put me in a 13-day coma leaving me struggling with severe amnesia, vestibular system damage, and diffuse axonal contusions.
A little bit about Alicia
I defied the odds after my bike crash put me in a 13-day coma on September 13, 2011, and left me struggling with severe amnesia, vestibular system damage, and diffuse axonal contusions with significant impairment to my emotional sensation.
My early recovery
Under the care of my primary Osteopathic physician, I was given the best opportunity to let my body do the work to heal on its own, with regular adjustments to medications as needed. When my mother arrived at the rehab center where I’d been awake for two weeks in early agitation, with no short-term memory, her voice reawakened my memory.
My first accessible memory post-coma was recorded in only her presence. I immediately told her that I wanted to marry Dustin, the man who became my husband, and have a baby.
My body was telling me something about how to heal from that early on in the recovery. I went right back to grad school after a month-long stay in the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas where I rapidly re-learned all the skills of life from walking to driving. I got married, completed my degree in screenwriting, and started my career in Film in Austin, working with Richard Linklater in Spring 2015. After a four year struggle to regulate my hormonal deficiencies and get my menstrual cycles back online, I committed to a 30-day yoga challenge in summer 2015, and the immediate healing progress was incredible. I could hold my balance poses for 90 seconds by the end of the challenge, and I conceived my daughter, instead of getting my periods back. Every day of my pregnancy, I woke up feeling more like myself, with memories returning, moods improving and my balance only getting better. When my daughter was born, I was reborn, back into myself, as a mother.
How I am moving forward
I was inspired by this miracle to explore the healing power of pregnancy in a documentary film project, Liminal Space,. I've also written a recovery memoir for publication, Waking Up To My Superpower.
As the first step in my film career after my daughter was born, I founded our local chapter of Women in Film and Television in Austin, WIFT Austin, and served as founding co-president from November 2018 - September 2021.
Neuroendocrine reset during pregnancy is the shortest explanation I can give for the miracle of healing through pregnancy that I experienced, but of course, it's more complex.
Human Growth Hormone, specifically, lends itself to an exceptional level of neuroplasticity for maternal brains, along with stem cells. I’ve still faced significant challenges with PTSD postpartum, which are absolutely TBI-induced, but my self-recognition returned with my memory, and vestibular stability. I’ve gone through very effective EMDR treatments for three years to cope with PTSD, and it’s been enhanced by lactation hormones, which also effectively resolve PTSD symptoms for mother and baby.
Advice to other survivors
Never forget how lucky we are to be alive. It gets so hard sometimes to manage the stress that our damaged brains and bodies are forced to withstand, and life’s challenges are hard enough, without brain damage. In those moments, we want to bail out instead of bailing. BREATHE, just breathe. Pranayama. Every breath we take allows us an opportunity to change. We can change our mind. We can change our circumstances, our surroundings. We can change our bodies. By changing our bodies, we can also change our brains. Try to find a flow, and keep it.
Change is the only constant in life. - Heraclitus