Can you describe what a living coma is?
They explained to my family: Erica is not in a medically induced coma, she is awake, she is starting to walk, she is starting to talk, she is breathing on her own, but she is not aware of anything. I had to be taught how to test if a stove is hot, to dial 911, and how to turn on a computer. When they asked where I lived, I said, "Timbuktu," so at least I am creative in a coma. My mom has said I was like a baby who grew up very rapidly. She even wrote down my first word, the first day I talked. Before I could talk they would tell me to answer using my eyes by blinking or using thumbs up and thumbs down.
Was that disorienting to lose two months of your life?
I have no memories of being in the hospital. I started picking up photograph snapshots from rehab and then that's when I started forming memories. The doctors told me in rehab that when your brain goes through a significant trauma it just stops recording, so if my brain wasn't recording, I wasn't forming new memories and that's why I didn't know what happened.
Describe the moment it all hit home and you realized what had happened.
So, I woke up on August 6 and called my mom. I said, "Mom, I think I know what happened." She goes, "What happened?" I said, "I had brain surgery." And all my mom said was, "Well, welcome back." Then she started crying.
How was rehab?
Recovery sucks. You get pushed to the limit and you're exhausted. After rehab I would just sleep for hours. I needed 24-hour supervision. I was so confused. Thank God for my friends and family, who were there for me through the whole thing. It's different for every patient, but I've actually recovered really quickly. Take that, three-year-recovery!
How are you feeling these days?
I feel blessed, I feel lucky, I feel great, I feel healthy. As a young adult I never thought I was invincible, but I know I took my health for granted because I had never had a medical issue before. Now I understand what being healthy means and today I feel healthy, happy and very, very lucky.