As the first African American spokesperson for the Baltimore/ Washington (now BW- Thurgood Marshall) International Airport, Adrienne was accustomed to being in front of bright lights. She reported on weather-caused delays, plane crashes, special exhibitions and other items of public interest. She walked to wherever the events took her - on the tarmack, in the terminals, or in the community. The job could be stressful, but Adrienne kept moving!
In 1996, Adrienne would prepare to make a move of a different kind. She and her husband Jerry were in the process of moving to their "dream house." Adrienne was packing her most precious personal items into her car's trunk. Then everything went black.
Adrienne's husband and the movers watched as a teenage male driving a stolen car slammed into her, cutting her left leg off above the knee as she flew up in the air and landed on the ground. For three weeks Adrienne lay comatose in the hospital. Based on an incorrect news report, Adrienne's 4-year old son, Evan, had been told that his mother died. Later, as Evan watched her "sleeping," he prayed that his mother would wake up. Three days later she emerged from the darkness. Adrienne remained in the hospital for two more months and endured months of in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation. Memory of the accident continues to elude her.
Adrienne suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting the body:
- Thinking (i.e., memory and reasoning).
- Sensation (i.e., touch, taste, and smell)
- Language (i.e., communication, expression, and understanding).
- Emotion (i.e., depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, and social inappropriateness).
- Bodily Functions (i.e. organs).
- Structure/limbs (i.e. balance, ambulation, dexterity and limb loss).
- The position at her job.
- The ability to run after her only child.
- The capacity to climb the stairs in her new home.
- The closeness of some family and friends.
- The way that she walked.
Despite the TBI, Adrienne did not resign from life.
- She showed up for her son's every practice and game. Evan is starter quarterback for his college football team. Believing her son is headed for the NFL, Adrienne is his most passionate fan.
- She is a partner in her husband's various entrepreneurial endeavors.
- A graduate of LifeBridgeHealth System's RETURN! Brain Injury Community Re-Entry Program, she is active in the Brain Injury Association of Maryland and is an advocate for the rights of the brain injured and those with limb loss. She is a member of brain injury and amputee support groups at Sinai, Kernan and Good Samaritan Hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland.
- She is active in her community - the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, Sisters Saving the City, the Black Writers Guild of Maryland, and the Morning Star Baptist Church of Catonsville, Maryland.
It is her incredible response to life that makes Adrienne my heroine. It is her walk. Entering a room, she exudes presence. Impeccably dressed, Adrienne walks with intention; her posture erect. Adrienne masterfully swings her computerized residual limb forward. With a smile, hand wave, blown kiss, and quick wink of the left eye, she greets those who lift their eyes toward her.
In 2011, Adrienne joined me with hundreds of others in the NAMI-Maryland Walk for the Mind of America. It is hard to keep up with her. Only once have I witnessed Adrienne lose her balance. Before anyone could reach her, Adrienne she was on her feet, never looking back, walking with grace.