This month, our Teach Believe Inspire award goes to Nicole Wight, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) caregiver. She is a mother to two children, MacKenzie and Michael, who have special needs due to TBIs. Wight inspires our team with her selfless endurance and advocacy on behalf of her children.
Since a tragic car accident altered the course of her life, Nicole Wight used inner strength and courage to learn a new way of life. She had to for the sake of her children. Incredibly, Nicole Wight also paved the way for other parents and caregivers by sharing intimate details of her journey in raising her children.
Her advocacy work on behalf of not only her children but also other families with TBI children makes her our firm’s choice for this month’s award. We believe being a part of a supportive community is a crucial step towards healing after a traumatic event.
The Summer Everything Changed
In 2006, Nicole Wight’s children Mackenzie and Michael spent the summer living with their grandparents. In August, returning from a fun day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, their car was hit by a truck, causing a serious multi-vehicle accident. Sadly, the collision killed Wight’s mother and left her two children with serious injuries, including trauma to the brain.
Both children were treated at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, N.J.
Mackenzie’s injuries were serious. She had an open skull fracture and a fractured collarbone. She went home after nearly a month in the hospital.
Michael’s injuries were even more devastating. He suffered a severe brain injury known as “sheering,” where nerves were severed causing a decrease in neurological and motor functions. He remained in the hospital for about four months, undergoing coma stimulation and intensive therapy to be able to start breathing on his own.
Nicole’s husband, Aaron Wight, a soldier on deployment in Afghanistan, was immediately flown back to the states to be with his wife and children. A single car collision changed life for the entire Wight family.
Michael Wakes Up
In the beginning, Nicole Wight remained hopeful that Michael would wake up from the coma the same boy she knew before the accident. Having the same hope, her family and friends said over and over that he would be fine when he wakes up – comforting her the only way they knew how.
As they waited for Michael to improve, a nurse broke the news to Wight: children who sustain Michael’s level of injury do not wake up the same person they were before the accident. The nurse helped Wight realize that she needed to prepare herself for the probable reality that lie ahead.
When Michael came home from the hospital, he was not the same boy. That did not change the fact that he was still Nicole’s son. With determination and love, Nicole began learning how to care for her special-needs child.
Caring for a Special Needs Child
Wight often felt alone. She would see mothers with special-needs children who were born with an ailment, but her case was different. Her children were four and six when everything changed for them in the blink of an eye.
After coming to grips with her new reality, Wight became an advocate for families with special needs children and traumatic brain injuries. Her ability to understand her new situation and to become a beacon of hope for special-needs children and affected families is why Wight deserves recognition.
Throughout the recovery process, Wight learned how to deal with the loss of a loved one, gained experience with traumatic brain injuries, and dealt with all the emotions that come with a tragedy.
She recalls what she heard from friends and family after the accident, as well as what she wishes she had heard. This is what makes Wight a valuable resource for those lucky enough to learn from her experiences as a mother.
Nicole began to relate her experiences to others and teach other families about life with special-needs children.
Nicole Wight Becomes Brain Injury Advocate
Wight spends much of her time helping other families through educational and relatable videos for Brainline.org. She gives practical tips and invaluable insight into the world of parenting a child with special needs — specifically one who has sustained a traumatic brain injury. Her short videos help parents see that they are not alone.
In one video, Nicole Wight tells the story of the fateful day in 2006 that changed her life forever. In another, she talks about Michael “waking up” for the first time since the accident and what an important moment it was.
Through the website, families can learn a great deal about the process of parenting a child who has undergone a traumatic brain injury. They can also learn up-to-date tips on ways to help their child.
In Wight’s video “Using Technology as a Learning Tool for Kids with Brain Injury,” she shares her academic goals for Michael, her expectations for his reading skills and how she nurtures them. She reviews special technology like iPads that help her son. Wight explains that there should be no limits imposed on children with special learning needs. They must be treated like their peers whenever possible.
Wight’s website has found a community of viewers who acknowledge just how much she is helping other families.
As explained by a commenter on the video, “Grieving Your Loss and Loving Your ‘New’ Children,”:
“This is probably the most difficult, yet most powerful advice that the caregivers of TBI survivors receive.”
Another comment under the “Using Technology” video shows someone who has been in comas agreeing with Wight about the importance of using math and word apps on a computer and how helpful they can be.
An Undefeated Spirit
Nicole Wight has not let the terrible 2006 accident crush her spirit.
The tragic car accident transformed Nicole into an advocate for children challenged by TBIs. Watching the videos she has made for Brainline, one sees a mother who will do anything for her children, a mother who is living life with a smile and who knows that hard work and perseverance are sometimes mandatory to get through life’s tests.
She has touched the lives of many parents, parents who now know what to expect and who now have someone in their corner after watching her videos and reading her story.
Currently, her children are pursuing active lives. Her daughter travels and her son plays hockey. Still, the heart for advocacy remains; Nicole and her family speak publicly to support brain injury awareness.