Crash victim who suffered brain injury thanks responders 10 years later
“Thank you for my life and for my second life,” Lisa said to the responders who extricated her from a car that had been T-boned in 2008
By Megan Jones
AURORA, Ill. — Aurora Fire Capt. Brandon Matson said firefighters and paramedics go on hundreds of emergency calls a year, but rarely do they hear back from the people they’ve taken to the hospital.
So firefighters at Aurora Station 8 were surprised when they received a request from Aurora residents Lisa and Ted Yee, who wanted to bring them dinner Monday to celebrate Lisa’s recovery from a crash a decade ago that left her with traumatic brain injury.
“Thank you for my life and for my second life,” Lisa said with tears in her eyes as she sat in the station’s kitchen and looked up at the people who had extricated her from a wrecked vehicle.
On Sept. 10, 2008, Lisa Yee was a passenger in a vehicle that was T-boned at Asbury Drive and New York Street in Aurora. Firefighters and paramedics from Station 8 responded to the crash, transporting her to Rush Copley Medical Center. She was later flown by helicopter to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood.
Doctors had trouble explaining why Yee was in a coma for five days, telling her husband Ted that she should be awake, until later realizing it was due to traumatic brain injury that left her with epilepsy.
When she awoke from the coma, she had lost about five years of memories.
“I recognized my family, although my daughter suddenly was in high school and not the middle-schooler I was expecting,” Yee said. “It was a new life.”
She still doesn’t remember the accident happening and gets choked up each time she hears about it, she said, adding that she thinks her brain blocks out the thought of it. With a fractured pelvis, four broken ribs, a lacerated liver, bruised lung and four cracked teeth, she stayed at Loyola for two months and later spent years in extensive physical therapy and rehab.
Now, she is a certified yoga instructor and volunteers teaching yoga at a shelter for veterans and also at Mutual Ground, a women’s shelter in Aurora.
Ted Yee told Matson the names of the people who helped Lisa, and Matson tracked down some of the retired ones, as well as firefighters who now work at other stations, and gathered them for dinner Monday.
“It means a lot to us,” Matson said. “I’ve met patients after the fact and it’s nice to see what happens and see a good outcome. We have all these calls, but sometimes you never know what happens after the fact.”
Until 2015, Lisa Yee had multiple seizures which Aurora paramedics responded to as well.
“It’s not just the one accident, but over the subsequent years you all responded and helped us,” Ted Yee said.
Lisa Yee also received help from doctors at Northwestern Hospital who got her on some neurological drugs, and she has been seizure free for two and a half years.
“In this journey, we learned its crummy circumstances, but every time we got to a bad point, we got a break,” Ted Yee said. “We heard a nugget of information, there was a supporter who came out of nowhere, there was a professional who did their job. It just makes you grateful that as crappy as the situation is, we actually wound up being pretty darn lucky and we wanted to say thanks on this 10th anniversary.”
Steve Milakis, a paramedic who responded to the crash Lisa Yee was in, said “it’s just what we do. This is appreciated, but unnecessary because that’s what we do.”
Lisa Yee said her new ritual in life is asking why she is still alive and why did she receive a second chance. She’s tunneled this drive into creative outlets, starting with yoga, turning to music and now running her own blog at www.thatsbraininjuryforya.com, where she chronicles living with a brain injury and some of the funny quirks in life that come with it. Yee worked as an editor for Sun Publications in Naperville in the mid-2000s.
She said in an effort to see the lighter side, she often turns to humor.
Milakis agreed this helps, saying humor is often how firefighters get through the tough days too.
"I don't guess you get to hear from many of the victims you rescue,” Lisa Yee told the firefghters and paramedics Monday. “So I'll just say it for all of us: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for my life.”
Copyright 2018 The Beacon-News