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In March of 1984, I was 20 years old. My daughter was only 5 months old, and we were living with my parents in Bainbridge Ohio, a small community about 30 minutes east of Cleveland. One day, late in the morning, I was holding my daughter. Suddenly I suffered the worst headache I could imagine having. I can only describe the pain as imagining 12 shotguns all pointing at my head and all going off at the same time. I kept walking around, telling myself it was just a headache, no big deal. I began to get extremely anxious; my heart was racing. I was trying to even out my breathing to calm down. I put my daughter in her playpen with the thought that if something bad was happening to me, at least she’d be safe. My parents weren’t home, my dad was at work and my mother was at a doctor’s appointment at our local clinic. We lived in a small community, and this was before cell phones! I knew the number of the doctor’s office by heart. I went to the phone to call them to get a hold of my mom. By now I was beginning to lose feeling throughout my body, like when say your leg “falls asleep.” I got the receptionist on the phone, and she brought my mom to the phone. I remember saying “mom, something is really wrong with me, you need to come home NOW!” I lost complete feeling in my body and collapsed to the kitchen floor. I remember seeing my mom step over me to get to the phone. The next thing I remember was waking up in Neuro ICU at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cleveland. I had suffered a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation. I remember my neurologist Dr. Gardner telling me that the rupture had been caused by something I was born with, an extra bunch of blood vessels and nerves at the base of my brain. He also told my parents that I would very likely be blind because of where the aneurysm had ruptured: the part of the brain that controls eyesight. He was also honest with my parents and and said there was no guarantee that I would survive. I was kept in the dark and was allowed no visitors. After 12 days of being stabilized in the ICU, I was flown by air ambulance to London Ontario Hospital in Canada for surgery. I remember being on a stretcher in the back of this very small plane, my mother sat up front next to the pilot. I only remember bits and pieces of my week there. When I was allowed to go home, my parents drove me back. That drive was awful! When I got home, my short-term memory was shot. I struggled to remember things like my daughter’s name, which upset me so much! I couldn’t form words well if they even came to me. My neurologist Dr. Gardner came to the house to see and test me to determine how I was progressing. I remember he would hold up a piece of a red ribbon and move it around within my field of vision to test my eyesight. I lost some sight, but not blind! My recovery was slow and frustrating. It took me about 8 months to even begin to feel a bit more normal. About 6 months after my surgery, I was at the same doctor’s clinic where my mother had been when my AVM ruptured. My OB-GYN walked by, stopped, then came over to me. He’d been taking care of me since I was 16 and had delivered my daughter by emergency c-section. He sat next to me and asked me if I knew how lucky I was. I said yes, but what did he mean? He said that if I’d tried to have my daughter naturally, the AVM would most likely have ruptured then, and he said that in most cases where this happens, they can only either save the mother, or the child but not both. I just sat there taking that in! I was very fortunate to have survived. During my subsequent follow up and rehabilitation, it was determined that I had Traumatic Brain Injury. This was due to physical violence that I suffered during an extremely abusive relationship I was in from 16 to 19 years old.
I will be 60 this year! It's been a long, hard road. I’ve lost some of my eyesight, I have some cognitive deficits, balance issues, mental health conditions, and other various things I deal with daily. But in spite of this, I’ve managed to overcome so much! I’m also a survivor of childhood trauma, a rape survivor, and an Intimate Partner Violence survivor. I went to college for the very first time at 51 and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sociology graduation Magna Cum Laude! I am a Certified Trauma Support Specialist and am almost through completing courses to become a Trauma and Resiliency Life Coach. I've worked with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence for over 12 years now and with those who have had Traumatic Brain Injury because of abuse for 8 years. I helped develop and run a traumatic brain injury program for one of the largest domestic violence shelters in Arizona. I work collaboratively with brilliant and wonderful professionals and groups around the world in this field! I currently work with the CACTIS Foundation in Scottsdale, AZ. We work to promote research, provide education, training, and develop programs, tools and protocols for any organization, system, or group and to help those who've experienced Intimate Partner Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury personally. I am also a TBI Ambassador for the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) which has amazing resources for people with TBI Meet TBI Ambassador Kerri Walker | MSKTC
I started my podcast Invisible Wounds: Healing from Trauma and dedicated website and YouTube channel as a way of connecting different shared experiences we may have with trauma, and steps we can take in order to heal, build resiliency, and grow! I can relate my story to others and talk to them about what has worked for me in recovering from a lifetime of trauma, brain injury, and adversity. Using a Trauma-Informed Care approach, I provide real world, relatable, and easy to use exercises in each podcast episode. Listeners can have tools to use to help them become more grounded, relaxed, and gain understanding around how trauma has impacted them and how they can heal one step at a time.
I now live in Phoenix, AZ with my husband of many years, our little pup Lulu, and 2 parrots! I have two adult children, both very successful and happy! My podcast is available on all of your favorite podcast, music, and listening apps!
Google podcasts: Invisible Wounds: Healing from Trauma (google.com)
LinkedIn: (2) Kerri Walker | LinkedIn
YouTube Channel: (3) Invisible Wounds: Healing from Trauma - YouTube