Meriden resident does not let traumatic brain injury stop her - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Meriden resident does not let traumatic brain injury stop her

Kaitlyn Dyrek Kaitlyn Dyrek

Kaitlyn Dyrek, of Meriden, cannot be stopped despite having a terrible accident that forced her to start living from the beginning.

Dyrek was flown to Hartford Hospital on July 24, 2006, after being in an accident while walking with two friends in Somers.

"I was the person closest to the middle of the road," she said. "And I got struck and I was flown from my shoes. I landed face down in the brush on the side of the road."

Dyrek's family rushed to the hospital to check on their daughter.

"The first thing the nurse said after they came out and were treating her," said her father. "We've done all we can. She's in God's hands now, which is not exactly the thing a parent wants to hear."

Dyrek had several skull fractures, a broken left arm, deep chin laceration, broken hips, broken pelvis, broken left foot and ankle. Then the doctors announced she had a traumatic brain injury.

After spending three weeks in a coma, Dyrek's parents got some encouraging news.

"They were told I pulled out my breathing tube, which was a good sign, meaning I was coming out of the coma," Dyrek said.

As an active 13-year-old, Dyrek's bones were healing, but her brain needed help.

"I did not know how to speak. I did not know how to walk talk eat," she said. "I was literally like a baby again, just in a 13-year-old's body."

Dyrek said she didn't remember her childhood and it was determined she had Wernicke's Aphasia.

"The only things I can say are things that my family has told me," she said.

Wernicke's Aphasia happens when the left side of the brain was injured and mainly affects a person's speech and writing.

"I had to learn how to say the names of letters, how to count, how to spell," Dyrek said. "Do everything starting like I was in kindergarten again, pretty much."

Dyrek said she was often frustrated and added it was difficult and she cried often.

For eight months three days a week, Dyrek went to Gaylord Hospital for physical, occupational, speech and aquatic therapies as well as aphasia group therapy.

"I was out of school," she said. "I missed what was supposed to be my freshman year of high school."

Through hard work with her speech language pathologists at Gaylord Hospital, Dyrek graduated from Maloney High School in Meriden on the honor roll.

She went on to Southern Connecticut State University, where she studied communication disorders.

Dyrek, now 20, is studying to become a speech language pathologist involving the very subject that still gives her trouble.

"That's exactly why I wanted to get into it because it's something that was very difficult to me," Dyrek said.

However, she said she never gives up.

"When I put my mind to it, I get it and I get it well," said Dyrek, who has made the dean's list once.

Now Dyrek said she helps others currently in Gaylord Hospital's aphasia program.

"I come and I tell my story and tell where I am now and how I'm still relearning things," Dyrek said. "I tell them never give up, just keep trying and you'll get to where you'd like to be."

Dyrek's father said in life, there are moments that you cannot change.

"We hung in together and came out the other side probably stronger and better for it," he said.

Dyrek and her family went to Disney World a few months ago, which is a trip she had taken as a child but doesn't remember.

She's also recently found out she has a drawing ability that she didn't have before the accident.

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