The Day that Changed my Life

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

“Niki Ragone? Is Thomas Ragone your brother?”

Before everything happened, this was a compliment. Five years my senior, he was a popular student, and I was proud to be known as his sister. The summer before eighth grade, though, that phrase took on an entirely different meaning. Instead of an impressed look, it was now paired with sympathetic eyes and an earnest apology.

On July 6th, 2011, my brother suffered from a skateboarding accident that left him in a coma for a month. After he regained consciousness, he transferred to a rehabilitation center for another eight weeks in order to regain the essentials that I and many others take for granted. He learned to talk, walk, eat, and read for the second time in his life. My brother’s traumatic brain injury drastically altered his life, along with mine.

Once I saw him in his hospital bed with half of his skull removed, unable to help him, I knew nothing would be the same ever again. What I once knew to be my vivacious and comforting home was transformed into a space of eerily emptiness, just like my inner feelings. Every person I encountered made me feel pitied, even my friends. Each conversation contained “How’s your brother doing?” and I felt suffocated by the overwhelming “empathy...

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