Karol doesn’t remember much from the day her life changed in October 2002.
When she suffered a hemorrhage that caused a traumatic brain injury at age 6, she was left with one vivid memory of that day: the group of off-duty firefighters who came to her aide.
Karol’s uncle was driving her to the hospital when he spotted the firefighters in a nearby parking lot.
He pulled over and flagged them down for help.
The firefighters laid Karol down, assured her things would be alright and waited by her side until the paramedics arrived.
The action of the firefighters in Karol’s moment of uncertainty and fear saved her life.
“I consider the firefighters who saved my life my guardian angels,” she said.
Karol was taken to a local hospital, where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and put in a medically induced coma for two weeks.
Diagnosed with acquired brain injury from the hemorrhage that occurred as a result of an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), the injury left Karol with limited physical activity. The fine motor skills in her left hand were especially affected.
The bigger struggle Karol faced was reading comprehension and the ability to understand and process new information.
It wasn’t until Karol was a sophomore in high school and having trouble understanding her subjects that a recommendation from a school counselor sent her to Goodwill of Orange County’s Assistive Technology Exchange Center (ATEC).
Assistive Technology is a specialty service that many clinicians and educators do not have expertise in. ATEC is one of only a few programs available in California to offer comprehensive Assistive Technology services to individuals and their families, including evaluations that result in technology recommendations, equipment set-up and training, technical assistance, and consulting services. By directing Karol to ATEC, she gained access to expert staff who worked with her to develop an individual technology strategy just for her.
Karol, 19, describes herself best in one word: determined.
So it’s no surprise that when given the opportunity to participate in rehab at the Assistive Technology Exchange Center, she set goals for herself and didn’t stop until they were met.
Above all else, she wanted to improve her comprehension and work on her English.
Being a student at Cal State Los Angeles proves she’s a fighter, driven by the will to succeed academically and reach her desired stage of independence. Karol plans to major in communications and hopes to become certified in American Sign Language.
Through a comprehensive evaluation of Karol’s communication obstacles and goals by the technology center’s Rehabilitation Engineer, Kevin Daugherty, Karol was recommended a laptop with Firefly by Kurzweil reading software and a Bookshare digital talking book service through the Office of Students with Disabilities at CSULA. These two assistive technology applications allow Karol to have textbooks and web pages read aloud to her.
“I get to have a device that helps me understand what is being taught and read,” she said. “I’m able to listen and really understand the content.”
Next up on Karol’s list of goals: Get back into swimming, a sport and pastime she thoroughly enjoys and one, she says, helps her relax to the fullest.
The Assistive Technology Exchange Center of Goodwill of Orange County allows for speech pathology and rehabilitation engineers to evaluate individuals, develop strategies and provide equipment that enables and empowers participants wherever they are.
Through Goodwill Assistive Technology program, Karol can continue her academic pursuits, understand with certainty what she is studying and reach for full potential.