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The woman who ‘looked like a broken action figure’ continues healing after near-death accident

Laura Brooks

Laura Chrzanowski sat subsequent to her daughter’s mattress at Glendale Uptown Home within the metropolis’s Rhawnhurst neighborhood on Monday sporting a black sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Pray for Laura.”

The message was about her 25-year-old daughter, Laura Brooks, nevertheless it simply as nicely might have been for them each.

Fourteen months in the past, Brooks was crossing the road in entrance of her household’s residence on Richmond Road in Bridesburg when she was struck by a automotive. She was knocked out of her footwear. Her accidents ranged from mind swelling and a number of cranium fractures to shattered tooth, collapsed lungs and broken legs.

Simply minutes after the accident, Chrzanowski arrived house to see one among her daughter’s white sneakers close to a puddle of blood on the street about three or 4 rowhomes away from the purpose of influence.

“She looked like a broken action figure,” the mom recalled.

Issues have been past very dangerous. On the time, her family members didn’t know if she’d survive the ambulance experience to Temple College Hospital. Wanting again, they think about it a miracle that the approaching days didn’t deliver a funeral.

What’s ensued for Brooks and her household because the September 26, 2017 incident has been a rollercoaster of progress and wrestle. As issues stand immediately, her 15th surgical procedure for a number of illnesses is scheduled for December 19. Likelihood is, extra procedures might be crucial.

As Brooks lie in mattress – head tilted to the fitting on a pillow together with her physique coated in a multi-colored blanket and colourful tattoos peeking out from beneath the sleeves of her blue T-shirt – it is apparent that her reminiscence has been impacted, however her slicing wit has not.

“Nothing,” she responded within the thickest of thick Philadelphia accents, when requested what she remembers of that night time on her road.

“I remember things I want to remember,” she continued. “I don’t remember my accident. I don’t remember why my teeth make me look like a hillbilly.”

Her mother thinks that’s for one of the best. 

“I simply know I’m not going to let Laura undergo all this in useless.” – Laura Chrzanowski

With all of the challenges behind, now and forward, being saddled with nightmarish reminiscences of going head-first into a windshield after being hit by a 2005 Chevy sedan would offer little healing profit.

Nonetheless, as tough because the going’s been, Chrzanowski needed to point out the world how a lot “Little Laura” has fought again from the brink.

“You don’t think about traumatic brain injuries until it’s all you think about,” Chrzanowski stated, from her daughter’s aspect on the rehabilitation and skilled-nursing middle on Bustleton Avenue.

‘WHO ARE WE? TEAM US.”

Within the eyes of the regulation, what occurred to Laura Brooks that night time was not a crime. Expenses weren’t filed towards the driving force, a then-21-year-old woman who remained on the scene.

Brooks’s household nonetheless raises questions on an investigation which began with claims that officers pushed, threatened to make use of a Taser and arrest them in the event that they didn’t cease asking the driving force what occurred.

A toxicology check wasn’t administered, whilst witnesses informed the household that the automotive had exceeded the 25 mph velocity restrict. There have been suspicions of ties between a police officer in that district and the driving force. 

These considerations haven’t gone away, as that subplot bubbles beneath the floor whereas Brooks’s household watches her attempt to get her life again into focus.

She is by far the youngest affected person at Glendale Uptown Home, the place she’s been since April 6. Her arrival there got here after her preliminary keep at Temple College Hospital – from the place Chrzanowski recovered a blood-stained necklace months after Brooks emerged from her medically induced coma. 

Up subsequent was a nine-week stint at Moss Rehabilitation, the place she received a degree of remedy her household appreciated.

When she’s not right here in Room 254 – which she shares with a “sharp as a tack” 98-year-old affected person named Ann – she’s both at Temple or Pennsylvania Hospital, the place she’s taken for surgical procedures that don’t contain her still-healing mind.

“Ann tells us every day that everything is going to be OK, and that Laura is her friend,” Chrzanowski shared. “It melts my heart.”

Laura BrooksLaura BrooksPhotograph offered by Laura Chrzanowski/for PhillyVoice

In the course of the Christmas season, Laura Brooks’ pals dressed up with vacation aptitude to deliver some well-wishes to her hospital room.

