Amanda Burt, 19, sits with her parents, Randy and Nicole, at their home in Lacombe. Amanda recounts how a collision changed her life forever and yet she has seen remarkable recovery. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Lacombe resident sees remarkable recovery after collision

Former Lacoka Female Hockey athlete Amanda Burt speaks to her recovery after a major collision

On. Aug. 30, 2015, Amanda Burt was involved in a collision so serious it put her in the hospital for 13 months.

Amanda, who is from Lacombe, was driving through an uncontrolled intersection east of Lacombe at the age of 16 when her car was T-boned by a three-quarter ton pickup. The force of the impact was so much that Amanda’s car landed 150 feet from the collision.

“I was knocked immediately unconscious,” said Amanda.

Her passengers were seriously injured with broken bones and they took some time to heal but they were able to return to school that fall. For Amanda, however, it was a different story.

Despite no broken bones, she had a major brain injury that caused her to lose the function of the right side of her body.

“I was in a coma for about 10 days but I wasn’t fully awake for about a month after that,” said Amanda.

Her prognosis? “If you took six people through the same thing, you would have six different results,” said Amanda’s father Randy.

“They had no idea when she was in a coma,” added her mother Nicole. “She rated in the lowest of the low (of the Glasgow Coma Scale).”

In the first days after the incident, specialists put Amanda’s body through rigorous tests to see if it would react. Randy said one day her body would react to testing and then another day it wouldn’t.

Her recovery was up in the air, including her ability to remember events. “I probably lost about a year before the accident and about a year after,” said Amanda.

“I know I went to grad but I can’t picture any of the grad things.”

Amanda’s attitude from the start of this major event has been one of ‘Can-do.’ Her parents followed her lead and rather than put up road blocks to her recovery, the family’s focus has been one of ‘onward and upward.’

“We didn’t think about this on the negative side,” said Randy.

“She was just very driven from the point that she opened up her eyes,” added Nicole.

Recovery and possibilities

Each step to Amanda’s recovery has been filled with small, yet significant improvements.

She credits the work of specialists at the Halvar Johnson Centre for Brain Injury in Ponoka. “I owe them everything because without them I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” said Amanda.

She went through a series of recovery steps, which included the use of the Dynavision 2000 and other therapy tools and techniques. “In the end it helped me a lot.”

In the first few months of recovery, Amanda was told that in order for her to be able to eat on her own, doctors wanted her to speak. So that’s what she did, said Nicole. At first in little whispers and then more.

Another milestone for Amanda came when she had struggles with her left hand. Amanda’s left arm had tremors that made it difficult to function but her right side didn’t move. Nicole said Amanda made a conscious effort to move her right arm.

“She started doing that and her right side started doing well,” explained Nicole.

Amanda was also a hockey athlete with the Lacoka Minor Hockey league and part of her recovery is attributed to her athletic strength but also to her young age.

Specialists have told the family that with these milestones, the brain is creating new neural pathways.

Had it not been for Nicole and Randy’s close involvement, Amanda’s situation might have been different. Her parents were closely involved in her recovery from the time of the collision.

They spent hours and days with Amanda speaking to doctors, specialists and nurses. They advocated for her needs to ensure the best decisions were made for her health care in discussion with the specialists.

For Amanda’s part, while she continues to recover, there are days where it seems like an endless road. And then someone points out how far she has come since the collision, which helps with her motivation.

Amanda is now 19 and recovery continues to be a big part of her life.

She has started to document her journey through a series of videos and a search on YouTube of ‘Amanda Burt’ brings up those videos. A recent upload has garnered more than 4,000 views.

Amanda’s dream is to also run a marathon and to start a fundraising run for STARS. “They basically saved my life and I kind of feel like I owe them a lot.”

While the collision changed the family’s life in a major way, Amanda and her parents continue to show a focus on improvement and each day has been better than the last.

Amanda’s goal is to get into college to study early learning and childcare.

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