By Rebecca Drew
THIS INSPIRATIONAL woman has shared her recovery from a traumatic brain injury and defied doctors who said she wouldn’t survive the night after her car was “t-boned” by a speeding vehicle – and she can now deadlift an impressive 111-kilograms in the gym.
In March 2001, mum of three Judy Godsey (57) from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, was on the way to the supermarket when her life was changed forever. As she turned out of the street where she lives, she was hit by a speeding car that “t-boned” the vehicle she was driving. With no recollection of the traumatic event herself, an unconscious Judy was then released from the wreckage by firefighters using Jaws of Life.
The accident left Judy with an open head wound and pelvis broken in three places, she was diagnosed with a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury and developed pneumonia. Doctors told Judy’s devastated husband of 35-years, Raleigh, that she may not survive the night. Defying medics, she survived and was then in a coma for a week.
When she came out of her coma, Judy was in hospital for six-weeks, being bounced around between intensive care units and rehabilitation centres. During this time, Judy’s parents and in-laws moved into her family home to help care for her then young children, Lee (9), Will (6) and Caroline (4) as Raleigh supported her.
For a month she was unable to use her entire left side and had to learn how to walk, talk and swallow again with puréed foods. Remarkably within a year, Judy was back teaching English at the University of North Carolina Charlotte as she didn’t have any memory or cognitive problems.
“The last thing I remember about that night was leaving my house. The following is what I have been told: I turned left out of my street and was t-boned by a speeding car. Charlotte Fire Engine 16 responded to my accident. They used the Jaws of Life to remove me from my car,” said Judy.
“A physician on the way to the mall saw my accident and stopped. He found me unconscious with a bleeding head wound. He called 911, stemmed the flow of blood from my head, and called my husband.
“Raleigh took our kids to our next-door neighbours, Fran and David. Fran cared for our kids. David drove Raleigh to Carolina’s Medical Centre Emergency Department. Raleigh remembers seeing my feet sticking out of the ER bed. Devastated. He knew our lives would change forever.
“I had an open head wound, received two units of blood, and my pelvis was broken in three places. Diagnosed with a moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury. I also developed pneumonia. Nearly 50 of our friends came to the hospital to support Raleigh.
“When I was in the coma, I was not aware of any outside stimuli. I asked Raleigh about the coma period last night and he said that about 10 days after my accident, I had not responded to any stimuli. A physician got in my face and yelled my name. I moved my right fingers. That was the first positive sign.
“I was not aware of my coma. And my first recollections of being in the hospital were not alarming. I had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. I did not use the left side of my body for a month. I had trouble swallowing, my food was pureed, put in moulds to resemble each food type: peas, carrots and beef.
“Once the doctors cleared me, I never looked back. I wouldn’t talk about my TBI. I didn’t want to be defined by it. I had no cognitive or memory issues.
“I loved teaching. I was good at it. My speech was a bit of a problem. I briefly explained my TBI at the beginning of each semester. Reading essays was slower. And my fine motor skills were affected. I still cannot handwrite clearly. I reverted to typing essay comments and attaching them to each paper. That took so much time.”
Struggling with her balance and muscle weakness, Judy’s friend recommended getting a personal trainer and she says that getting into fitness was the best thing she has ever done. She now trains every day and can deadlift an incredible 111kg, Judy credits fitness for helping to save her life.
“For about a year, I wished I had not survived. Living was too painful and often confusing. I felt old which was reflected in my movements and decision making,” she said.
“My daughter had surgery at age four to correct a birth defect. Laying with her in the hospital bed that might was the first time I knew why I survived. She needed her mom.
“My weak muscles contributed to my poor balance. A friend recommended a personal trainer. It was the best thing I could have done.
“TBI survivors need to regain control of some aspects of their lives. Setting goals and achieving them is empowering.
“Fitness is one way of coping with anxiety, melancholy, and isolation.”
Judy’s first fitness trainer, Betsy Maner spoke of her progress: “Judy achieved a strong, lean form, better balance and confidence in many areas. Mind over matter pretty much sums it up. Her willingness to put herself out there should be a standard for us all,”
Her current trainer, Paul Sklar said: “Judy’s progress has been nothing less than remarkable and extraordinary.”
Judy shares her fitness journey on Instagram under the handle, @judydeadlifts. Finally, she gave her words of advice to others.
“My friends are amazed at how I’ve pulled my life back together as through nothing happened,” she said.
“My message to others: Never give up.
“I had a strong support group that will helped me whether the dark day, and there were many.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/judydeadlifts