As a nurse entered the room to maneuver her proper leg out of the brace which had it elevated, Brooks requested her mom if she had broken the limb. Then, with prodding, she recalled that she had been struck by a automotive, and provided up the driving force’s identify with out pause. That element is topic to prompt recall.

Brooks suffers from seizures now, a direct results of the accidents. They’re nonetheless making an attempt to determine why, and tips on how to tackle it. Chrzanowski questioned aloud whether or not her daughter might be weaned off of ache drugs for CBD oils. She nonetheless has some analysis to do there, as her daughter’s not able to be taken off drugs that her mother fears ultimately might result in habit.

Brooks can’t transfer round all that a lot. Her most up-to-date surgical procedures have been to deal with heterotopic ossification, or the presence of bone in mushy tissue the place it doesn’t belong, which is slowing her return to mobility.

A number of months in the past, Chrzanowski left her job on the debt-collection firm the place she and her daughter labored. It wasn’t truthful to both aspect, she stated, to have her half-assing a job whereas being so distracted.

Now, her day by day mission includes serving to her daughter regain as a lot normalcy as she will. That got here into focus in an change between the Lauras because the Action Information theme blared from the hospital-room tv.

Mother: “What’s your job?”

Daughter: “To get better.”

Mother: “What’s my job?”

Daughter: “To help me get better.”

Mother: “Who are we?”

Daughter: “Team Us.”

Mother: “You got it, kid.”

‘WHY AM I HERE?’

Group Us is waging battles on a number of fronts that reach past primary bodily healing.

Since she couldn’t work, Brooks’s insurance coverage lapsed on January 31. A Medicaid waiver helped fill the gaps, and allowed her keep on this facility. The insurance coverage Chrzanowski might have bought wouldn’t have coated the cognitive remedy Brooks wants, which is what makes that waiver so essential.

Brooks’s thought course of – at the very least when vocalized – belies repetition, as reminiscence lapses floor frequently. (Why am I right here? Are you able to scratch my elbow? Can I’ve a Q-Tip? Why am I right here? Can I’ve a Q-Tip? Are you able to scratch my knee?)

Each are widespread in traumatic mind damage sufferers, the abbreviation for which – TBI – Brooks forgot at first, however recalled three separate occasions when requested over the course of the subsequent hour. It was a signal that reinforcement helps her mind lock in on one thing. Hours later, her mom texted to share that she spent the majority of the afternoon telling individuals what TBI stands for.

Brooks remembers some issues which have since occurred quite vividly. She didn’t a lot like being the focus at one among her earlier stops.

“Like, let a b**** get some breathing room!” she stated, a line that elicited a chuckle from her mom.

“You always said you’d be famous. I didn’t think it would be for this, though,” Chrzanowski responded, earlier than sharing her daughter’s first spoken phrases after the coma: “Call mommy.”

Laura BrooksLaura BrooksCourtesy of Laura Chrzanowski/for PhillyVoice

The street to restoration has been lengthy, with ups and downs, for Laura Brooks.

Her legs haven’t come again but, although she will feed herself together with her proper hand.

“At Moss, she would stand using the tilt table, but she’d scream. The pain is unbearable,” Chrzanowski recalled. “I’d have to leave the room. Every day, when you hear your child cry like that, it’s just painful.”

Nonetheless, issues have regularly improved.

They shared a snigger when recalling Laura’s preliminary response to listening to she was at a rehabilitative hospital: “Rehab? What the hell? I don’t even do drugs!”

She is aware of she doesn’t a lot like the meals at Glendale.

“One day, she told them she likes cheese on her eggs. The next day, that’s what she got. When someone came in and asked if she liked her omelet, she said, ‘Oh, is that what you called that?’” Chrzanowski shared.

For all of the laughter, there’s the ache of lacking issues on the surface.

She’s missed two Thanksgivings at house. Later this month, she’ll spend her second Christmas in a hospital mattress. Then, she was unable to be there for her sisters after the start of two nephews, Jason and Connor. 

In June, nevertheless, family and friends packed a commons space at Glendale to rejoice Laura’s 25th birthday.

“It was standing room only,” her mom stated. “It was so nice.”

Including one other layer of familial ache, although, is the truth that Chrzanowski’s mom – who lives at house and suffers from dementia – regularly asks, “Where’s Laura?” That is not a simple query to muster the power to reply repetitively with every thing else happening across the household.

