When Colorado native Sandy Miranda fell while carrying boxes down stairs at her home in Conifer and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2015, she had already been through a lot in the years before.
“Things started changing in 2011,” Sandy says. “I was diagnosed with cancer. I lost family members including my brother. My husband of 38 years retired in 2014, and he passed away a month later. I was devastated. Then my fall.”
After coming out of a coma in the ICU in the fall of 2015 with no memory of her accident, she was transferred to Craig Hospital where she started her inpatient rehabilitation in a wheelchair, unable to walk, talk, write, cook or do many of the things she did before.
“Here I thought, I wasn’t damaged at all, but I couldn’t even talk right. I didn’t think my balance was off, but I couldn’t walk a straight line,” Sandy says. “The people at Craig, they’ll always be a part of my life. The things that they did, the machines they put me on, the doctors they had me see; they knew where I was going and what I needed. That was so encouraging for me and my family, being here and working with me. My journey really started here with Craig.”
After two and a half weeks as an inpatient at Craig in intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, memory and counseling therapy, she left Craig walking, talking and on her way to learning how to cook, drive and be independent again as an outpatient. She retired from her work with Jefferson County Schools and started spending more time with her family and children, visiting friends, connecting with other Craig patients and relearning how to live life. Within a year, she was driving again and traveling all over the world with her family and friends. She soon joined Craig’s Outpatient Brain Injury Community Recreation Group, participating in activities with other Craig TBI outpatients as often as she could. Through Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation Department, she spent time with other Craig grads and patients in activities that helped them reintegrate back into their communities and learn to adjust to their injuries, including trips like a cruise to the San Juan Islands, fishing, painting, and outings to the movies.
“When you’re around people with TBI or SCI, we all go through different phases but we know how we feel when we’re together,” Sandy says. “The therapeutic recreation group that we have together is growing so much and others are hearing more about the fun and companionship we have. It’s amazing. Most of all, it’s our mentor Joan Danks who runs the program; we love her dearly. These folks and the staff is why I love Craig so much.”
Today, Sandy is helping pioneer a program at Craig to provide peer support for inpatients and grads. Her volunteer work will connect her with patients who are newer to their injury and would benefit from learning from grads who are further removed from their inpatient stay.
“This year as a mentor, I’ll be involved with a lot of activities. I’m so excited to start working with other patients,” Sandy says. “It’s so good to listen to them and to see them learn that there is life after a tragic accident. I just want to listen to them. I want to tell them it’s going to be okay.”
Sandy stays happily busy now spending time with her family, friends, and Craig peers and staff, crediting her new outlook on life to her time at Craig.
“Before, you always take life for granted, but then you have an accident like this, and you’re pretty darn lucky to be waking up. I thank God every day. I’ll be involved in Craig all my life,” Sandy says. “Being here at Craig, going through all these emotions, it changed me. It changed me into loving my life. You never want to suffer a trauma, but I think it was a blessing. I’m a cancer survivor and I was so heartbroken when my husband Tommy left us, but I know he’s okay and he wants me to be okay and happy. The greatest thing that ever happened to me was coming to this hospital. And now, I really want to live and help people. I’m here for a reason; I haven’t figured it out yet, but when I do I’ll let you know. I’m so blessed to be alive and loving life every day.”