2021 SDBIF Scholarship Recipient Camille Tyree

For nearly twenty years of my life I wished for something I did not think was possible. I wished to be normal. Worries and stress were a part of my daily life. When I was three years old I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. I had the surgery to remove it. However, the surgeons were not capable of getting all of the bad cells out. The symptom that alerted my parents that I had a brain tumor would continue until the bad cells were removed. Those symptoms were seizures. Due to these seizures, I always felt different from my peers. I was never as energetic and I had more mood swings compared to my peers.

I was almost always tired. No matter where I went or how excited I was I would be the first one to become exhausted. This was caused by the absurd amount of medication I had to take. For the majority of my life I was on three or more medications all at the maximum dosages.. On top of all the pharmaceuticals, my mom always looked for healthier alternative medications that could help my seizures. If you asked honestly, there would be no way to recall every medication I have ever taken, the list goes on and on. However, none of that stopped me from trying new things and making friends. My friends were always supportive, and we got along really well. While I can find it difficult to make new friends, I have never stopped trying.

While making friends I tried various hobbies. I tried many things including soccer, softball, art, theater, dance and even handbells. I enjoyed what I tried, and I made plenty of friends from those hobbies. I never felt pressured to succeed at anything with my hobbies because I just wanted to have fun and I liked what I was doing, as all of these hobbies made me get out of the house. Unlike my hobbies, I constantly felt pressured to succeed in school. Even though my mom told me countless times that there was no need for me to stress as much as I did, I felt as though it was unacceptable for me to be below average in school. This was not a feeling that started in middle school or highschool. The first time I remember feeling this way was in the third grade. My mom was always very supportive of my studies, so she often came to the school to volunteer. I loved her for that! She always went the extra mile for both me and my older brother.

Since my mom always did whatever she could to help me, I wanted to become like her. She was my role model from a young age. That is one reason why I hated failing so much. From my perspective it looked like my mom succeeded in almost everything. Since I aspired to become like her I could not stand failure. In fact I still hate failure. My hatred for failure is not as bad as it was in the past though.

I wish to succeed in life. My dreams and my goals are very simple. I want to graduate from the California State University of San Marcos with a Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood and Adolescent Development. Afterwards, I want to work as a teacher. Throughout all of my experiences in life, I quickly learned that seeing the moment children understand something new, is one of my favorite things in life. I want to become a teacher to support childrens’ development. Once I get used to teaching, I want to get a Master’s Degree. A famous quote by Abigail Adams says, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” That is something I believe to be completely true. No matter what I go through I do not wish to stop learning and gaining new experiences. I have never let anything stop me before, and I do not plan on letting anything stop me in the future.

I think it will be a lot easier to achieve my dreams now. In 2019, my doctor said my seizures were out of control and I was on the maximum dosage for most of my medications. My family and I did not know what to do so we went to go see my doctor for her opinion. After talking for a while she brought up surgery. We spoke about the possible side effects, including losing all function on the left side of my body. That was something I did not want to think about but obviously needed to. After going through all of the pros and cons with the doctor we set up an appointment with a surgeon. It was just a consultation, but the surgeon I met with was extremely confident and clear when he was explaining the details with me. I decided to go for it. The surgeon was very confident that I would not lose any of my functions on the left side of my body. Although there was a slight chance at getting a facial droop. I was satisfied with my decision.

Preparation was very important. It took over half a year to complete all of the preparations needed for the surgery. Multiple MRI’s, at-home EEG’s, one week long EEG at the hospital, many different types of examinations were done in less than a year. Finally, on December 30th, 2019 I had my five hour surgery. I was more excited than nervous, however I was definitely feeling both emotions.

The surgery was in the early morning, and I woke up in the afternoon. I was happy it was all over and I did not have a facial droop. In order to get rid of my seizures I would have been fine with a facial droop, but it was not something I wished for. Some time later the doctors and nurses came into my hospital room to do an examination. I had already been in the hospital for a week, and was hoping to go home soon. While doing some of the normal check-up things, the doctor asked me to lift up my left leg. I tried. It did not work. I tried again. Still no luck. The doctors actually looked more shocked than me. My entire left side was stunned. I could not move it at all. Luckily, it was not permanent, but I did not know that at the time.

