Traffic accident cleared out the young engineer her memories, she is making new while writing the thesis
The twenty-eight-year-old Dominika Weyrová is smiling at the camera of her laptop, even though in her situation not many people could find the strength to get out of bed. Four years ago, during the stay abroad in Taiwan, she had an accident on a scooter and ended up in a coma with a severe brain injury. She lost all the memories she had gathered in twenty-four years, yet she returned to her studies. At first, she fell asleep while studying and did not understand simple examples, today, with the help of students and the university, she is approaching the submission of a diploma thesis at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.
First of all, I would like to point out that I had total amnesia after the accident, so I forgot my whole previous life. What I will tell you here from the time before the accident and shortly after it, I more or less do not remember and I know it from the loved ones.
So what do you know about your life before the accident? How about school?
I was a premium, I could read before I went to the first class, and everything went easily in my head. I went to an eight-year gymnasium. But I don't recall my knowledge of it. When I applied to university, I began to study mathematics, but I wanted a more practical field, so I tried mechatronics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. In the second year, I moved to the field of applied informatics and management, where I am until now. I extended my bachelor's degree to four years. I completed the first semester of the master's degree, and because I probably wanted to travel and get to know a different culture, I decided to go abroad to Taiwan.
But you haven't enjoyed it for too long.
A short vacation began two weeks after the arrival. Two other students from Canada and I decided to go on a scooter trip. I don't remember what happened at all. We set off in the evening, it got dark quickly and we probably hit the barriers and our scooter, on which I rode with one of the boys, crashed into a metal structure. A friend behind us called for help, but my co-passenger was dead on the spot. I was taken to the hospital and then found out that I had a severely damaged brain. I was in a coma for a month.
How did you get back to the Czech Republic?
The departure was delayed because the problems with the insurance company were being resolved. I paid for the insurance only on the day of the accident. After a month, it worked and the doctors took me to Brno, partially conscious. On the 15-point Coma Scale, which evaluates the reactions, I got four points just after the accident. After waking up, I had an adult body and was able to move, but my head almost didn't work. I acted a bit like an animal. I didn't even realize who was who. I spent eleven days in the Brno hospital and then I went home.
What did the doctors tell you and what were your first days back home?
Doctors told us that there was severe diffuse axonal brain injury. In the brain, axons rupture between neurons on impact. The brain is said to be relatively unused, so it can look for other ways to the memory, which is hope. But then I didn't understand anything, so I had to accept some things as a fact. For example, that my mom is really my mom. My sister helped me draw diagrams of who's who, and I created various tools for people to recognize them. I was given medications that put me to sleep, but gradually I began to do activities that trained my brain. As the first thing I started colouring the mandalas. That was the peak of my intellect at the time. At first I tugged as a child, but gradually it got better. My friends visited me then and brought me colouring books. I didn't recognize them and over time I found out what I used to talk to them about in the messenger.
Before the accident, you had completed most of your university studies. But I suppose you had to go back a lot in your studies.
I could read from the beginning, but I didn't know what the words I read meant. For example, I didn't know what a stone was. I learned from a children's book about nature. I played memory games with animals and had no idea which is which. I started playing five-in-a-row, even though I was still losing. I went to cognitive exercises, where I was led by my sister who had to interrupt her studies because of me. I started to improve very quickly and was able to count a small multiplier a few months after the accident. But when I first tried to count under myself, I didn't understand what is wanted from me at all.
When did you start returning to any mode?
The accident happened to me at the end of February, I was in the spa for two months during the summer holidays, and in September, when my condition improved significantly, I said to myself that I wanted to be more independent. I applied for a part-time job. I had a university and several programming languages written in my CV, but I couldn't even pick up the phone and answer. I also started taking an English course, which was also one of the things that came back to me well.
And what about the university?
A year after the accident, I thought it was time to try to return to BUT. After consulting with the study department, I studied some subjects from the bachelor's degree again. I also went to the Alfons Counselling Centre, which helps students with special needs. They immediately offered me the option of tutoring, so I got tutored in hydromechanics and mathematics. Mathematics was a great misery, but it seems that the basics are somewhere in the brain, I just don't realize it. When I needed to learn logarithms, for example, I looked in a textbook and understood it relatively quickly. But during my classes, I first fell asleep and did not understand why the teacher writes hieroglyphs on the board. I didn't master some subjects for the first time.
You have a second degree disability. What does studying at a university look like with such a limitation?
My brain gets a little tired. Two years ago I had to go to bed around eight in the evening. Even today, my attention very easily flies away. But school helps me a lot. I have 25 percent extra time on the tests. Alfons' tutors help me. I can discuss the material with them at my own pace. I don't have the basics that study follows, and I can't ask them in class. I solve this just by tutoring. I'm really slowing down my studies, which is also possible thanks to the fact that BUT has waived my fees for extending my studies. But I would like to graduate from the university this year. I am writing a diploma thesis which, among other things, deals with the optimization of an algorithm for better operation of complex conveyor belts with the help of a routing table. Last year, I would not have believed that I would be able to graduate from the university.