Scholarship Awarded to Daughter of Traumatic Brain Injury Victim
The personal injury lawyers at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC are pleased to announced the recipient of our Bi-Annual Future Leaders Scholarship Ms. Tori Sullivan of Denham Springs, LA. Despite the tragedy Tori has suffered she has shown great strength and determination to continue moving forward to courageously carve a new path in life.
Tori will be continuing her studies at Baton Rouge Community College this winter and we wish her all the best as she completes her education. Thank you to everyone that applied and shared your personal experiences, tragedies and life’s triumphs. A copy of Tori’s s essay is below.
By: Tori Sullivan
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have two parents who loved me unconditionally. Unfortunately, they got divorced when I was three. I lived with my mom because my dad followed his career, which often took him out of state. When he was not working, I spent many weekends and summers with him.
Every time my dad would leave to go to another job out of state, he would come and bid me farewell. The last time he told me he loved me, I had no idea that I would never hear those words from him again. In July of 2007, my dad was working in Colorado, and was in an awful car accident. The tragic accident should have taken his life, but it didn’t, all that remains is the shell of my dad, suffering a traumatic brain injury. My dad’s accident was substantially the most life altering event for me because of the emotional, societal, and financial impact it had on my life.
The emotional impact of my father’s accident was crucial. Before my father left for Colorado, he kissed me, hugged me, and told me that he loved me. After the car accident he cannot walk, talk, or feed himself, and at eight years-old I did not understand this very well. Shortly after the accident, reality started to sink in, and I realized that my father was not the same person I once knew.
Not only had my dad lost the qualities that made him who he was, but I had also lost one of the most important bonds a girl needs growing up- the bond between a father and his daughter. This bond was very important in my life, and still is to this day. My father was the only male figure I have ever had in my life. The accident also caused me to have depression and anxiety. When I was young, it was an everyday battle, I felt like I was climbing a mountain pass, only to find there were other difficult trails on the horizon.
I thought about him every day and I cried often, my mom eventually started taking me to counseling twice a week, thinking it would help me understand and cope with my emotions. Due to me not being able to identify how I felt, it caused me to feel a sense of abandonment. Not only did I feel this abandonment from my father, who did not intentionally get in this accident, but I also felt abandoned by God, wondering why He would do this to me?
The societal impact affected me significantly. My dad’s parents selfishly chose not to take my dad off life support, but decided they could not take care of him and give him what he needed. Their solution was to send my dad to a nursing home.
This affected me socially because I was forced to take on the responsibility of a disabled father due to parental negligence. After what felt like the most dreadful month of my life, I returned to school as a third grader in August. My mother feared that the accident was going to impact how I performed in school, and she was right. My grades were at an all-time low, and I had two D’s on my report card. Those are the only two D’s I have ever had on a report card in my entire educational career.
The accident also altered the way I interacted with my peers and teachers. I had become an angry child, and the results of my anger were being rude and impolite to my peers. I was not behaving and there were major conflicts between myself and my teachers. From there, my anger turned into jealousy. The jealousy was like a raging wildfire, rapid and quick. I was jealous of anyone and everyone I came across because they had a dad and I did not, it was toxic.
Now that I am an adult, I realize that the financial impact affected me the worst of all. After the accident, my mother no longer received child support from my now disabled father. Living on my mother’s income alone changed my childhood immensely, and how I was raised.
For my mother to financially support me on her own, she had to selflessly enroll for government assistance. One such form of assistance, Medicaid, still impacts my life. In the program, doctors, medicines, and surgeries are chosen by what the government determines. Living on my mother’s salary alone has been difficult. My junior year of high school I had to quit volleyball so I could get a job to help with expenses.
My college selection process relied solely on institutions that offered me the greatest TOPS and financial assistance based on my income bracket. My financial status has always been a difficult trail- never knowing which way to turn, never knowing which path to take first.
The emotional, societal, and financial impact has changed my life. This event is a heavy backpack that I wear daily. Through this experience, I have become Colorado.
I have hiked the traversed mountain, forever trying to reach the summit. I have braved the fiery wildfires, but not completely unscathed, and I have pushed through this difficult journey knowing that my final destination will be breath-taking.