I spent a week waiting for physical therapy. I understood that the doctors needed to fit me into the therapy schedule, but I was impatient. Being impatient does not mean that I complained. Complaining solves nothing. There was nothing I could do at the time, so I waited and spent time with my family. Once physical therapy started I was happy. I felt productive. The hospital physical therapists were amazing. They made me absolutely exhausted before returning to my hospital room. I always felt the best on the days my physical therapist made me exhausted. I had physical therapy five days a week for two hours a day. Those two hours a day helped me so much it was almost unbelievable. In three weeks I went from being completely unable to use my legs to climbing stairs, of course with proper supervision.

Losing my left side made me appreciate a lot of the “little things” that I could do easily before. Walking, eating, playing on my phone, and many more things became much harder after losing the functions in my left leg and left arm. I really wanted to get what I could back, so I could function better. After leaving the hospital, I started physical and occupational therapy in a near-by clinic. I started going for five days a week, just like it was in the hospital. The therapists were great! Since I was not set up with just one person yet, I got to know practically everyone who worked there. It was a lot of fun, and eventually I was assigned one physical therapist and one occupational therapist. It was really nice going there and being productive. After approximately a month of receiving therapy in the clinic, coronavirus hit. Everything shut down, and no one knew what to do. It was hectic. I had to stop going to the unit. I believe I was actually ones, since got out of the hospital before the pandemic started. Even though my physical and occupational therapy were effected, if I had my surgery a month later I believe I would have gotten COVID-19, and it would have been much more difficult for me to recover.

After a couple weeks the clinic started doing online therapy sessions. It was a lot harder doing my therapy online. My therapy sessions were also cut down from five in-clinic sessions to three online sessions. It was a weird and difficult change. There were times I did not understand what my therapists were asking me to do, and I did not have nearly as many or as good of materials used for therapy. I ended up buying several things that would help me with my therapy off of Amazon. I bought a rubber ball, three different types of theraputty, some weights, a theraband, and a tool to help strengthen my grip. If I did not have something that the therapists wanted to use I would typically buy it. These tools that I bought were definitely worth more than what I paid for them. One reason I am where I am today, would be because of the effort I put into my recovery. I was practicing my exercises constantly throughout the day. My therapists definitely noticed, which made me happy. My efforts were paying off, and I was recovering quickly.

Half a year passed by in a flash. My physical therapy was going really well. We decided to cut down our sessions to two days a week. My internet was weird at the time, and I tried attending all of my physical therapy sessions, but I could not get in part of the time. Since I was practically doing my physical therapy sessions only one time a week, we decided to change it to once a week sessions. I continued giving my exercises a lot of my attention, asked questions when I needed to, and received a lot of support from my family. My family’s support definitely helped me get through the bad times and the bad thoughts. I did not have too many negative thoughts, but the ones I did have could have become a lot worse if I did not talk about them with my family.

After another six months, I was basically where I am today. My therapists and I decided to cut down our sessions. We changed our occupational therapy sessions from three times a week to only two times a week. That was great while it lasted too. After another month I noticed we were not doing as much in my sessions as we used to, so I suggested to go down to one time a week. Additionally, I was doing so well on my physical therapy we cut down our sessions even more. We went from once a week to a once a month check up.

I continued putting my best efforts into my recovery. I was doing so well, that I did not need a recommendation to another clinic after April. Since the facility I was using was for children, I would officially age out on my birthday, April 1st. From then on I would have to practice my exercises at home. I was not nervous about that at all. I had been doing that for the past year. I had several home programs from both therapists, so my exercises never became boring.

My birthday came and past. I could not have sessions with my therapists anymore. It was something I was a little excited about and a little sad over at the same time. I was basically back to normal. My strength and stamina still needed work and there were some things that I could do but felt awkward. However, it was the best I had felt in a long time. I felt satisfied that all my efforts paid off, and happy that I could do more activities.

For twenty years of my life I wished for things I did not think were possible. Through my effort and perseverance I have been getting closer to my dreams. I am getting closer to normal and I stress out less often. I have not let anything negative effect me, and I will continue to pursue all of my dreams. Now I truly believe that my brain injury can never stop me from achieving my goals.

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