“I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” Chrzanowski stated.

A LONG ROAD AHEAD

From a monetary perspective, the incident has impacted the household. A beef-and-beer final October, with no fewer than 85 present baskets within the raffle, drew buddies courting again to the primary grade. That helped to a sure extent.

“Did I make a lot of money?” Brooks requested.

“Yep,” responded her mother. “The beef-and-beer was huge. There were so many of your friends there, friends from grammar school who are now grown men and women so I didn’t even recognize them!”

The authorized aspect of issues nonetheless weighs on Laura’s household, too. They’ve employed an lawyer in case they select to pursue a authorized response, however no go well with has been filed.

“The driver’s young. Even if we won a $100 million judgment, we’d never see a dime of it,” Chrzanowski stated.

Additionally they filed a report with the police division’s Inner Affairs Division, however haven’t heard something about it within the months since. The division’s public affairs unit confirmed to PhillyVoice on Tuesday that no costs have been filed.

“They just want it to go away,” Chrzanowski stated. “The sergeant who took the report asked, ‘If I told you the officer was on sick leave that week, would it change your mind?’ No, it wouldn’t. Big Bird could’ve responded to take the initial report and it wouldn’t change anything. All the officers involved gave statements and then lawyered up, so nobody’s saying anything now.”

Bolstering her cover-up principle was an trade her husband Ray had with a good friend, who occurred to be a police officer, outdoors a native ShopRite retailer within the weeks after the collision.

Laura BrooksLaura BrooksCourtesy of Laura Chrzanowski/for PhillyVoice

Laura Brooks has undergone 14 surgical procedures since being struck by a car in September 2017.

“Hey Brooks, was that your kid who got hit?” she recalled listening to earlier than she went into the shop, leaving Ray to speak to the person.

When she seemed by means of the home windows, she might see they have been having a heated dialog.

“This isn’t that officer’s first rodeo. She’s got a mortgage and two little kids,” the officer allegedly advised Ray.

“Yeah, well what about our kid who almost died?” was her response to that.

“I’d rather (the driver) keep the money and just get put in jail,” she stated. “I need them to feel the way we feel. I want to take this to the D.A.’s Office, but I don’t know what to do. 

“I just know I’m not going to let Laura go through all this in vain.”

The driver – whose identify is being withheld as expenses weren’t filed – employed lawyer Michael Fennerty within the aftermath. He spoke on behalf of his shopper when contacted for touch upon Monday night time.

“At the start, my shopper and her household proceed to wish for Ms. Brooks’s full restoration from this tragic accident,” Fennerty stated. “While they cannot do so directly due to the ongoing legal issues surrounding this matter, my client and her family are extremely grateful for this opportunity to relay their sincerest wishes for Ms. Brooks’s full recovery, and for continued strength and peace for her family and all of those supporting her and involved in her care during this very challenging time.”

He additionally addressed the unresolved authorized points surrounding the case.

“Please remember that my shopper has appropriately cooperated with the investigation of this accident and shall proceed to take action,” he stated.

BACK IN ROOM 254

Even when the aspect points come up, Chrzanowski doesn’t allow them to linger within the air. Her daughter gained’t let her, to a sure extent.

For now, it’s all about Laura healing to the purpose that she will go residence to Richmond Avenue simply as shortly as humanly attainable. Maybe this upcoming surgical procedure to deal with the lingering injury on her left aspect would be the turning level.

Her mother is aware of they’ll have to probably construct a ramp, and an ADA-compliant toilet, however that’s work they’ll do fortunately if it means Laura is residence.

“Laura, what’s that song you like to sing?” her mother requested.

After a couple moments, and a few mild prodding, it got here to her: “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”

Brooks acknowledges that she won’t be capable of put boots on and stroll as quickly as she’d like. So, she smiled, shrugged her shoulders and provided up the alternate lyrics she wrote whereas being caught in a hospital mattress:

“This wheelchair’s made for rolling.”

“And that’s what it’ll do.”

“One of these days these wheels are gonna roll all over you.”

With that, the laughter of a mom and her daughter who’ve been to hell and again crammed the room, taking their minds off – if just for a second – the challenges forward.


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