21-year-old Sam Schroth was at the cusp of realizing her dream of going to veterinary school when an unexpected accident changed the course of her life. In what can truly be described as a “freak accident,” a dead tree fell on top of Sam as she stood in the front yard of someone’s home, striking her in the chest and knocking her to the ground. She sustained a spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. Sam went through rehabilitation for both injuries at Craig Hospital in 2013.
An optimist, with a strong religious belief system, a love for animals and a fun quirky attitude, Sam also has a knack for writing from the heart. She keeps a blog where she shares the good and the bad moments of her journey.
We wanted to get to know Sam better.
Here’s a Q&A with Sam:
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about yourself since your accident?
Since all this happened, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time thinking about who I actually am and the things that really are important to me in life. I guess I never quite realized how truly profound some of my personality traits really were. For starters, I’ve always loved my independence and made sure everyone around me knew just how independent I was. Now, that drive and desire for independence has only been amplified a thousand fold. My family knows not to use the word “can’t” to describe me or my abilities because I will prove them wrong. You could call it being stubborn (that’s a trait that has shown itself too…), I call it being fiercely independent.
Many times people will ask how they should act around someone who has undergone a significant injury – like a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury – what would you tell them?
I think the most important thing is to simply be the same person you were before. An SCI or TBI doesn’t change who the person affected is. Yea, it changes how that person may do certain things and it may change their perspective on life, but they are still themselves. It can be a struggle sometimes, feeling like people look at my disability and not me. Feeling like they treat me as if I’m less of a person now, when that is simply insane. Being supportive and just being you really will do worlds for that affected individual.
You were planning to go to vet school before your injury, what are your plans now?
Yea, I was even accepted to start vet school in the fall of 2013. I was actually planning to do large animal medicine, but cows are a lot taller than they used to be and rolling through poop isn’t nearly as much fun as walking through it (believe me, I’ve already tried it). In the time I’ve had to think about my “new life,” I’ve realized my passions aren’t the same as they used to be. I will always love cows and sheep, but they aren’t the reason I push myself so hard every day. Now, my passion is for the world I’ve found myself in. I’m currently in the process of applying to medical school where I plan to specialize in spinal cord injury medicine. I want to help those who find themselves on this new life path, and I feel like I can and will do just that.
What advice would you give to someone getting ready to start rehab?
Just keep going. It isn’t always easy, heck it’s hardly ever easy. You’ll have your good days and you’ll have your bad days, and when they’re bad, they’re really bad. But you know what? Everyone has bad days, its not just us newly injured folks that have struggles. Remember, it will get better. All this does get easier, it just takes time, and that time moves way too slowly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the ones you think are stupid because I can bet you they aren’t. Don’t stop trying. You can do it. Never sit still.