Cheerleading: Michigan teen starts life over post-memory loss
By KAREN WORKMAN
The Oakland Press (Pontiac)
By KAREN WORKMAN
INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Lindsey Friend, a 15-year-old from Independence Township, may have lost her memory, but her sense of humor and strong will are still soundly intact.
"I don't know if I necessarily want it all to come back at once because that might be a little overwhelming," Lindsey joked. "But I want it to come back quickly."
Lindsey lost all memory of her 15 years of life in a split second during a junior varsity cheerleading practice at Clarkston Junior High School on Sept. 29.
"My mom actually told me what happened. I don't really remember anything," Lindsey said. "I guess we were trying to do a new stunt at practice, and I just remember hitting the ground and my whole body feeling numb and tingly."
She added, "I didn't know what had happened, where I was or who anybody was that was standing around me. I was really scared because I thought they had done something to me."
A trainer asked Lindsey some basic questions, like what were her address and phone number. Being unable to answer the questions made her feel even more scared.
The team's coach called Lindsey's mother, Nancy, and told her what happened. Nancy immediately drove to the school to pick up her daughter.
"Nancy had to tell her, 'I'm your Mom,'" said David, Lindsey's father. "I don't think she knew what a mom was. She's forgot every single thing you can imagine forgetting — what salt and pepper are, what the sky is, what birds are."
Nancy took her daughter from practice directly to the emergency room, where a CAT scan was performed.
"They didn't see any swelling so she got an MRI," David said. "In the first week, she went to maybe seven doctors, and they all said, 'Don't worry about it. She'll be fine.'"
For the first few weeks, Lindsey suffered severe migraines and nightmares. She was put on a migraine medication, but her parents took her off it and took her to the University of Michigan Hospital after learning the medication could cause confusion or memory loss.
In the meantime, it became apparent that even the most simple and routine daily activities were foreign to her.
For instance, she forgot to turn on the cold water in conjunction with the hot water to take a shower.
"She burned herself," David said. "Right then was when my wife and I said, 'We really have a problem here.'"
Before the accident, Lindsey was a straight-A student who had packed her schedule with cheerleading, track, softball, gymnastics and dancing, as well as being an altar girl at church and playing the clarinet.
"This girl was on her way to being a senator, doctor, lawyer — just a well-rounded girl," David said.
Lindsey forgot all her school lessons and is working her way back up to where she was. She now is attending school for full days but doesn't take any math classes.
"I forgot how to do math. I'm working on my math, and it's coming back slowly. I'm doing a bunch of it at home," Lindsey said. "School is still hard because I can't concentrate or stay focused on my work for very long, and that's something that happens after head injuries."
Meeting all the people she used know was a little overwhelming in the beginning, but she is learning a lot about the people in her life.
"Meeting a whole bunch of new people at once is scary, especially when they come up to you and know who you are but you don't know them," Lindsey said. "I've gained a lot of new relationships. New to me, I guess, but old to them."
She does feel the experience has strengthened many friendships, though she's lost some friends because of it too.
"I don't really know anything about my family — like my grandparents. I didn't know who they were," Lindsey said. "But I went up north on Thanksgiving with all my family, and I re-met some family members."
She added, "I'm really excited to go back up north for Christmas. After I re-met them, they were a lot of fun."
Doctors have told Lindsey that she will most likely get her memory back, but they don't know when.
"With every brain injury, it's different," Lindsey said.
She plans to start running track again soon and is determined to rejoin dance after Christmas.
"My parents are unsure because the doctors don't know if it's OK yet, but that's my plan," she said.
She's replaced playing the clarinet with the piano and said learning how to do that has been fun.
Cheerleading and gymnastics are sports she's not likely to rejoin.
"That's a lot of flipping and head-moving," Lindsey said.
Information from: The Oakland Press, http://www.theoaklandpress.com